Next development plan targets growth, empowering citizens
The next five-year plan aims to boost economic growth and empower citizens as part of the government's long-term vision of eliminating poverty and making Bangladesh a middle-income country.
The theme -- Accelerating Growth: Empowering Every Citizen -- will be the cornerstone of the Seventh Five-Year Plan, said Prof Shamsul Alam, member of general economics division of the planning commission and key planner of the development strategy.
"We will pay utmost attention to taking the GDP growth higher than the level achieved in the sixth plan and efforts will be made to improve income distribution."
The economist, who prepared the Sixth Five-Year Plan, presented an outline of the upcoming plan for 2016-2020 at a meeting with economists at the National Economic Council in Dhaka yesterday.
AHM Mustafa Kamal, planning minister, said the document would act as a bridge between the present and the future, helping the country achieve its goals set out for 2021, 2030 and 2041.
About 80 percent of the draft has already been completed, he added.
Alam also said the sixth plan was fully consistent with the targets of the Millennium Development Goals set for Bangladesh, enabling the country to receive applause.
The seventh plan will be in line with the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, he said.
Alam said providing higher income employment opportunities to the expanding labour force will be the foremost development challenge for the next plan.
Transforming the production structure of Bangladesh towards manufacturing and industrialisation will remain as a core objective of the plan, he added.
The seventh plan will emphasise worker safety in manufacturing, speed up export diversification and promote trade and economic cooperation with neighbouring countries, including India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.
The plan would seek to raise the investment-GDP ratio and look to implement projects under the public private partnership framework. Investment has remained stagnant in the last three years and no major PPP project has been implemented.
Alam said the next five-year development strategy will boost efforts to extend financial services to the poor.
The plan will take a deeper look at land administration issues and provide some strategic input to make it more efficient and market friendly, he said.
The seventh plan will take a more strategic approach to social protection in light of resource constraints and explore ways to improve the quality and implementation of social protection programmes, as progress so far is far slower than expected, said Alam.
The member said civil administration has to be made dynamic and productivity enhanced. Mohammad Farasuddin, a former central bank governor, said the next plan should focus on equity and social protection in addition to accelerating growth.
"We will not be able to empower every citizen, but we will be able to provide them with social protection."
He questioned credibility of the data on employment, and believed their number would be much higher than the official estimation of 4.5 percent.
“We will have to reduce poverty through creation of jobs, as the trickle-down theory is a thing of the past. Emphasis has to be placed on micro, small and medium enterprises.”
Farasuddin said achieving a middle-income country status should be driven by performance in the Human Development Index, not by that of per capita income. "Becoming a middle income country on the basis of per capital income is misleading."
Barket-e-Khuda, a professor of economics at Dhaka University, said the targets are by and large overambitious and not practical.
"Strategies are not well-defined. Besides, implementation capacity is a major barrier, whatever targets are set."
He called for increasing public expenditure on education and health, as the per capita spending is one of the lowest in Asia.
The professor also said coordination among ministries running social protection projects is imperative, as most are full of waste, overlap and leakage.
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, urged the government to be realistic in setting targets, and backed the government's 'Look East' policy.
Rushidan Islam Rahman, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said the quality of jobs has to be improved. "We have to look at recruitment terms and wages particularly."
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said Bangladesh can achieve 2 percentage points more GDP growth using current resources if good governance can be restored. Shahidullah Sikder, pro-vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said support has to be extended to all minority groups in society to empower them.
Gour Gobinda Goswami, a professor of economics at North South University, said the next plan must spell out a clear outline on maritime resources that Bangladesh recently gained. He also called for decentralisation of administration, as urban management has come under strain. "Land management has to be digitised."
The economist also said the country would have to invest heavily at the tertiary level to move to a knowledge economy, in a shift from the Sixth Plan, which is focused on primary and secondary education. "We are not getting enough PhDs.”
Fahmida Khatun, research director of CPD, called for institutional and public service reform to achieve targets.