There was a time when we compared India to big, superpower countries. That one day, India would be able to compete with China and even surpass it in terms of economic growth. But the condition in 2020 is such that leave aside China, even countries like Bangladesh are faring far better than India.
You must have heard about the latest IMF projections. The GDP per capita (that is, GDP per person) of Bangladesh is going to rise above India’s GDP per capita. IMF has projected that this will happen by the end of the year. And this is just one data.
The reality today is that Bangladesh has left India behind in several parameters. Or is set to do so Bangladesh, today, is setting a very great example for its neighbouring countries on how development can be achieved.
How did this become possible?
How was Bangladesh able to forge ahead while India was busy dreaming about becoming a superpower by 2020?
What are the things that we can learn from Bangladesh?
Come, let us find it out in today:
Let us talk about the IMF projections in detail because it throws up some very interesting things. IMF has said that by the end of 2020, the per capita GDP of Bangladesh will be higher than that of India. But IMF has also projected that in 2021, the per capita GDP of India will overtake that of Bangladesh again 2,030 dollars as compared to 1,989 dollars.
Those who support the government concentrate on this part and claim that this is a short term phenomenon and we will be ahead again in future. But IMF has made projections of times even later than that. They have said that India’s growth will not be sustained after 2021. Because in 2024, the per capita GDP of Bangladesh would again overtake that of India’s and then would maintain its lead after that.
Some would say that it would be incorrect to blame the government for this because this situation was a result of the coronavirus. India is a very populated country and so coronavirus spread more rampantly and hence India was more affected. But let me tell you one thing- Bangladesh is no less populated than India. Bangladesh is India’s most densely populated country- three times more densely populated than India.
So, according to that logic, coronavirus should have spread faster in Bangladesh and should have affected them even worse. But while the projection of India’s GDP due to coronavirus is at -10%, the projection of Bangladesh’s GDP due to coronavirus is +4%!
India is not the only one facing the brunt of coronavirus. Bangladesh had to face it too, but the latter is still in a better situation than India. Let me tell you, five years ago, India’s per capita income was 40 per cent higher than Bangladesh’s 40 per cent! Just imagine- in these 5 years, so much must have gone wrong for India and so much must have gone right for Bangladesh. for such a situation to be created.
There was a complete overturn within 5 years.
GDP is just one indicator to judge how good the economic growth of a country is, in comparison to another country. And what the income and the quality of life of the people is- but that is not enough. We need to look at more indicators to come to a better conclusion.
What percentage of women in the country know how to read and write and have completed the first 5 years of primary education?
According to a 2018 research, this statistic in India stands at 48%!
Only 48% of women in India, had completed five years of primary education. as compared to 92% in Nepal, 74% in Pakistan and 54% in Bangladesh.
On average, for how many years do the people in the country live?
This is a good indicator to judge the healthcare system of the country. and how it is affecting the people and whether the people are benefiting from it or not. An average Bangladeshi lives 3 years longer than an average Indian. Life expectancy for males and females in Bangladesh is 71 and 74 respectively. In India, the corresponding figure is 67 and 70.
Infant mortality rate- another good indicator to judge the healthcare system of the country.
How many children in the country die within one year of being born?
In India, this rate is 29.9 deaths per 1,000 live births
This figure is lower in Bangladesh- 22.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. So, it could be said that the healthcare system of Bangladesh is performing better than that of India.
Another good indicator is the literacy rate
What percentage of people in the country are literate?
While India has a literacy rate of 74.4%., Bangladesh has a literacy rate of 73.9%. India is slightly ahead of Bangladesh. But the female literacy rate in Bangladesh is much higher than that of India. I told you that Bangladesh is very densely populated, but despite that, the fertility rate of Bangladesh. that is, on average how many children does a woman bear? has reached the replacement level. Replacement level is the fertility rate. that once a country achieves it, then its population stops growing after a few years.
and the population growth would touch zero after some time.
Global Hunger Index, which judges the hunger of the people living in a country, India ranked 94 among 107 nations in the Global Hunger Index 2020, making it one of the most bottom countries on the list. While Bangladesh is ranked at 75 on the same index of 2020.
which is way ahead than India. Fewer people are dying of hunger in Bangladesh.
Even on the 2019 World Happiness Index, Bangladesh scores better than India. Bangladesh is ranked at 125, while India is ranked at 140.
So, on average, the people living in Bangladesh are happier than the people living in India.
Another shocking indicator which has a wide disparity in female labour participation. that is, how many women are engaged in work?
