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COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION TO ADVANCE BANGLADESH

This year, Bangladesh celebrated its Independence Day with renewed joy as it has earned the eligibility to become a developing nation. The United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CPD) announced Bangladesh’s eligibility for graduation from “Least Developed” to “Developing Country” on March 16. This begins the graduation process for Bangladesh, which will end (after successfully retaining the fulfillment of all required criterion) through receive of official Developing Country status by 2024.

Let us have a look at what significance it actually carries. The concept of LDCs originated in the late 1960s and the first group of LDCs was listed by the UN in 1971. As per the definition of UN, least developed countries (LDCs) are low-income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development. They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets. LDCs have exclusive access to certain international support measures, in particular in the areas of development assistance and trade. As set by UN, the scores required for graduation from the LDC category to the next layer (Developing Country) are- a per capita GNI of $1,230 or above (Bangladesh has $1610 now), an HAI of 66 or above (Bangladesh has 72.9) and an EVI of 32 or below (Bangladesh has 25).

Graduating from LDC to Developing Country is undoubtedly a highly prestigious achievement ; which brings a number of benefits for the country as well, like increased importance in international arena, greater access to loan and foreign investment. However, it involves several challenges as well like: increased interest on loans, reduction in grace period or loan repayment window, termination of various duty facilities.

The question is- how to deal with these novel challenges and keep on accelerating the growth engine? For example, termination or reduction of duty/quota facilities may have significant impact on our exportable products (like: ready-made garments). At the same time, usual dynamism in global industries also need to be kept in mind. Traditionally Bangladesh has been enjoying a unique benefit of cheap labor (which facilitated low production cost). However, increased automation (which will ensure optimized process and faster production) in other countries will pose a significant challenge for us in this regard.

This indicates that to remain competitive, we need to continuously upgrade ourselves in all relevant attributes. One important aspect here is to ensure self-dependency and self-sustainability in all relevant domains, which can be possible only through human capital development.

Unemployment has always been one of the severe problems for a country like Bangladesh. This also raise question towards effectiveness of our education system. There are currently around 40 public and 80 private universities in the country. While concerns remain regarding ultimate prospect of huge number of graduates originating every year from these universities, standard and relevance of higher education structure also deserve thorough review.

To stay competitive in the global market, our industries need significant scale of innovation and process improvement. In terms of technological innovation, like many countries of the world, we have been mostly a follower (or to be more specific –importer). For example, in many of our commonly used tech systems, we will find that the hardware have been imported from China while the software is patented in US. However, if we really need to stand on our own feet at this period of extensive competition, things need to be changed. We need to create our own presence by dint of our own capabilities.

So we are now reaching a stage when our industries need innovation, while academic side (universities and other institutions) need proper scope of utilization. Such a scenario actually creates a perfect background of handshaking between these two domains (industry-academia collaboration), which can ultimately ensures smooth transition of the country from least developed to developing country. ■

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