Beyond the Paradox of Plenty: Battling Bangladesh’s Burdens

Published by

Saarah Hussain


Inquiry-driven, this article reflects personal views, aiming to enrich problem-related discourse.

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Since becoming a sovereign republic in 19711, Bangladesh has faced a surfeit of widespread  crises. These encompass broader, mainstream issues, such as national poverty and natural  disasters2. Principally arguing that these matters must be resolved, is a surface-level way of  attempting to tackle them. Rather, we must delve further, and address the countless ‘sub causes’ that are intrinsic to each umbrella problem. In doing so, we can sever the ropes tying  down Bangladesh’s development, and create an ever-prosperous society. 

As per Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative Index, Bangladesh is considered the 28th  least ready country for climate change3, which may come as a surprise, considering her rich  agricultural sector, and scenic beauty. Citizens live in a constant state of fear, unable to  predict the next flood, the next downpour of monsoon rain, or the next cyclone. To combat  the civil unrest, displacement and destruction accompanied by such natural disasters, a  combination of fiscal, financial and structural policy implementations is necessary. 

When considering fiscal policy, Bangladesh is likely to benefit from environmental tax  reforms, by imposing them on larger industrial corporations. Take, for example, Akij Group,  one of the leading manufacturing syndicates in Bangladesh4. They conduct business in both  domestic and global markets, employing an extensive fleet of vehicles to transport their  goods. Given the magnitude of their operations, it is easy to imagine the significant amount  of air pollutants they generate and their impact on the already fragile environmental  conditions in Bangladesh. However, Akij Group is just one of the countless industrial giants  dominating the country. By introducing environmental tax reforms, the tax revenue-to-GDP  ratio would rise, loosening financial constraints, and increasing the government’s climate  spending ability, creating fiscal space. 

Effective financing is the next step towards an environmentally healthier Bangladesh. More  specifically, investment towards infrastructure and remedial measures, such as reconstruction.  Poor housing is the main infrastructural problem that needs addressing. UNICEF estimates  there are 4 million slum dwellers in Dhaka alone5, residing in one-room huts made of  bamboo floors and thatch roofs. These materials are far too weak to withstand powerful  floods and storms, explaining the high displacement levels following natural disasters.  Preventive adaptation is required to finance better housing, which can be achieved via  adaptive financing. However, the World Bank estimates that annual funds of $5.7 billion  would be needed by 20506to reach this goal. With the increasing frequency of natural  disasters, it would be more efficient to act in a quicker, cost-effective manner. This can be  done by using materials readily available in Bangladesh- namely, the discarded material of  the shipbuilding industry.  

Shipbuilding is one of the country’s most successful industries and is accompanied by high  amounts of metal wastage. Scrap pieces that aren’t recycled for vehicular purposes can be  bought by the government for cheap prices and used to manufacture homes made of metal  alloys. Steel is the prime component of ships, and has been proven to withstand turbulent  conditions7, hence making it the ideal component for sturdier infrastructure.  

To pave the way for a green economy in Bangladesh, financing is crucial. Investment in low carbon technology, such as solar photovoltaics in factories, would refresh the industrial  sector, promoting efficiency. Furthermore, vulnerable coastal areas require protection through  investment in hard engineering techniques like sea walls and gabions. However, these  measures come at a high cost and necessitate the support of international partners, like the  World Bank or IMF. Thus, concessional loans could be taken out to provide leniency,  smoothening the path towards a greener Bangladesh. 

Nationwide poverty is another factor burdening Bangladesh’s development. As of January, 35  million people are struggling below the poverty line, fighting for financial freedom8.  Although it would be difficult to eradicate poverty entirely, measures can be taken to  suppress it. Bangladesh is eligible to receive concessional funding from the IMF, hence this  can be secured. A portion of the funding could be used for microfinancing, and distributed  amongst impoverished groups, encouraging them to purchase land and begin commercial  farming, producing agricultural stock for the market. Currently, most agricultural activity is  characterised by subsistence farming9 which doesn’t contribute as much to the economy. By  pushing commercial farming, individuals can repay microfinance loans via agricultural  produce, whilst also expanding the primary sector, and feeding money back into the  economy. The capital made can also be used to diversify Bangladesh’s export basket, which  is heavily concentrated in the Readymade Garment (RMG) sector. With the combined capital  and concessional funding, other non-RMG sectors can be tapped into, such as light  engineering. Despite how lucrative light engineering can be, the labour shortage of  specialised workers restricts progress10. To resolve this issue, public work schemes can be  established, whereby the required training and education for specialised industries is provided  by the government (using concessional funding), and in return, individuals agree to work for  corporations, innovating products to be exported. Providing free higher education would  close the skill gap amongst Bangladeshi youth, giving them the ability to work in better paying sectors, thus improving the economy.  

To chase the vision of a utopian society would be quite trivial. However, improvement, as far  as realism allows, can be achieved by establishing a society based on economic strength.  Although money cannot buy happiness, it can buy civil security, improved living standards  and financial freedom, all of which citizens of Bangladesh deserve.

1 U.S. Department of State. The South Asia Crisis and the Founding of Bangladesh, 1971. Retrieved from The South Asia Crisis and the Founding of  Bangladesh, 1971 ( (accessed online 3/6/23) 

2 Human Rights Watch. (2022). World Report 2022: Bangladesh. Retrieved from 

report/2022/countrychapters/bangladesh#cc86be (accessed online 3/6/23) 

3 University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. Country Vulnerability Index. Retrieved from work/country-index/rankings/ (accessed online 3/6/23) 

4Business Inspection BD. (2022, June 15). Top 10 Groups of Companies in Bangladesh. Updated May 25, 2023. Retrieved from (accessed online 3/6/23) 

5Habitat for Humanity GB. Housing Poverty in Bangladesh: Facing Slums & Disasters. Retrieved from (accessed online 4/6/23) 

6The World Bank. (December 2011). Bangladesh Development Series: The Cost of Adapting to Extreme Weather Events in a Changing Climate.  Retrieved from World Bank Document. See chapter 6, pg.31. (accessed online 4/6/23)

7 CDMG. (2019, September 11). Can Steel Buildings Stand Up To Natural Disasters? Retrieved from buildings-and-natural-disasters (accessed online 4/6/23) 

8Mavis, M. (2023, January 22). Report: 35m Bangladeshis still live below poverty line. Dhaka Tribune. (accessed online 4/6/23) 9International Trade Administration. (2022, July 20). Bangladesh - Agriculture Sectors. agriculture-sectors (accessed online 4/6/23) 

10Majumder, Sacchidanand & Dey, Soma. (2020). Light Engineering Industry Sector in Bangladesh: Challenges and Prospects. 48. 46-57. (accessed online 4/6/23)

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Saarah Hussain