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Macroeconomics and Economic Growth

The Paradox That Bangladesh Isn’t

Zahid Hussain's picture

This is the second in a series of six posts about the recent report, “Bangladesh: Towards Accelerated, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth”. The first post was Better Jobs Can Outweigh a Secure Life. Next week’s post will look at how Bangladesh’s economy has remained resilient despite global and local shocks over the past few years.

Bangladesh lacks natural resources and good governance. It is beset by natural calamities. Corruption and self-destructive political non-cooperation are common. Yet Bangladesh’s GNI per capita more than tripled in the past two-and-a-half decades, from an average of US$251 in the 1980s to US$851 by 2012. This growth was accompanied by impressive progress in human development. Growth in GNI came almost entirely from growth in GDP in the 1980s and 1990s, but this changed in the last decade due to a surge in remittances from Bangladeshi workers abroad. GDP growth has accelerated by a percentage point and per capita GDP growth has accelerated by 1.7 percentage points in each of the last four decades. A recently published World Bank report, “Bangladesh: Towards Accelerated, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth—Opportunities and Challenges” explains how Bangladesh managed to beat the odds.

Where did GDP growth come from? 

Realizing India’s Potential

Kalpana Kochhar's picture

Yesterday, I discussed India’s incredible economic transformation over the last two decades and some of the challenges that the country is currently facing. So, what can India do to reduce the impact of global uncertainty and improve growth performance and boost investor confidence?

India’s firepower to respond to a crisis with traditional monetary and fiscal stimulus is much weaker now than prior to the 2008 crisis. Fiscal space for additional spending is severely constrained in light of continued high deficits. Room for monetary policy easing is modest in light of continued high inflation, and still low real interest rates. Moreover, when investor confidence is at a low ebb as it is in India, easing monetary policy would be tantamount to “pushing on a string.”

Keeping India’s Promise Alive

Kalpana Kochhar's picture

India has been a beacon to the world on how a thriving and vibrant democracy can transform itself into an economic powerhouse. The metamorphosis that took place in the Indian economy after the reforms of the early 1990s is nothing short of spectacular. The Indian economy was transformed into a dynamo of innovation and diversification. This fundamental transformation unlocked two decades of explosive growth in which poverty rates fell by nearly 20 percent, exports as a share of GDP increased nearly five-fold, and standards of living increased by a factor of almost four. This trajectory received but a glancing blow from the 2008 global financial crisis—this resilience was a testimonial to the benefits of the economic reforms of the previous 15 years.

Challenges to India’s Growth

But now, India’s economy once again faces formidable challenges and the fear is that it is considerably less well placed to deal with these challenges than at any time over the past two decades. The global economy is facing a new phase of the crisis characterized by an extreme bout of uncertainty, risk aversion and volatility, this time originating in the Euro Area. Some skeptics have recently questioned: Will India weather this storm as well as it did in 2008-09 and will the story of “Incredible India” remain credible?

What Will South Asia Look Like in 2025?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

South Asia is among the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in conditions of debilitating poverty, human misery, gender disparities, and conflict. In my book, Reshaping Tomorrow, I ask if South Asia is Ready for the Big Leap. 

The optimistic view is that India will achieve double-digit growth rates benefitting the rest of South Asia. The pessimistic view is that growth will be derailed by structural and transformational challenges. Which of these two outlooks will prevail?

The Optimistic Outlook

The optimistic outlook is based on favorable trends, including improved governance, the demographic dividend, the rise of the middle class, and the new faces of globalization. 

All countries in the region have an elected government for the first time since independence leading to governance that is more focused on development. Improved governance will enhance the politics of democratic accountability; diminishing the importance of identity politics; and the rates of incumbency – the likelihood of a sitting politician being re-elected – are down.

More and Better Jobs in Bangladesh

Sanjay Kathuria's picture

We launched South Asia’s first regional report, ‘More and Better Jobs in South Asia’ in a series of events in Dhaka early last week.

Through events including a seminar with youth at the University of Dhaka, a formal report launch the next day, a TV interview with the South Asia Chief Economist, Kalpana Kochchar, and an op-ed in the leading English language newspaper, the report helped  generate discussion on core economic challenges facing Bangladesh, as job creation are highly correlated with the challenges of faster growth.

