Aerial photo of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Ahnaf Tashin Rafi / Unsplash

K.A.S. Murshid on The Odds Revisited: Overcoming Underdevelopment - Lessons from the Bangladesh Journey

WIDER webinar, 24 May 2022

K. A. S. Murshid joins WIDER Webinar Series to investigate ways to overcome vulnerabilities through the example of the Bangladesh development story. The webinar is joined by Darlene K. Mutalemwa as a discussant.

The event is chaired by UNU-WIDER Senior Research Fellow Rachel Gisselquist.

The Odds Revisited: Overcoming Underdevelopment – Lessons from the Bangladesh Journey

Bangladesh has been highly praised for its development performance across many sectors and indicators — for its record on sustained growth, poverty reduction, gender equality, nutrition, education of girls, and maternal and infant mortality. Its performance has been exceptional in comparison with not just South Asia but globally.

The Bangladesh journey, however, was not easy. It was a product of policy, donor money and induced engagement with the neo-liberal agenda, the push from  NGOs, technology, markets, and change convergences. Most critically, however, there was an overwhelming response from private stakeholders, i.e. the people themselves – women, girls and men who were able to thwart the influence of ‘local power elites’, the opposition of ‘fundamentalist Islam’ to modernization, or of deeply entrenched patriarchy, and circumvent ‘urban bias’, defeat the large-farmer dominated political economy bias, and overcome constraints from a backward, ‘semi-feudal agrarian structure’ characterized by deep poverty and illiteracy to deliver outstanding outcomes.

K. A. S. Murshid’s upcoming book The Odds Revisited – The Political Economy of the Development of Bangladesh provides (a) a thorough and comprehensive review of development outcomes, including a fresh perspective on the ‘initial conditions’, (b) New analyses and interpretations of the development process, and (c) provides new research material that focuses on aspects that are rarely investigated, including the meteoric rise of a capitalist class and a new middle class; a re-examination of the rural development record, and explaining industrialization dynamics going beyond the oft-repeated achievements of Bangladesh in ready-made garments exports.

Further, the book locates Bangladesh in the context of broader economic trends in South and East Asia. Using a selection of materials from this book, K.A.S. Murshid presents in the webinar the conditions, stakeholders and occurrences that ushered in a series of favourable outcomes, defying deep-rooted pessimism and dire predictions. Bangladesh’s journey is a story underlying these outcomes that must be unearthed to understand deeper causal relationships that might help to go beyond narratives in the hope of extracting generalizable lessons.

About the speakers

K. A. S. Murshid, PhD (Cambridge) is a Development Economist and the immediate past Director- General at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Dhaka. He is the author of several books along with numerous peer-reviewed articles published in leading journals. His latest books include ‘Agricultural Transformation and Rural Poverty in Bangladesh; and ‘Readings in Bangladesh Development, 1972-2020’, Vols 1&2. While his core research focus has been agrarian markets and food policy, he has engaged with a wide range of topics in recent years, including socio-economic consequences of mobile financial services, impact of COVID-19, Special Economic Zones, adolescent violence, youth unemployment, and gender dimensions of energy access.

Darlene K. Mutalemwa has an education background in the areas of business economics (BA and MSc at LSE) and development (PhD, University of East Anglia, UK). She is a full-time Senior Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant at Mzumbe University, Dar-es-Salaam Campus College (Tanzania) since 2010. For the last 20 years, she has worked intensively in the fields of Small and Medium Enterprise development, development policy, private sector development, diaspora and national development, development aid and HR development. Her contribution in Tanzanian youth development has been recognized by The Africa List, the invitation-only community created by the United Kingdom’s Development Finance institution (CDC group) and the Eisenhower Fellowships (USA), a non-profit organisation gathering outstanding global leaders.

Context