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9/25/2006

Why countries like Bangladesh remain poor

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:05 am

Mahfuz R. Chowdhury
9/25/2006

ACCOMPLISHMENT of economic growth is the single most important goal of every nation. Economic growth refers to the ability of a nation to produce more goods and services and thereby raising the living standard of its people. But as one can see, not all nations of the world have fared well in their endeavours. Over the years some nations have achieved very high standards of living, while many others still continue to languish in poverty. Here is some factual information, which should give a better picture about the prevailing disparity in the world. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the annual per capita income of one-sixth of the world population in 2004 was more than $27,000, while two-thirds of them earned less than $7,000, and the earning of the lowest third hardly amounted to $1,500 per year. Nearly three billion people of the world live on less than $2.0 a day, and approximately one billion of them live on less than $1.0 a day. These one billion people in the lower income group are deprived of even clean drinking water let alone other necessities of life. Now the question is, why does there exist such an inequality?
One easy answer to the question may be the uneven distribution of world resources. Let’s face it, some countries are endowed with more natural resources than others. So logically that would make the people of those countries richer than the rest. But mere possession of resources does not guarantee economic growth. An abundance of natural resources could bring prosperity, but without industrialisation that prosperity would last as long as the resources last. Hence, industrialisation is considered to be the key to economic development because that is the surest way to increase the productive capacity of a nation. A nation’s GDP or per capita income of its people is measured by the market value of all goods and services it produces annually. It thus follows that in order for a nation to attain or retain its economic growth it must manage its resources efficiently and at the same time it must employ them in the modernisation of its production facilities.
The early economic growth achieved by the European and North American countries, for example, was helped by the spread of the industrial revolution that originated in England in the late eighteenth century. Ironically, lack of natural resources was not an impediment to economic growth. A number of countries, notably Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore, were later able to achieve their impressive economic growth by embarking on industrialisation, even though they had no or little natural resources of their own. But unfortunately most of the underdeveloped countries of the world are finding it very hard to come out of their economic doldrums. What’s holding them back? If progress is to depend on a country’s ability to overcome obstacles and to adapt in changing circumstances, then one needs to look into the historical background of these countries to understand the difficulties they face.
The biggest obstruction for these underdeveloped countries is poverty. Other critical challenges they confront, such as illiteracy or ill-health, are mainly attributable to poverty itself. Since success of a country’s industrialisation depends primarily on the education and health of its workers, poverty could be a serious drawback. To put it another way, without having met the basic human requirements of food, clothing and shelter other challenges could not be effectively addressed. The roots of poverty in most underdeveloped countries could be traced to the era of colonial rule. Many years of neglect and oppression by the colonial powers have created such a negative impact in these countries that they find themselves in an extremely serious deadlock from which they find it difficult to escape.
For removing or reducing the impact of poverty in these countries, what is then needed is a revolutionary change both socially and culturally. But the problem is that this kind of change does not come easily in a traditional society where most people are illiterates. To bring about this kind of change it would require great sacrifice and a very intelligent political guidance. Without having achieved such a change, it is not possible for a nation to turn its situation around. In other words, appropriate political changes are required in these countries before their economy could be improved. Those countries, such as India, Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico that have succeeded in making the changes and adopted policies to modernise their production facilities are making progress. But, as evidence clearly points out, quite a number of South Asian, African and Latin American countries, after so many years of political freedom from their colonial rules, have yet to implement such changes. As a result, these countries’ economies remained very depressed and their people seem hopelessly trapped in poverty. Until such time that the political leadership of these countries is prepared to implement the changes necessary, there will be no escape from their current predicament.
Bangladesh, with over 140 million people, is an impoverished country in South Asia and it embodies all of the above characteristics and difficulties of a developing country. What can we learn from the Bangladesh situation? First, let’s consider its historical background. It was once a prosperous region in the Indian sub-continent, and was considered to have a great potential. But then it had to serve as part of a British colony for almost 200 years, during which time it witnessed an enormous drain of its wealth to Britain. After the British left in 1947, it was victimised once again when it chose to join Pakistan. The worsening economic situation that followed compelled some to refer to its Pakistan era as the era of ‘the colony of a colony’. In any case, its people had to fight two wars of independence within a time span of just 24 years – first with the British and second with the Pakistanis.

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