Against All Odds

The two main political parties of Bangladesh are in an open war with each other. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League leads a campaign of suppression against the opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), arresting several prominent BNP members and placing BNP leader Khaleda Zia under house arrest. (The Awami League won the 2014 general election due to a boycott held by the BNP over ongoing abuses and political oppression.) From the highest public office of the country, Hasina is hounding the opposition to political destitution, undermining Bangladesh’s democracy, and changing its very constitution to her benefit. As recently as 2006, however, Zia did much of the same as prime minister. In 2007, control of the country was wrested from the ruling BNP to a caretaker government, overseen by the military. This resulted in a two-year interim period during which Zia was faced with corruption charges and the Awami League won an overwhelming mandate to power. Now circumstances have reversed, and the Awami League is the party abusing power, arguably worse so than the BNP did—an irony that would be quite sad if Bangladesh’s past had not been checkered since its war for independence in 1971.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In spite of its volatile politics, Bangladesh has achieved remarkable strides in human development. It is consistently ranked well by the UN Development Program, with significant improvements to its urban and rural healthcare. It has combated the spread of malaria and other diseases through simple measures like insect nets. It has surpassed the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality rates and has almost achieved universal primary education for boys and girls. Economic growth has also chugged along, producing an impressive average GDP growth rate of six percent, mostly from the garment and textile industries. Investor capital from abroad is being used to develop the industrial sector, and the Bangladeshi government, in between its episodic dramas, is seeking cooperation with other countries to build a deep sea port that could be an economic hub in South Asia. The founder of microfinance, a Bangladeshi man named Muhammad Yunus, has worked to provide ordinary citizens with small loans to start businesses, which has done wonders for the rural parts of the country. By all measures, Bangladesh has improved the lives of many of its citizens.

However, this “success story” in the making, can easily be derailed by governmental antics that benefit no one. The irresponsibility displayed by both political parties could quickly escalate to something far worse, impeding whatever progress Bangladesh has hope of making. With the national population set to reach 250 million by 2050, Bangladesh will continue to face a host of problems, from providing for such an enormous population to addressing the dangers it will face from rising sea levels. While the economic sector has proved resilient and resourceful, only the government can ensure the conditions for long-term stability and prosperity for the country.

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