Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organized a webinar on “Bangabandhu’s Vision of Sonar Bangla: Bangladesh at 50” on 14 March 2021 at BIISS. H E Professor Dr Gowher Rizvi, Advisor to the Hon’ble Prime Minister on International Relation Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, graced the webinar as the Chief Guest. Major General Md Emdad Ul Bari, ndc, psc, te, Director General, BIISS, chaired the webinar. He delivered the welcome address and concluding remarks. Four distinguished scholars spoke in the webinar. Senior officials from different ministries, ambassadors and high commissioners, senior civil and military officials, academia, teachers and media, from various universities participated in the webinar and gave valuable comments and remarks in the open discussion session.
While chairing the webinar, Major General Md Emdad Ul Bari, ndc, psc, te, Director General of BIISS focused on Bangabandhu’s efforts towards making his dream of “Sonar Bangla”, “Switzerland of the East”, a reality, immediately after the independence. He remarked that what Bangabandhu instituted during his tenure was not merely damage-control measures but also a prudent prescription for socio-economic emancipation. General Bari opined that Bangabandhu’s visionary leadership and assertive approach, which is aptly followed by his vigilant daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is the key model for the country’s development approach.
Professor Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), discussed Bangladesh’s transformation from an aid receiving country to a trading nation. He stated that bold policy changes and government incentives, e.g., bonded warehouse facilities, back-to-back letter of credit (LC), export incentives and subsidies, have transformed the country’s comparative advantages into competitive advantages in the global market. He also argued that through this transformation, the country has been able to create jobs, ensure social empowerment, a new generation of entrepreneurs, and put its footprints in the global goods and services markets. He emphasized the importance of skills productivity, labour productivity, capital productivity, research and development, negotiation, comprehensive partnership agreements, and free trade agreement to continue with past achievement.
Dr Binayak Sen, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), discussed the trends, drivers and challenges of poverty alleviation and social progress in Bangladesh. He said that Bangladesh provides an inspiring story in poverty alleviation, in which two variables, namely female education and increasing labour force participation, played a critical role. Besides, he identified four drivers, i.e., agricultural growth, growth of the manufacturing sector led by RMG, the flow of foreign remittance and the role of aspiration behind the progressive poverty reduction. He emphasized achieving quality education and equality of opportunity to overcome the obstacles.
Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director, BIISS, focused on Bangladesh’s development trajectories and the imperative for “Vision 2041”. He elaborated on the dreams and aspirations of the Father of the Nation for his country. He highlighted how the upcoming adoption of “Vision 2041”, an extension of “Vision 2021” programme by the Government of Bangladesh, seeks to take the nation to the development path dreamt by Bangabandhu. Dr Kabir underscored various arenas for improvement, including eliminating poverty, economic progress, gaining upper-middle-income country status by 2031 and subsequently the high-income country status by 2041. He also shed light on the key elements and possible challenges that could arise during the pursuit of the development path.
Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), deliberated on the topic “Transformation of Economic Policies and Outcomes”. In his presentation, he discussed the policy orientation of Bangladesh in different phases of history and analyzed it in light of the Proclamation of Independence, the Constitution, and the Election Manifesto of Bangladesh Awami League. He remarked that focus on human beings was the centre of Bangabandhu’s policies which needs to be continued. As Bangladesh prepares to move forward from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Dr Ahmad reminded the audience to include everybody legitimately and equitably as human beings and citizens of the country, leave no one behind and move together based on the idea of our liberation.
In his deliberation Chief Guest Professor Dr Gowher Rizvi, Advisor to the Hon’ble Prime Minister on International Relation Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, mentioned that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s vision was well-articulated in the 1972 constitution of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu dreamed of creating a society based on cooperatives, a society with a decentralized government, a society where the benefits of property and wealth would be shared by all. He believed that the principles of the 1972 constitution need to be followed to materialize Bangabandhu’s dream of Sonar Bangla—a secular, just and egalitarian Bangladesh. Professor Rizvi also suggested critically analyzing the contents of Bangabandhu’s 1975 reform schemes and at least bring back some of those policies so that Bangabandhu’s vision of social justice, equitable, egalitarian and secular society can be restored.
The webinar had a lively open discussion session.