Communication for Development: UNDP in Chittagong Hill Tracts

By Alam, G. M. Shahidul | Journal of Development Communication, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Communication for Development: UNDP in Chittagong Hill Tracts


Alam, G. M. Shahidul, Journal of Development Communication


It would be hollow to argue with Sadiq Ahmed's statement: "In the early 1970s, following independence, Bangladesh faced daunting development challenges." (1) As it would be to dispute the World Bank's (WB) explanation for why such a situation had come to pass: "Desperately poor when it

won its independence in 1971, overpopulated, and reeling from overwhelming war damage to its institutional and physical capital, Bangladesh looked to become, as Henry Kissinger forecast, 'an international basket case'." (2) Having inherited a precarious state to begin with, Bangladesh was then placed in further predicament by a famine that ravaged the country in 1974.

After overcoming the debilitating impact of the famine, Bangladesh has been on a path of slow, if uneven, development across its territory. Some would say that the country could not do otherwise following 1974, unless it embarked on a backward slide and, in the process, fulfill Kissinger's prediction. WB, in keeping with its doctrine, has explained the upturn primarily as a result of "income growth, the strongest engine for the workforce, its size and skill levels, and the efficiency of production technology. (5) For all the optimism expressed by WB, it has also expressed reservations about governance, particularly endemic corruption, which could prevent Bangladesh from attaining the MIC status or the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). "For all its progress, however," two WB economists further point out, "Bangladesh remains a poor country---with ... wide disparities in incomes and human capabilities across income and occupational groups, gender, and regions." (6) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has published its Human Development Index (HDI)---2011 Rankings, which provides a generally realistic picture of where Bangladesh stands in terms of human development, both as a barometer of its individual progress over the years and in comparison to the rest of the world, particularly to the countries of the South Asian region, of which it is a part.

For a better measure of comparison we will look at the relevant data for 2010, and also at a graphic of HDI change from 1980 to 2010. In the 2011 rankings, Bangladesh was ranked at number 146 out of 187 Countries considered. (7) It was given a HDI estimate score of 0.500. (8) In 2010, it was listed at number 129 out of 169 countries ranked, and it was given a score of 0.469. (9) In a nutshell, then, Bangladesh had slipped 17 places down in ranking in 2011 over that of 2010, although it had gained by 0.031 in estimate score during the same period.

We will find out below that Bangladesh has been making more or less steady progress in human development over thirty years from 1980 to 2010, but the cumulative effort still has not resulted in its elevation from the low human development (LHD) category to one of medium human development (MHD). In fact, the South Asia region, of which Bangladesh is a part, does not have a single representative above MHD grouping. Let us see where the other seven countries stand in the two years of 2010 and 2011. In the 2010 HDR, Sri Lanka was at number 91, Maldives at 107, India at 119, Pakistan at 125 (all classified in MHD), Nepal at 138 and Afghanistan at 155 (both, with Bangladesh, in LHD; Bhutan was not ranked that year). (10) In 2011, Sri Lanka was at 97, Maldives at 109, India at 134, Bhutan at 141 (all in MHD), while Pakistan at 145, Nepal at 157, and Afghanistan at 172 joined Bangladesh in the LHD group. (11) (HDR 2011, op. cit).

For the record, Norway topped the list, being in the very high human development (VHHD) category, both those years, while being given a 0.943 HDI estimate in 2011 (The classifications used by UNDP range upwards from LHD at the bottom to MHD to high human development (HHD) and ending with VHHD). Significantly, there was no change in the ranking position of the South Asian countries vis-a-vis each other over the two years, although Bhutan was considered in 2011 and Pakistan was downgraded to the LHD category that year. …

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