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Chicago Tribune: Leadership attributed to rise of Bangladesh

A columnist writing in US-based ‘Chicago Tribune’ has said Bangladesh’s phenomenal success in economic growth and human development has been possible because of its stable democracy and strong women leadership.

“Having a stable democracy, as well as strong women in the leadership positions, has helped Bangladesh,” reads the article titled “How Bangladesh’s success has proved Henry Kissinger wrong.”

The single biggest reason for Bangladesh pulling ahead of India and Pakistan in per capita income and growth rate can be directly attributed to its investment in women’s education and high percentage of women’s participation in the labor force,” writes columnist Faisal Rahman, a professor and founding dean of The Graham School of Management at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has proved to be a strong administrative leader in the mold of Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad and Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew,” reads the article.

Unlike most other countries, Bangladesh has managed COVID-19 extremely well, Rahman writes. “It is on its way to becoming a prosperous middle-income country proving that Kissinger was wrong in his assumption about its economic viability and sustainability. In fact, Bangladesh is moving toward becoming the next Asian economic “tiger.”

Bangladesh which celebrated the 51st anniversary of its independence from Pakistan on March 26, was dismissed as a “bottomless basket” or an endless charity case, by future Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the United States had supported the military dictators who had jailed elected representatives and started a war of terror to intimidate the population into silence and submission, Rahman writes.

This is a perfect case of the contradiction between what the U.S. publicly stands for and its government behaving exactly in the opposite manner, he mentioned.

When Bangladesh was born, it was in a terrible state. It was already one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the poorest by every economic indicator. Because of the war, economic infrastructure was in absolute ruins. It had no industrial base and no entrepreneurial class. Almost two-thirds of the country routinely went underwater during monsoon season.

To make things worse, Rahman writes, the retreating Pakistan army gathered all the top intellectuals of the country two to three days before surrender and killed them.

“The only thing they could not destroy was the spirit of Bangladeshis, like what is being exhibited today by the valiant Ukrainian people. Bangladeshis, albeit with the assistance of India, not only defeated the Pakistan army but also subsequently foiled repeated attempts to destroy its nascent democracy.”

He mentioned that today’s Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of garments, not a small feat for a country that did not export a single garment at the time of its birth.

“With backward linkage, it is now one of the largest buyers of U.S. cotton and has a new diversified economy with a strong information technology service sector and a respected pharmaceutical industry and has become a preferred center for investment by economic giants such as China and South Korea.”

With U.S. and European countries experiencing vulnerability because of COVID-19 and fractured political relationships, the top two destinations of choice for multinational companies’ outsourcing are Vietnam and Bangladesh, writes the columnist.

Bangladesh’s contribution to the world economy is more than selling garments. Its laborers can now be found working in almost any country that will have them.

Among the immigrant labor, Bangladeshi workers are known for their industriousness, work ethic and ability to have a good relationship with people. These workers are the biggest contributors (other than the garment industry) of foreign exchange earnings, according to the article.

Besides goods and labor, Bangladesh is on the path of growth with its homegrown ideas. Its “investment in the poor” model of microcredit, pioneered by Muhammad Yunus and Fazle Hasan Abed, is now the proven path for millions escaping poverty in 100-plus countries, Rahman writes.

Bangladesh has also shown how nongovernmental organizations can complement government efforts to accelerate development, he mentioned.

There are other areas where Bangladesh stands out among less developed countries, Rahman writes. Currently, Bangladesh is the largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions in troubled parts of the world.

Bangladesh has been sheltering 1.1 million Rohingya who have been forced out of Myanmar by the military government.

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, have lived in Myanmar for generations and are another minority community that has become stateless and the victim of ethnic cleansing, reads the article.