The government’s failure to effectively narrow the widening gap between rich and poor — to tackle inequality fairly, by the way — as politicians and economists say, despite making some progress in a few other areas, remains a cause for concern. Politicians and economists all agree that the government and subsequent governments have failed to meet the aspirations of the people of independent Bangladesh – a non-discriminatory society where equality, social justice and human dignity are promised from the liberation war. Some say Bangladesh continues to follow the model that existed before the 1971 Liberation War, when a handful of people were extremely wealthy, while the vast majority of people were victims of economic or socio-cultural inequality. Bangladesh, as many of you say, has failed to ensure justice, equality and democratic governance over the past five decades, granting benefits to the rich, widening the urban-rural divide and leaving the poor behind. Successive governments have evolved over the years, but inequality has also increased due to policies that favor the rich and continue to deprive the poor. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in a report published in Geneva in September 2021, says Bangladesh’s economy has grown steadily as inequality has increased.
The UN agency, in its 2021 Least Developed Countries Report, notes that economic growth, driven by exports and remittances, has accelerated since 2002, pointing to gaping inequality as the downside of growth. The US-based company Wealth-X, in its A Decade of Wealth report, published in May 2020, finds that the number of ultra-rich in Bangladesh grew faster than any other country between 2010 and 2019. which ranked Bangladesh among the fastest growing wealth earners in the world. The size of the wealth group of Bangladesh’s population with net worth of $5 million or more has increased by an average of 14.3 percent each year. The US-based Global Financial Integrity notes in its January 2019 report that illicit capital flows out of Bangladesh continued as $5.9 billion was smuggled out of the country in 2015, while the total amount of smuggled money in the years 2006-2016 amounted to US$81.74 billion. The US think tank also estimates that the illicit flow of capital out of Bangladesh was mainly due to over-invoicing on imports and under-invoicing on exports. This points to a glaring lack of democratic governance. Growing inequality and a pronounced socio-cultural disparity have overshadowed all of the country’s previous successes in fighting poverty up to 2019.
It is time, therefore, for the government to reassess the economic development strategy to halt rising inequality and tackle economic inequality. Government must stop obsessing over growth and development that brings little economic benefit to the vast majority of people, to create a society free from unequal distribution of economic gains, and to deliver on the promises of the liberation war of equality , social justice and human dignity .