The Paradoxes of the Bangladesh Miracle by Arvind Subramanian


After emerging poor and devastated from its struggle for independence 50 years ago, Bangladesh has succeeded in becoming a global model of economic development. While the country’s success is the result of many factors, two distinguishing features of its political economy stand out.

NEW DELHI – Periodically ravaged by natural calamities, long dependent on foreign aid and remittances, and a perpetual source of refugees and emigrants, Bangladesh was once “a desperate case of misery”, as has been described. says Zia Haider Rahman in her first novel, In light of what we know. But on the 50th anniversary of its independence, Bangladesh is emerging as a model of development – a miracle on the Meghna.

Among the achievements of the country is a dramatic improvement in the average standard of living of its citizens. According to the most recent data from the International Monetary Fund, Bangladesh’s GDP per capita (measured in purchasing power parity terms) was about half that of Pakistan in 1987 and two-thirds of that of Pakistan. India in 2007. But in 2020, Bangladesh has overtaken the former and is catching up with the latter, in part thanks to its success in becoming a major exporter of textiles and clothing, just behind China and Vietnam.

Even more remarkable are the improvements in social indicators such as life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, fertility and female labor force participation. And, equally important, Bangladesh has managed to maintain a minimum of democratic stability – by keeping the army in barracks.

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