The recent report, published by Washington-based non-profit organization Social Progress Imperative (SPI), reveals that Bangladesh has produced another ‘development surprise’ in the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) region. According to this multi-country analysis report Bangladesh ranked 99 among 132 countries and has scored higher than Pakistan (124), Nepal (101) and emerging economic power India (102), losing out only to Sri Lanka (85) in the region.
Based on the performance of the past one year, the Social Progress Index report has been published on 3rd April, 2014. This index ranks 132 countries over three categories: basic human needs, foundations of well being and opportunity.
Index shows that, bringing down child mortality, achieving gender parity in secondary school enrollment, improving life expectancy, showing respect to women, reduced human trafficking and child marriage and its increased demand for contraception are relatively strong points of Bangladesh. For the last six years, government, with the assistance of its development partners, has taken numerous initiatives to develop the social scenario of the country. Bringing down the child mortality is one of the goals of MDGs which Bangladesh achieved in 2013. National Education Policy, 2010 is the key to the development of the education scenario of Bangladesh.
As the SPI report shows, in the Basic Human Needs Dimension Bangladesh does best in areas like nutrition and basic medical care. In assuring the Foundations of Wellbeing Bangladesh excels at health and wellness. On the other hand, in the Opportunity Dimension, the country outperforms in providing opportunities for people to improve their position in society and scores highly in personal freedom and choice.
Performance of Bangladesh in 3 different dimensions (source: SPI report)
Parallel Success- Economic Growth & Social Progress
The SPI findings reveal that economic growth doesn’t automatically lead to social progress. Economic growth not always confirms the basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and equal opportunity. For example, among the giant economies- the low rankings of China (90) and India (102) show that their rapid economic growth is not yet being converted into harmonious social progress.
Remarkably, Bangladesh consistently continues upholding both economic and social ladders concurrently. It is not very easy for a country like Bangladesh, being heavily densed in terms of population and hit hard by poverty and political insurgences, to maintain parallel advancement. However, by dint of the efficiency of the present government Bangladesh continues remarkable socio-economic advances.
If we compare Bangladesh in terms of social progress with the countries of similar GDP per capita such as Senegal, Lesotho, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, Chad, Benin, Sudan, Tajikistan, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Cameroon, Djibuti, Rwanda and so on, it shows that Bangladesh is clearly ahead in most of the areas of social development (See following figure).
Scorecard of Bangladesh compared to similar GDP per capita countries (source: SPI report)
Keys behind the Progress
Bangladesh has reached an outstanding milestone by reducing child mortality rate. UN’s MDGs are to be achieved within 2015. Bangladesh has achieved the fourth MDG in 2012. According to UNICEF, Bangladesh brought down under-five mortality from 146 in 1991 to 41 in 2012. This achievement became possible because of government’s dedication to improve maternal and child health. The current government has initiated numerous programs like extended vaccination program, integrated management for pediatrics, ensuring proper treatment for Diarrhoea and respiratory infections and ensuring food and nutrition to improve child health.
Bangladesh is now generating more than 6500 MW electricity with the capability to generate 10000 MW. The government is working with the visions that power generation will reach 16000 MW by 2016 and 24000 MW by 2021. To achieve these goals, government’s promptness is remarkable. Two mega-projects, 1000 MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and 1320 MW Rampal Coal Power Plant have already been initiated. Additionally, Bangladesh has also taken the leading role in promoting use of renewable or green energy. Solar power, apart from lighting up household outside the purview of conventional electricity sources, has also generated employment for thousands of people.
The country recently has formulated ‘National Education Policy’ in 2010; this policy prioritizes easy and equal access to education. Primary education has been declared free for everyone. Government prioritizes to appoint women teachers for primary level. This increases the opportunity of employment too. Currently, almost cent percent girls enroll in primary education and the government is planning and programming for developing gender responsive budget to establish women rights and eradicate discrimination. Nonetheless, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs under this government has introduced ‘Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2010’ to stop violence against women. National Women Development Policy 2011 has also been developed by the present government in order to usher up empowerment of women.
Bangladesh & Other South Asian Nations
The 2014 findings recognize the extraordinary regional success of Bangladesh in South Asia. Many unique aspects of progress in social development help Bangladesh attaining an ‘exemplary slot’ in this region. The improvement in Bangladesh’s standing within South Asia in respect of the social development indicators used by SPI is evident from the following figure:
Comparison among South Asian Countries
According to the index, Bangladesh did better than India in certain areas like assuring nutrition &basic medical care, assuring personal safety, providing shelter, maintaining health & wellness, sustaining ecosystem, guaranteeing personal freedom and choice, and level of tolerance & inclusion. Bangladesh also showed a lesser prevalence of underage marriage, human trafficking, and slavery. Bangladesh lagged behind on the category like personal safety, access to basic knowledge and ICT & advanced education, and personal rights.
The index shows Bangladesh fared better than Pakistan in terms of every indicator except water & sanitation. Nepal’s situation of accessing into basic knowledge and information & communications is better than that of Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh is relatively stronger in terms of all other categories. Sri Lanka became the best landscape of South Asia and achieved fared better scores in the majority of categories than Bangladesh, while lagged behind in case of assuring health & wellness and personal rights. The gap between the scores of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is very marginal and Bangladesh is persistently working on to fill it up.
The social progress indicator differs from the UN’s index as it includes environmental and personal rights indicators, but does not track happiness. The SPI Index offers a rich framework for measuring the multiple dimensions of social progress, benchmarking success, and catalyzing greater human wellbeing. Hence, it is globally recognized and trusted for measuring ‘national progress. All the indicators reveals that over the last one year Bangladesh accomplished notable improvement both in its economic niches and human development indicators.
1. Social Progress Index Report 2014, Social Progress Imperative, Washington, 2014
2. Economic Census 2013: Preliminary Report, Bangladesh Bureau of Statictics, Dhaka, 2014
3. Khan, Alamgir, Indicating Progress: Finding Bangladesh, Dhaka Courier, Dhaka, April17, 2014
4. Social Progress Index: Bangladesh does better than most S Asian nations, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 5, 2014
5. Bangladesh Ranked 99 on SPI Index, The Financial Express, Dhaka, April 5, 2014