Social Business: Vehicle for achieving self-sufficiency | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 22, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 22, 2012

Social Business: Vehicle for achieving self-sufficiency

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The success of social and economic developments in Bangladesh depends on social business. The majority of the 160 million people in Bangladesh are poor. Social and economic reforms must begin with the poor, and that's why social business plays a crucial role in the overall economic growth in Bangladesh.
Non-governmental organisations (NGO) are critical in reforming education, environment, employment and other areas. A significant portion of foreign development fund goes to these NGOs. They must remain active and engaged. Gopal Sengupta writes: "Despite the success of NGOs in improving access to justice for women and the poor, the question remains when and how the government will assume responsibility for perpetuating such reforms on both the national and the local level." Although the author is critical of the microcredit programme in Bangladesh, he is right on target about government's responsibility in moving forward with the progress that the NGOs have contributed so far.
In Bangladesh, the GDP has consistently remained over 5% during the last few years. This should have been higher, but corruption and poverty continue to inhibit the growth. For every one step forward, we have fallen back two steps. Corruption has put a big dent on distribution of foreign development funds. So the poor continue to suffer.
We need to become self-sufficient and self-reliant on our own resources. We have seen some evidence of this. Bangladesh has become less reliant on foreign resources over the last 10 years. A consistent GDP and the rising middle class are testament to the maturity of growth. But to sustain these achievements, we must strategically invest in development of the democratic institutions that would propel Bangladesh to a path of continuous prosperity and long-term self-sufficiency.
According to M.G. Quibria, foreign aid in Bangladesh needs to be evaluated against selectivity and need. There is a policy conundrum in this approach. Need-based aid generally ends up in poorly managed economy and risk mismanagement of aid. On the other hand, selective aid tends to ignore other needy countries. Therefore, a balance must be achieved. He says: "Assessments of both donors and recipients suggest that Bangladesh achieved mixed results in aid effectiveness, although the country's performance in utilising aid seemed to have improved significantly in recent years. The mixed success of Bangladesh can be traced to shared failures on the part of both the government and donors."
Bangladesh cannot become complacent. It must continue to invest in social development issues. Risks must be taken to adopt social business initiatives. Being risk averse is not an option. Democratic institutions must be reformed and aligned with social business model. In order to become self-reliant and achieve self-sufficiency sound domestic policies must be undertaken. The influence of foreign politics must be contained. Kirit Parikh, a noted economist, underscored the influence of foreign politics: "Policies of national governments depend also on the policies of other governments. Policies of other governments get reflected in the world market prices. World market prices are in turn transmitted to the domestic markets to varying degrees depending on the policies of the national government. Even when a government insulates domestic prices from the world market prices, the poor cannot escape the influence of the world markets."
Political environment in Bangladesh remains precarious. It inhibits growth and exacerbates social and economic chaos. But as resilient as Bangladeshis are against political, social, and economic turmoil, they are becoming united, particularly the younger generation, to reform and rebuild the country through social and technological networks and concrete actions. Government is also taking actions to alleviate corruption and implement achievable policies. The growth of social business is a clear sign of change in Bangladesh. We cannot turn back.
The goals are clear for the people. They want jobs, food, education, and a stable society. These are all very attainable goals and are within reach. We have the manpower and we have tools like social business and microcredit. With government support and an undeterred commitment to building a stable democracy, a lot can be achieved to provide long-term prosperity and happiness to all of us.

The writer is lawyer and human right's activist; He is the author of Social Business & Muhammad Yunus.
E-mail: advsagar29@gmail.com

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