"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: TARIQA
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Key factors in nation-building

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Following my recent trip to Bangladesh, I was asked by a colleague the reasons behind my optimistic perspective on that country.  He wanted to know what I had seen there to justify my positive view.  My answer was brief: A diligent workforce and a thoughtfully planned educational system.

It is the industrious workforce that is behind the surge of multinationals seeking to establish a production presence in textile products. The export of garments has steadily increased over the last few years with more foreign enterprises coming in, attracted by the cheap cost of labor and the favorable tax perks for setting up shop.

According to recent figures released by the Bangladesh export promotion bureau (EPB), woven garments and knitwear exports from Bangladesh increased by 8.8 percent last year, contributing a significant portion of income to the GDP.  In the last four months, an outstanding increase of 16 percent over last year statistics resulted in an income of $6.6 billion in this sector alone.

The fact that Bangladesh has steadily posted positive growth in its worldwide garment exports in recent years in spite of the current debt crisis in many European nations and a badly shaken US economy is a testament to the quality and confidence shown in its products, undoubtedly spurred on by its hardworking people.

Its large neighbor India, on the other hand, experienced a decline in its apparel exports for the same period. India has been in the business of garments far longer than Bangladesh, but according to the Indian apparel export promotion council (AEPC), India’s garment exports during the first seven months of the current fiscal year 2012-13 declined by nine percent due to weak overseas market demand.

Bangladesh today is in the process of transition from a predominantly agricultural economy to an industrial and service economy, and the private sector is playing an increasingly active role in the economic affairs of the country, while the government concentrates on the physical and social infrastructures.  Even state-owned enterprises, traditionally an oasis of bureaucratic inefficiency, have been undergoing rapid restructuring.

The country’s report card includes the following: A steady annual GDP growth of five percent or over in the past decade; inflation held to single digits; the gradual shifting from the export of traditional goods to more value added items; emphasis on manufacturing sectors coupled with stable economic fundamentals such as exchange and interest rates, low debt and high foreign currency reserves.

But all this will be difficult to maintain if the labor force is not developed.  To achieve this, the government has defined ambitious goals including the elimination of illiteracy by 2015. A program is currently in the works that will increase enrollment at primary school levels by 100 percent annually.

There are also plans to improve the quality of education, and the creation of a new generation of Bangladeshis equipped with the latest knowledge in science and technology. The government also intends to this year make degree level education free for all citizens, coupled with a higher salary for teachers and professors at these institutions.

The Education Policy Act of 2009 defined the government’s ambitious goal to utilize the youth of Bangladesh which form over 70 percent of the population into a potent workforce by providing them with the tools to achieve those goals. Some of the Act’s salient features include the introduction of pre-school education, integration of madrassa education and vocational education into the general education curriculum, scholarships for those who cannot afford higher education, and providing enough schools, libraries, computers and internet access to students in the remotest villages.

An education program with funding from the European Union has opened 150 multilingual primary schools, enabling more children to access education. The program began a new phase that is focusing on making education relevant and accessible to young people. This initiative has resulted in the introduction of multilingual education in remote areas of the country.  Bangladesh is on track to achieve 100 percent primary school enrollment by 2015, one component of the country’s development goals.

The country is indeed investing heavily in education. Coupled with the industrious nature of a primarily youthful population, the rewards from such governmental steps toward promoting socio-economic development through education at the grassroots level will indeed bear fruit in the near future.

The country’s ambitious drive to elevate itself to the tiers of middle developed countries (MDC) in less than a decade will not be just a dream.

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