WE are pleasantly surprised and heartened to learn that the annual growth rate of solar home systems in Bangladesh is higher than anywhere else in the world. It is little wonder that the World Bank has just extended additional funding to the tune of nearly US$80million to Infrastructure Development Company (Idcol) which is implementing the programme. The solar programme has generated 70,000 new jobs and 140megawatts of electricity in rural areas that fall outside the main electricity grid. Today, 14million rural poor have access to electricity through solar power. The additional financing will help install another 480,000 units.
That a company like Idcol, operating on the public-private partnership model simply goes to show that it is possible to run programmes that positively affect poorer segments of the population. Electricity remains one of the major bottlenecks for growth in the country. It is good to see policymakers take cognizance of limitations of what the state can and cannot provide to its citizens. It is near impossible to bring the whole population under the national grid taking into consideration the massive amounts of finance required. It is here that innovative programmes like the one Idcol is implementing with great success, can serve as a role model for other infrastructure related projects that have not seen the light of day for lack of capacity to be implemented. Having access to electricity automatically translates into new income generating opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of new consumers helping them fend off poverty.