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Another South Asian Flashpoint: Economic & Political Crises in Bangladesh

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the course of history; it was not the end-of-the-world scenario that a lot of movies and television shows attempt to portray to the audience. We witnessed a wave of political and economic upheavals occurring all over the world, including in Pakistan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and even first-world nations like France, which saw violent French pension strikes in 2023. Not to forget the United States Capitol Hill incident in 2021, in these turbulent times, stakeholders within our nation, including opposition parties, journalists, and so-called experts, give the example of Bangladesh with their economic miracle that they managed to achieve in recent years. It is surprising to see our mainstream media rarely mention the current economic and political situation in Bangladesh.

Recently, the nation of Bangladesh has been suffering from a political and economic crisis similar to what we saw in Sri Lanka. As of right now, the state of Bangladesh has deployed 152 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), a paramilitary force similar to our nation’s Rangers and Frontier Corps. These 152 platoons are deployed nationwide in response to the ongoing countrywide blockade called by the opposition parties of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat, and other like-minded organizations. The opposition parties are jointly opposing the policies of Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the leader of the Awami League party.  Recent estimates show concerning levels of inflation, with food inflation peaking at 12.54 percent and average inflation in August 2023 at 9.92 percent, all of which will exacerbate economic difficulties. Plus, the current developments in Bangladesh indicate a likely scenario of political and economic upheaval similar to what we witnessed in Sri Lanka if the ruling government continues with its current problematic policies. The ongoing nationwide blockade of rail, road, and waterways imposed by the main opposition parties and their allies has disrupted the supply chains of the nation’s main garment industry and other vital supplies essential for public consumption. Bangladesh’s economy, already suffering from the post-Covid global effects and the Ukraine-Russian escalation, is now in a volatile position where the foreign reserve of Bangladesh has fallen from $48.09 billion in 2021 to $26.74 billion by the end of 2023.

In order to avoid another mishap similar to Sri Lanka and Pakistan, it is essential for the ruling Bangladeshi government to invite all stakeholders, including the opposition, to come up with a comprehensive strategy to develop policies that deal with the current global events affecting the nation. Such a strategy can also help in developing a stable environment for the public. The nation of Bangladesh needs to diversify its economic portfolio, where a sole focus on the garment industry can’t be the only solution for economic growth. India is a great example for other South Asian nations, where the Republic of India has diversified into various industries, including information technology, automotive, entertainment, and, in recent years, the defense industry. It is important for Bangladesh to come up with new strategies in response to new challenges in an ever-changing global environment; otherwise, it will be part of a series of nations that will eventually get to the brink of anarchy, similar to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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