Leading economists yesterday said ensuring quality of public services and infrastructure is key to sustaining development Bangladesh achieved in social indicators.
They said good governance and adoption of technological advancements could help the country ensure quality public services.
Their recommendations came at a book launching programme at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
Prominent economist Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud said the government has to ensure quality in every public service, including education and healthcare, otherwise the development achievements cannot be sustained.
“Infrastructure should be of such quality that private investment gets attracted,” he said.
Mahmud, also former adviser to a caretaker government, added that all the drivers of economic and social development have been suffering from low technology, unskilled labour and lower productivity.
“Now we need to adopt technological advancements, higher skill and good governance in the entire economic sphere,” he said.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government was aware of the governance issue but it has other priorities too. He said poverty alleviation, ensuring energy for all and infrastructure development were their priorities. If the government can bring the expected development, then good governance will come certainly, he said.
“Leadership continuation is also a major factor behind our social and economic development,” the minister said.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Manmohan Parkash said, in spite of the social development, Bangladesh has skill gaps, its exports were excessively dependent on only ready-made garments and it has infrastructure deficits as well.
“So, quality education should be prioritised to accelerate skills and modern technology should be initiated in all spheres of the economy,” he said.
Zahid Hussain, lead economist at World Bank, said Bangladesh witnessed remarkable development in recent years which was unthinkable in the 1970s.
Now, time has come to decide which benchmark should be taken into account as the development parameter since some peer countries are doing better in gross national income and some other indicators, he added.
Binayak Sen, research director at the BIDS, said in the coming decades Bangladesh would need quality education, infrastructure and health services and priority based social safety net programmes.
To ensure the quality in all the services, the government should increase social public spending, he said, adding that the National Board of Revenue should widen coverage of the tax net to finance the spending.
Yasuyuki Sawada, chief economist and director general of ADB, said success in industrialisation, infrastructure, microfinance and women empowerment were the major drivers of Bangladesh's development.
Sawada and Minhaj Mahmud, senior research fellow at the BIDS, authored the book titled “Economic and Social Development of Bangladesh: Miracle and Challenges”.
KAS Murshid, director general of BIDS, chaired the seminar while Hitoshi Hirata, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, also spoke.