Dhaka, Bangladesh
SDGs: The Bangladesh Roadmap

Comments & Analyses-I

SDGs: The Bangladesh Roadmap

By Janina Jaruzelski

We, at the Local Consultative Group (LCG), are proud to be among the world’s most active donor communities and very proud of our long?standing strong partnership with the government and people of Bangladesh. It is no secret that Bangladesh made outstanding progress on key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and we are confident that similar progress is possible under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Bangladesh has already shown leadership on the SDGs and has been impressively proactive in incorporating those into its 7th Five Year Plan and other budget and strategic planning efforts. Many years of sustained 6 percent annual growth have already pushed Bangladesh across the World Bank’s Lower Middle Income threshold. With the right choices, the Prime Minister’s goal of attaining full Middle Income Status by 2021, the 50th anniversary of independence, is achievable. Sustaining high economic growth will require Bangladesh to do more to encourage investments, especially in infrastructure and renewable energy, and to do more to break down the many barriers to regional trade. Perhaps even more important is preparing young people for a rapidly evolving world economy by equipping them with the sort of quality education and analytical reasoning skills that will enable them to adapt and excel. To consolidate Middle Income Status, Bangladesh will need to focus greater attention on modernizing its institutions of governance and maintaining ample space for informed policy debate. It will be important to preserve the successes of Bangladesh’s historically vibrant civil society and lively media. It will also be important to avoid undermining success in the governance sphere via well-intentioned but counterproductive laws. Bangladesh has the skills to accelerate its already very impressive achievements in moving millions out of extreme poverty. The approach of pursuing fewer, but larger, better targeted, and more efficient government programs is one that we view as most promising. Bangladesh has doubled—nearly tripled—its rice production and significantly improved its nutritional statistics. Still, under-nutrition and stunting remain formidable challenges and cost an estimated $1 billion in lost productivity every year, with even higher costs in terms of healthcare. Improving nutrition is one of the most cost-effective investments Bangladesh could make and we hope that the Prime Minister’s Office can lead in further advancing this agenda. Enhancing the participation of women and girls in all aspects of society is a theme we will raise again and again over the next two days as one of the most important keys to accelerating Bangladesh’s development. Bangladeshi women have made enormous strides over the last four decades, in terms of political empowerment, better job opportunities, and greater access to education. Still, more remains to be done to enable women and girls to achieve their full potential. We urge greater attention, in particular, to preventing gender-based violence and child marriage. Bangladesh’s success in reducing maternal and infant mortality has been one of its most outstanding achievements. At the same time, there is room to improve the quality of healthcare and to increase funding for both healthcare and education, which as a percentage of national budget, remain relatively low compared to global norms. We look forward to continuing our close collaboration to enhance quality, inclusiveness, and efficiency in the health and education systems. And finally, every person in Bangladesh is acutely aware of the risks of climate and natural disasters. Bangladesh is, unfortunately, near the very top of the Climate Vulnerability Index. We applaud the huge progress the government has made in successfully preparing for cyclones and floods, and encourage further progress on a whole-of-government approach to emergency preparedness, particularly in urban areas. We also stress protection of the Sundarbans as an essential natural barrier that shields Bangladesh from cyclones, flooding, and other climate shocks. We will be expanding on these and other points, such as urbanization, the needs of youth, public financial reform, migration, and more over the course of the forum. I want to take this opportunity to commend the government of Bangladesh for its tremendous generosity and compassion in sheltering the fleeing Rohingya here in Bangladesh. The Development Partners stand with you in addressing this very severe crisis. One of the challenges we all face, collectively, is steadfastly maintaining the momentum and trajectory of Bangladesh’s economic and social development even as we all address the special issues created by this sudden large influx of displaced, distressed people. I am optimistic that, working together, we will succeed. —The opening remarks by Janina Jaruzelski, co-chair, Local Consultative Group and USAID Mission Director at the opening plenary of Bangladesh Development Forum 2018, Jan 17

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