Recent attacks by extremists have not dampened enthusiasm for future.
By Mohammad Ziauddin, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the United States
Bangladesh is headed in the right direction. That’s the conclusion of a new survey conducted by the respected International Republican Institute. IRI, an independent, non-partisan U.S. based organization that assists political parties to achieve good governance and civil society development, reports that Bangladeshis are confident about the future of their country and their own well-being.
A key reason for the optimism is that the economy is growing smartly. The Bangladeshi economy grew over 6 percent annually over the past several years and is poised for even higher growth. In particular, Bangladesh’s important garment industry is booming and has shifted to producing high-end, higher-profit products. Working conditions are improving in garment factories as Bangladeshi women increasingly become breadwinners in their households.
All of these changes, and more, are reflected in the IRI poll. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed (79 percent) believe the country’s economic condition is good. 65 percent said their personal and/or family’s economic situation improved over the last year, and 72 percent said they believe it will continue to improve over the next year.
By a large margin, respondents showed faith in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government and her direction for her country. 72 percent of those polled approve of the job being done by the government, according to the IRI. The IRI has been actively engaged in improving democracy throughout Asia.
And despite recently reported attacks by extremists on Bangladeshis and foreign guests, 80 percent of the poll’s respondents said that Bangladesh’s security situation is either good or very good. One reason is surely that Bangladeshis have seen the swift, decisive action taken against the perpetrators of these attacks. In other words, the poll reveals a striking difference in the perception of safety and security in Bangladesh by those who live there as opposed to the views expressed in the Western media.
Bangladesh is investing heavily in its infrastructure to ensure that its growth is sustainable over the long term. One example of this investment is the four-mile-long, multipurpose Padma Bridge, which will link the southwestern part of the country to the capital Dhaka and the northern and eastern regions. This bridge will help improve and change the image of Bangladesh. It will connect vast areas of the country to Dhaka and transform the lives of many Bangladeshis living in the isolated southwestern region of the country. By reducing the distance between major urban centers, the Padma Bridge will help to increase regional trade, alleviate poverty and speed up the country’s growth and development.
The Padma Bridge will carry multiple modes of transportation. The connecting railway on both sides of the bridge has been constructed to hold higher loads than usual. This will provide the missing but essential rail infrastructure needed in the region and increase both imports and exports for the country. The bridge will facilitate inter-regional and cross-river transports to passengers and freight. It will also transport natural gas and help spur telecommunications and electricity transmission in a cost-effective way.
The construction of the bridge will be a huge job creator. It will drive tourism in southwest regions that have been difficult to reach. The bridge will also help rural farmers by providing easy forms of transportation to directly send perishables to Dhaka and other cities. In fact, it has been estimated that the Padma Bridge will increase Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by as much as 1.2 percent as soon as the bridge becomes operational in a few years.
With a growing workforce and developing infrastructure, the future for Bangladesh is bright. The IRI survey is the latest proof of that progress.
Image courtesy of ?????? ????
Mohammad Ziauddin is the Ambassador of Bangladesh to the U.S. Prior to his posting in the U.S., he was Ambassador-at-Large and carried the title of State Minister.