In India, this rate used to be higher, around 30% in the 1990s. This rate has fallen to 20% in India today. The exact opposite happened in Bangladesh- earlier it was 20% and now, it has crossed even 30%. Bangladesh has been consistently outperforming India as far as women empowerment and upliftment is concerned.
According to a UNDP report, 2016, Bangladeshi women have higher average incomes than their Indian counterparts. At the same time, the unemployment rate in Bangladesh is better off at around 5% while in India it is around 8.5%.
There are fewer unemployed people in Bangladesh as a percentage of their population as compared to India.
Be it unemployment, women empowerment life expectancy or economic growth, Bangladesh either already has become or is steadily becoming more developed than India in almost all of the indicators.
What’s surprising is that Bangladesh used to be far poorer than India, just 20 years ago. India got its independence in 1947, while Bangladesh got its independence in 1971 and that too, with India’s help.
Right after its fight for independence, Bangladesh registered a tremendous economic crash. The country’s GDP growth rate in 1972 was recorded at negative 14 per cent.
Two years later, Bangladesh faced a catastrophic famine, which killed an estimated 1.5 million people. The ensuing economic crash saw the GDP growth rate slip to a negative 4 per cent. For the most part, in every chart comparing the two- India was always ahead of Bangladesh.
But India picked up pace in the last 5-10 years and is now competing with India.
How did this become possible?
One of the main reasons for this is that Bangladesh focused on getting the women out of the houses and providing them with employment. A key driver of the growth of Bangladesh was their garment industry.
You might come across a lot of “made in Bangladesh” clothes these days. Women workforce was employed to run this garment industry. The women were employed.
In 2017, Bangladesh was the world’s second-largest apparel supplier after China. occupying 6.5 per cent of the market, outpacing even India. Take a look at the following chart, which compares India and Bangladesh’s garment exports.
Second- Bangladesh focused on its Manufacturing sector. They decided to manufacture things within their own country. and export to other countries.
Bangladesh’s GDP growth is led by the industrial sector, followed by the services sector- which created a lot of jobs. India tried to do this too but failed to. That is, it could not match the level of Bangladesh.
Today, in Bangladesh, 39.4% of the country’s employment is in the services sector. against India’s 31.5%.
In India, a huge portion of the population is still dependent on the agricultural sector. Next- Bangladesh focussed on its basics- healthcare, sanitation, financial inclusion, and women’s political representation.
While India and Pakistan were busy fightings in the name of religion and nationalism. And their media was busy distracting Bangladesh on the other hand, is focussed on important things and overtook both of them.
But it is not that it has not flourished in the field of agriculture. Bangladesh also focussed on its agricultural sector. It is fast-moving to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. producing 41.3 million ton (MT) in FY18 against the target of 41.57 MT.
When a country focusses on its basics like healthcare and education, then its effects begin to be seen on the population as well.
The population growth rate declines. If people are educated, they would realise that they need not have so many children. If healthcare facilities are good then the infant mortality rate would drop. this would also cause the population growth rate.
While people in India were squabbling about whether Hindus should produce more children or Muslims should. Bangladesh, on the other hand, brought its population down so much so that their fertility rate today is beneath the replacement level.
Credit also goes to Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus who founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. This was the key driver in the micro-finance revolution. which gave collateral-free small loans, predominantly to the poor and especially to women. and the loans were used for household micro-enterprises like dairy, poultry, farming, handicrafts. They set up their small businesses. The repayment rates were more than 99 per cent.
Compare this to India vs Bangladesh the rich billionaires take loans, flee the country and the loans are never repaid. Credit must also be given NGOs for the turnaround in Bangladesh’s fortunes.
Non-government organisations have played a critical and complementary role to the state in reducing poverty. and in expanding social and economic opportunities for a vast majority of Bangladeshis.
Compare this to what is happening with NGOs in India. They are being targeted and called anti-national. The government is passing laws that make it difficult for NGOs to function in India. The media also creates an image that all NGOs are anti-national and their ulterior motive is to convert people to Christianity. and that they should be thrown out as there is no need for them in the country. But no country can run without the aid of NGOs.
The government cannot single-handedly ensure development. You can read the school NCERT books to read about how important NGOs are for the development of a country. These are some positive things in which we can take inspiration from countries like Bangladesh. and can learn from them.
Bangladesh has surpassed India in some respects. where India needs to learn from it, for sure. But every coin has two sides- there are some aspects in which India is better than Bangladesh.
For example, the press Freedom Index. The media in Bangladesh is worse than Indian media. Their press Freedom Index is worse than India’s. Several incidents have been seen in which Bangladesh has clamped down on freedom of speech. The public does not have the freedom to criticize the government.