Political and social elites have been working as the driver of the country's economic growth Experts said at the BIGD-ESID policy workshop

Publish Date: 
Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 11:00

The steady growth of Bangladesh has been possible because of a kind of deal prevailing between the political and social elites, speakers said at a workshop in the capital on Thursday. The observation came as speakers discussed how the country maintained a ‘steady and reasonably high’ growth despite shifts in political regimes and economic policies over decades since its independence in 1971.

Representatives of administration, bureaucrats and politicians joined these elites in expanding their sources to earn more money from and the syndicate continued to grow through discoveries of new resources like new maritime boundary, they said. The experts taking part in the discussion also expressed concern that the 'deal' was not, however, enough to attain inclusive growth. They also appreciated achieving the existing growth trend, despite weaknesses in many of the market-enhancing institutions, because of a reasonably robust form of 'growth-enhancing governance'. But they also stressed the need for holding periodic, fair and contestable elections to satisfy popular aspirations, and for seeking legitimacy.

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in cooperation with Effective States of Inclusive Development (ESID), University of Manchester jointly organised the policy workshop on 'Politics and Development, Democracy and Growth: Bangladesh and Beyond' at BRAC Centre Inn. The workshop contained three important sessions titled “Understanding the Politics of Economic Growth”; “Understanding the Politics of Social Policy”; and “The Political Settlement in Bangladesh: Past, Present and Future”.

Taking part in the discussion, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan said: "The term 'ideology' is now a myth. Ideals are used to deliver speeches on the national days. Personal development is stronger than idealism. Whoever the player is now, all are motivated with this."

‘The existence of this equilibrium is related to the expansion of sources from where rents are collected,’ said Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya. ‘The question is how long will this equilibrium hold?’ asked Debapriya.

Dr. Mirza M Hassan, an adjunct fellow at the BIGD, presented the first session’s keynote paper on navigating the labyrinth of the ‘deal’s’ world and politics of economic growth in Bangladesh. He authored the paper along with Selim Raihan, University of Dhaka. ‘Ordered deal was maintained under military dictatorships, dominant party settlements exhibiting mostly centralised rent management, as well as under competitive party settlement in Bangladesh,’ read one of the points mentioned in the keynote paper referring Bangladesh as a unique case. ‘In economic domain, the elites don’t fight. They come together at the end of the day,’ said Mirza. As a result, business community has become politically stronger, said the paper. It also mentioned that the country’s growth has been a topic of surprise for many given the facts that it has a bad reputation for governance.

Dr. Sohela Nazneen, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex and Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka; Simeen Mahmud, Head, Gender Cluster & CGST, BIGD; and Dr. Naomi Hossain, IDS also presented their papers at the workshop. Eminent academics and policy experts including David Hulme, CEO, ESID; Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, University of Dhaka; Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, PPRC; Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD and Professor Rounaq Jahan of the Centre for Policy Dialogue and Kazi Anis Ahmed, writer and publisher discussed the papers presented at the workshop. Country Representative of The Hunger Project Badiul Alam Majumder, The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, Dhaka University teacher Asif Nazrul, and former caretaker government adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman attended the workshop among others.