Development and wellbeing cannot be realised by indicators alone because tokenism and fraudulent statistics could be at play, said a private sector specialist and economists on Saturday.
Their comments came at an "Ajker Agenda Episode-02" meeting organised virtually by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) on "The Politics of Development Indicators".
The indicators of the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index were formulated to reduce harassment faced by businesses, said Syed Akhtar Mahmood, a former lead private sector specialist at the World Bank Group.
But the scope remains for the figures to be misused just for the attainment of upgraded rankings with no real improvements being brought about in business environments, he said. When a country sees that its ranking in one indicator is almost the same as that of others, it might try to focus on making improvements in the indicator to move up the index, he said.
But the reality for businesses might not develop through the enhancement of that indicator alone, said Mahmood, pointing out that such attempts were termed "gaming the system".
So, the focus should not be to attain a higher score in an indicator but to improve the real scenario for entrepreneurs, he said, adding that indicators should be taken into consideration for clues as to where the focus should be.
Bangladesh's urban guardians and political powers put emphasis on visible developments rather than on sustainable quality development, said Prof Adnan Morshed, executive director of the Center for Inclusive Architecture and Urbanism at Brac University.
There is a lack of consensus among all parties on development issues, with each party taking on a different viewpoint, he said.
In order to attain real development and wellbeing, convergence is required at a single point alongside mutual understanding and conversations irrespective of the differences among political parties, he added.
The needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the harassment they face are different compared to those of their bigger counterparts, said Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of the PPRC.
But the needs of the SMEs are not well articulated in the Ease of Doing Business Index, so indicators are not everything.
In the system of indicators, the outcome is ignored, and sometimes even development agencies focus on the implementation process for a better indicator value, not on the outcome, he said.
On the other hand, the scope for manipulation remains alongside tokenism, for which the focus needs to be on wellbeing and real development, Rahman said.
"Otherwise, we will see a rise in enrolment in education but a lower quality of education," he said.
The measurability of women's contribution to economic growth and care work is yet to be figured out, for which GDP measurements do not take their contributions into account, said Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh.
"If the government measures the contribution, then we believe the government's budgetary allocation for women will rise," she said.
"Our political parties need to have strong commitment and will to ensure the real development," she added.