Bangladesh, along with other South Asian countries, has seen steady job growth and a substantial decrease in poverty over the past three decades. The country has added nearly 1.2 million new jobs every year over the last ten years, and this has been accompanied by increasing real wages and declining poverty amongst all categories of workers. This performance will have to be improved in the future, owing to Bangladesh's early progress in its demographic transition. With substantial reductions in infant and child mortality following a significant decline in fertility rates, Bangladesh's working age population is growing more rapidly than its young and old dependents. In turn, this can be attributed to Bangladesh’s success in nurturing the desire for smaller families, through its reproductive health program as well as its emphasis on girls’ education.

Global Youth Conference 2012: Addressing Youth Unemployment in South Asia

Kalpana Kochhar's picture

I’ve just concluded a discussion on addressing youth unemployment around the world with experts at the Global Youth Conference currently happening and wanted to hear your thought as well as share some of my own on South Asia. Indeed, South Asia has grown rapidly and has created more and mostly better jobs. The region created 800,000 new jobs per month in the last ten years boosting economic growth and reducing poverty. Arrive in any South Asian metropolis and you’re often hit by the richness of activity throughout its busy streets.

The region’s coming demographic transition of more young people entering the work force is expected to contribute nearly 40 percent of the growth in the world’s working age (15—64) population over the next several decades. However, youth in South Asia still face many challenges during their transition to adulthood including malnutrition, gender inequality and lack of access to quality education. More working age people with less children and elderly dependants to support will either become an asset for the region to continue growing or a curse depending on the enabling environment for the creation of productive jobs.

Pakistan’s Most Favored Nation Status to India: A Win-Win for the Region?

Tara Beteille's picture

Trade relations between India and Pakistan appear set to improve significantly with Pakistan likely to grant India Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. The potential gains from easier trading relations are considerable for both countries. In 2009-10, official trade between the two stood at $2 billion. Studies suggest this volume could be much higher, absent formal and informal barriers. For instance, a recent SAARC report estimates trade potential to be $12 billion.

What exactly does MFN status mean?

All WTO members are bound to grant MFN treatment to member countries with respect to trade in goods. India granted Pakistan MFN status in 1996, but Pakistan held back, citing strategic considerations. Despite granting Pakistan MFN status, India continued to impose high tariffs on goods of interest to Pakistan—textiles and leather. Thus, merely according MFN status does not imply easier trade. So, does Pakistan’s offer matter? Yes, it does. It signals enthusiasm, goodwill, and a keenness to build peaceful and productive economic and political relations in the region.

Where will the gains come from?

What Does More and Better Jobs in South Asia Mean?

Pradeep Mitra's picture

The Track Record

Imagine adding the population of Sweden—somewhat under 10 million— to your labor force year after year for a decade. Insist that the wage workers among them earn increasing real wages and that poverty among the self-employed decline over time. What you have just described is not quite South Asia's record on the quantity and quality of job creation between 2000 and 2010. The region has done better.

Poverty has fallen, not only among the self-employed, but among all types of workers—casual laborers who are the poorest, regular wage and salary earners who are the richest and the self-employed who are in between. This hierarchy of poverty rates among the three employment types has endured over decades. Thus improvements in job quality have occurred predominantly within each employment type rather than through movement across types. The composition of the labor force among the employment types shows little change over time. The self-employed, many of whom are in farming, comprise the largest share, reflecting the predominance of agriculture in much of the region. Casual laborers make up the second largest share in rural areas.

Padma Bridge: Connecting People to Prosperity in Bangladesh

South Asia's picture

The Padma Bridge is expected to unlock the potential and transform the lives of nearly 30 million Bangladeshis living in the country's Southwest region. By reducing distances to major urban centers like Dhaka by almost 100km, the bridge will facilitate regional trade, reduce poverty while accelerating growth and development in the country as a whole.

The construction of the bridge would fulfill the long-standing dream of the people of the Southwest region to have a permanent crossing over the Padma River,” said World Bank South Asia Vice President Isabel Guerrero.


For more information, read the Feature Story and Press Release.

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