2.1 Introduction

2.1.1 Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries of the world with a per capita income of US $ 240. Its people have a life expectancy of only 58 years. Mortality rate of children under 5 in Bangladesh is one of the highest in the world. About 60 per cent of the children experience moderate to severe malnutrition. The population suffers from endemic health problems. Approximately 53 per cent of the population is illiterate. As a result, about one-half of the population cannot contribute to the country’s development efforts. The Sonar Bangla that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of still remains the unrealised vision for the nation. The overwhelming problems of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, unemployment and under-employment, particularly in rural Bangladesh, persist as a challenge for all development planners.

2.1.2 The closing decade of the twentieth century has been witnessing milestone of events - the collapse of communism, end of the Cold War and relaxation in the East-West tension, creation of a new World Trade Organisation (WTO) for promoting rule-based free and fair trade and economic opportunities at local, regional and sub-regional levels, global nurturing of greater respect for democratic systems, norms and values, erosion of interventionist philosophy and practice hitherto pursued by many countries of the world for their socio-economic development, ascendance of market forces as the dominant allocator of resources, and emergence of a global consensus for increasingly greater partnership between the governments and civil societies in the decision - making process. These developments have resulted in what is now known as the new international order characterised by globalisation of economies at different stages of development. The WTO along with the IMF and the World Bank, will nurse and promote this globalisation through coherence of policies and strategies relating to trade, money, finance and development. These will have far reaching effects in shaping not only the destiny of the people of individual nations but also that of mankind as a whole.

2.1.3 Governments all over the world are coming to terms with the new international order. The rapid pace of political and technological change and fast-moving globalised markets are posing fundamental questions as to the role of the government and how it can lead nations to respond to changing circumstances. The relationships and balances between governments, the private sector and non-government organisations (NGOs) are rapidly changing. Performance of the government in all sectors is subject to greater scrutiny and accountability. Situation as obtaining in Bangladesh today warrants a new vision to accelerate and sustain growth, alleviate poverty, take advantage of new opportunities and meet challenges of the future, and enable the private sector to realise its full potential and play its rightful role in a competitive global market. In this context, Bangladesh will have to redefine the role of the government; overhaul the rules and processes by which the government conducts its policy and decision making functions; streamline the regulations, laws and processes through which the government interacts and regulates citizens and the private sector, maintains an honest, efficient, committed and professional public service and enhances accountability and responsiveness of public agencies to citizens they are mandated to serve.

2.1.4 Until recently, it was a common practice to compartmentalise human activities and their effects within nations, within sectors (agriculture, industry, energy, trade, services, etc.) and within broad areas of concern such as economic, social and environmental issues. Now, these compartments have begun to dissolve. Today, all have come to realise that impoverishing the local resource base can impoverish wider areas, even beyond the borders of countries. Deforestation in the highland causes destructive flooding in the lowland and adversely affects downstream nations. Fertilisers used for boosting agricultural production, pesticides used for protecting plants and crops and pollution from factories destroy fishery and rob fishermen of their means of livelihood. Degradation of agricultural land drives millions from their rural homesteads not only towards urban centres but also across national boundaries, thus turning them into economic refugees. Sustainable long-term development must address these environmental and social concerns.

2.1.5 Over the past few decades, life threatening environmental concerns have surfaced. Rural arable lands are coming under pressure from increasing number of farmers and the landless. Cities are being increasingly crowded with people, automobiles and factories. A significant part of GDP is derived from agriculture, forestry, energy production and mining as well as export of natural resources. There is, thus, enormous economic pressure, both domestic and international, to overexploit the natural resource base.

2.1.6 New technology is the mainspring of higher economic growth through increases in productivity and income. Access to it not only improves the efficiency and shifts the competitive edge of a nation but also offers the potential to economise the consumption of rapidly depleting resources. However, at the same time, it also contains risks, including new forms of pollution. Introduction of genetic engineering could have far reaching effects on the mankind. Time has come to revisit the conventional ‘green-revolution’ technologies that depend upon the intensive use of energy, chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, for boosting agricultural production which, experience has shown, cannot be sustained at high level indefinitely. Progressively increased recourse to organic input-based bio-technologies, which will have the advantage of being ecologically sound and sustainable over a longer period of time, is the imperative of the hour.

2.1.7 For women, it is still an unequal world. This inequality varies from country to country as it does from society to society. It is true that after centuries of neglect, the past two decades, as part of an integrated approach to human development, have witnessed the demonstration of great awareness and considerable concern for closing the gender gap through building women’s capabilities. Despite this, disparity between women and men persists - in their access to education, health and nutrition, in their right to life and property and protection by their societies and legal systems. This determines the pace of progress of a nation and how much women can contribute to and benefit out of this progress.

2.1.8 The Constitution of the Republic provides clear directives which the government has to take into account while formulating development goals, objectives and strategies. Fundamental Principles of State Policy, as embodied in the Constitution, while addressing the issue of meeting the basic needs of the people, vest on the state the responsibility to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people, with a view to securing to its citizens:

a. the provision of the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care;

b. the right to work, that is the right to guaranteed employment at a reasonable wage having regard to the quantity and quality of work;

c. the right to reasonable rest, recreation and leisure; and

d. the right to social security, that is to say, to public assistance in cases of undeserved wants arising from unemployment, illness, or disablement; or, suffered by widows or orphans, or in old age, or in other such cases1.

2.1.9 On the question of equity, the Constitution unequivocally undertakes that the State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens and shall adopt effective measures to remove social and economic inequality to ensure equitable distribution of wealth among citizens and of opportunities in order to attain a uniform level of economic development throughout the Republic2.

2.1.10 With regard to rural development, the Constitution provides that the State shall adopt effective measures to bring about a radical transformation in the rural areas through promotion of an agricultural revolution, provision of rural electrification, the development of cottage and other industries, and improvement of education, communications and public health, in those areas, so as to remove progressively the disparity in the standards of living between the urban and rural areas3.

2.1.11 On the issues of promoting local government institutions and mainstreaming of women in development, the Constitution commits that the state shall encourage local government institutions composed of representatives of the areas concerned with special representations, as far as possible, of peasants, workers and women; and that steps shall be taken to ensure participation of women in all spheres of national life4.

2.1.12 Regarding human resources development, the Constitution requires the State to adopt effective measures for the purpose of establishing a uniform, mass-oriented and universal system of education and extending free and compulsory education to all children to such stage as may be determined by law, relating education to the needs of society and producing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs, and removing illiteracy within such time as may be determined by law. In this context, the Constitution further provides that the State shall regard raising the level of nutrition and improvement of public health as among its primary duties5.

2.1.13 On the establishment of a corruption free society, creating and sustaining equal opportunities, the Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to create conditions in which, as a general principle, persons shall not be able to enjoy unearned incomes6.

2.1.14 Towards the objective of good governance, the Constitution provides for separation of the judiciary from the executive organs of the State and establishment of a pro-people public service system, every member of which, will strive at all times to serve the people7.

Notes: Paragraphs with subscripts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 correspond to Articles 15, 19, 16, 9 and 10, 20(2) and 22 and 21(2) of the
Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, respectively.