The Bangladesh paradox: why has politics performed so well for development in Bangladesh?

The Bangladesh paradox: why has politics performed so well for development in Bangladesh?

Bangladesh is widely seen as a ‘paradox’ in terms of governance and development because of the apparent imperfections of its political institutions and its leading players. It scores low/very low on many indicators of the quality of governance. It is close to the top of the global league table for corruption. But, over the last quarter of a century, it has maintained economic growth around a steady 5 to 6% per annum, has out-performed India on most social indicators and has brought down its fertility rate from more than 6 to around 2.2 births per woman. It has made great progress with the Millennium Development Goals, especially with poverty reduction but also in fields seen as especially difficult for a Muslim majority country - maternal mortality has dropped dramatically and girls match/outnumber boys at primary school level. Its government disaster management programs have
reduced deaths from super-cyclones by more than 99% (they used to drown up to 500,000 people in the 1970s but now mortality levels are well below 5000). Bangladesh is a ‘success’.
 
This briefing paper examines why and how political processes in Bangladesh have performed so well when the main theories of governance and development would predict economic and social stagnation.
 
Policy implications:
  • both a strong ideological preference for market-led growth amongst political elites together with a politically strong business community are needed to support a persistent ordered deals environment. The persistence of ordered deals creates enabling conditions for growth
  • it helps to conduct a political analysis at the outset of the key people who will oppose a development agenda and identify how to align policy agendas to minimise opposition
  • development in areas such as education and women’s empowerment is supported when there is an alignment with dominant ideas and incentives that shape the ruling coalition
  • when development agendas don’t align with the dominant ideas and interests of the ruling coalition, local level collaborative coalitions are needed, to run counter to national level policy and come up with problem-solving fixes
  • incentives within the political settlement should be identified to improve the status of the teaching profession, encourage teachers to perform better and hold teachers accountable
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