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Submitted by Mushfiq Mobarak on

For any students reading...

Very nice piece, Hassan bhai. Re-calibrating the narrative so that all important underlying sources of the human development gains get properly acknowledged is very important, for both accurate accounting of history and for future policy.

I think there are two facts here: (a) Bangladesh has had impressive gains in health and other social indicators, and (b) Bangladesh's high levels of and large gains in health and social indicators relative to peer countries who have had better economic growth performance, or higher baseline GDP, is doubly impressive. You are right that (a) deserves recognition, and economic growth surely had an important role to play in that achievement. I think the Lancet, Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze, and the Economist were all motivated to write by (b) [although I agree that the Economist’s comment that “BD proves that social achievement is possible without growth” is off the mark]. These other scholars might argue that there's already sufficient recognition in the world of the role of growth in alleviating poverty (the fact that China accounts for the greatest reductions in poverty counts is well known and frequently cited), but the macroeconomy cannot explain (b), and there must be something else going on in Bangladesh that requires further exploration.

For any students reading this, decomposing the sources of the health and socio-economic gains in Bangladesh using data would be a very valuable exercise. To make progress on the important questions that Dr. Zaman raises, it would be useful for us to know how much of this can be explained by growth, and how much is left unexplained.