Dr. Niaz Asadullah (PhD, Oxford), the Global Labor Organization (GLO) Lead of South Asia and Professor of Development Economics, Monash University Malaysia, delivered a public lecture titled “Bangladesh at 51: Achievements, Contradictions, and Challenges”, at North South University (NSU) in Dhaka on April 19, 2022.
The event was jointly organized by the Department of Economics, School of Business & Economics (SBE), NSU, and GLO Southeast Asia Cluster. NSU Young Economists’ Forum (YEF), a student club of NSU affiliated with the Department of Economics, was the youth engagement partner of the event.
In his intriguing and thought-provoking lecture, Professor Niaz demystified Bangladesh’s development achievements since 1970s revisiting trends in a range of indicators across different sectors. He explained that Bangladesh’s social achievements in female schooling, fertility reduction, immunization coverage, contraception usage, and weakening of son preference in fertility are truly exceptional when compared with Pakistan, India and other countries at the same stage of economic development. These cases of ‘positive deviance’ point to a ‘development miracle’ i.e. systematic social progress achieved before Bangladesh’s recent surge in GDP growth.
Professor Niaz however cautioned that the public spendings on education and health as ratios of GDP are among the lowest in the world. If Bangladesh is to emulate the East Asian model of economic growth (e.g. South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia), then a drastic increase in education and health spending is necessary – mega infrastructure projects must be complemented with human capital development for sustainable development. Among other issues, Professor Niaz commented on the sustainability of our current economic progress, highlighting some worrying trends in data on FDI, exports, inequality, military expenditure and state capacity as well as the rise of plutocracy.
The public lecture was followed by a lively Q&A session where participants actively engaged with the speaker asking questions about the future of Bangladesh economy. The event was attended by over 200 students. NSU faculty members, the Chair of the Department of Economics Dr. Asad Karim Khan Priyo, the Dean of NSU SBE Dr. Abdul Hannan Chowdhury, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of NSU Dr. M Ismail Hossain were all present in the lecture.
The event received extensive press coverage in the Bangladeshi media in outlets such as The News Time, The Daily Swadesh Pratidin, The Daily Jugantor, the Daily Janakantha, The Daily Bonik Barta, The Daily Bhorer Kagoj and The Daily Bporikroma.