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The global crisis, rise of Asia and policy challenges

Published: Tuesday, Dec 14, 2010

The global crisis, rise of Asia and policy challenges

Ahsan H. Mansur and Ifty Islam
Tuesday December 14 2010

A major economic crisis -- characterized as the “Global Economic Crisis” -- has just passed with devastating impacts on many parts of the world. Throughout the world policymakers, policy analysts, and academicians are assessing

lessons learned, policy insights that we can draw from this major global shock, and the challenges and opportunities ahead for the global economies. The global crisis has, inter alia, shaken the global economic power structure and shifted it perhaps permanently in favor of Asia.

The outlook for the emerging Asia has become much stronger, consolidating the already held belief that the current century will belong to Asia. The rising Asia, while certainly a welcoming phenomenon creating more opportunities for the Asian economies including Bangladesh, the process need to be nurtured and should be inclusive in nature so that smaller countries like Bangladesh are not left behind. While the government must do its part, the international community particularly the emerging Asian giants would have to take greater responsibility in the transition process.

Asia has certainly done much better than what was expected earlier. Experience of Asia shows that despite continued dependence on exports to the Europe Union (EU) and North American countries, and a collapse of foreign trade, Asian economies have weathered the crisis much better than what was anticipated at the outset. Asian economies are certainly in a much better shape this time than at the inception of Global Crisis. Not only that, today Asia, led by China and India, is powering the engine of global economic recovery/expansion.

Against this background, Asian economic policymakers and strategists certainly need to reflect on the Asian experience and challenges ahead. Asia has always been the largest continent both in terms of population and land mass, and now it is also firmly on the way to regain its historical position as the largest economic region in the world. This outlook is certainly more inevitable in the post global crisis situation. 

This outcome did not happen on its own. It happened because major Asian economies have much stronger economic fundamentals than their industrialcountry counterparts. Asian economies are characterized by: high savings and investment levels, key elements for sustaining higher economic growth; high growth in private sector driven domestic demand which has made these countries attractive destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) from all over the world; strong balance of payments position characterized by high level of reserves and sustainable levels of current account balances (surplus or deficits as they may be); stronger fiscal position with adequate fiscal space to respond to the global economic crisis without giving rise to medium- and long-term debt sustainability issues.


Bangladesh’s experience with the global economic crisis, although, like other Asian economies, has been better than expected, it was also hit by the crisis, albeit at a later stage than envisaged earlier. More than 80% of Bangladesh’s exports are destined to the EU and the USA, both of which were severely impacted by the crisis and still struggling to get out of it. Our narrow export base, comprising mostly textile products, also made Bangladesh economy vulnerable to the crisis. Although initially many of us thought that, demand for Bangladeshi textile exports will be spared from the global crisis because of the so-called “Walmart Effect”, in the event Bangladesh was not spared. Both unit price and volume of textile exports to both destinations declined significantly, causing a significant reduction in exports and a general slowdown in industrial activity during at least two quarters of fiscal year (FY) 10. Continued strong domestic demand, supported by strong inflow of workers’ remittances helped sustain domestic economic activity despite sluggish export demand.

The government of Bangladesh also adopted stimulus packages to help the export sector and support the agriculture sector. The stimulus packages—amounting about 0.6% of gross domestic product or GDP (Tk. 34 billion) in FY09 and an additional 0.2% of GDP (Tk. 10 billion)in FY10—although modest in size, was designed to boost agricultural output, support the export sector suffering from power shortages, and diversify export destinations by providing incentives for exporting to destinations other than the EU and North America. The budget presented to Parliament also had an expansionary fiscal stance, primarily through much higher spending on development projects, higher allocations for health and education, and expanded social safety net programs. The Government was able to adopt an expansionary fiscal policy and also adopt stimulus packages, primarily through self financing, due to fiscal space that Bangladesh created in recent years through prudent macroeconomic management. Overall, Bangladesh has been successful in managing the global economic crisis and posted respectable growth rates of 5.5-6.0%.


Asia has certainly emerged much stronger after the global crisis and may be poised to regain the relative size of the global economy that it historically enjoyed in the mid-seventeenth century. Long-term economic outlooks prepared by several researchers/organizations for the Asian economies indicate that by 2050 Asia once again will account for 57% of global GDP, more than what it used to account for in 1825. Asia has already come a long way from the historical low of 15% of global share of output in 1950 to about 35% in 2010.

While this achievement and the ongoing transformation of Asian economies is certainly a cause for celebration, sustaining the gains and making the 21st century the Asian Century will require further managing the transition. Managing the transition period will require: (i) strengthening global economic coordination to avoid potential trade and currency wars which may threaten global economic stability; and (ii) sustaining the transformation of the Asian economies through rebalancing the sources of growth in major economies. These two issues are also linked and reinforce each other.

The reason Asian policymakers should underscore the importance of global economic coordination is because of the persisting and deteriorating problem of global economic imbalance arising from the very large and persistent trade account deficit of the USA, financed by a corresponding large surplus in the Asian economies. This is a “ticking bomb” and would need to be defused only through policy coordination. The global economic crisis has also weakened the financial position of the deficit country (United States) further and its capacity to undertake discretionary fiscal cuts in view of the weak domestic economic condition.

The scope for discretionary cuts is also limited due to higher debt serviceburden and weak revenue growth. Call for boosting domestic demand in much of Asia thus appears reasonable against this background. A solution to this global imbalance problem must be found through policy coordination and consultation. Unilateral actions will not be good for any one and may only jeopardize Asia’s rapid economic ascendance.

Asia’s ascendance through the Asian Century will also require further consolidation of the gains and sustaining the growth momentum through initiatives in a number of fronts. The central issues include:

l higher infrastructure investment to close Asia’s infrastructure gap with theindustrial world;

l deepening of the financial sector to make Asian financial hubs as important as those in the United States and Europe;

l adoption of strategies to ensure more balanced growth across Asia so that smaller Asian countries like Bangladesh are not left behind; and

l developing mitigation strategies for climate change and ensuring food security through policy coordination.


These issues are now being elaborated.

The imperative for rebalancing of sources of growth in Asia is creating the opportunities for accelerating investment in domestic and cross border infrastructure. Needs for infrastructure investment in emerging Asia is enormous (projected to be trillions of dollars) and countries are already focusing on that. Accelerating the infrastructure programme will boost domestic demand and also remove/alleviate bottlenecks for sustained economic growth over the longer run. Countries across Asia have taken the challenge, but with varying degrees of intensity. Certainly China and East Asian economies are much ahead of this game, relative to South Asian and Central Asian economies.

One of the major weaknesses of Asia is its financial systems. While Asia is poised to become the number one manufacturing and service hubs for the world, Asia is far behind in developing its financial sector. Asia is the most important source of global savings, as reflected in the combined current account surplus of Asia in recent years. However, it lacks strong institutions for intermediating the financial savings with a view to plough them back into the Asian economies.

Currently, Asian financial savings are intermediated in the global financial centers like New York, London or Frankfurt. Why should Asian economies depend on US dollar denominated bonds and cannot issue more and more domestic-currency denominated bonds in the international capital markets? Why should trade between Asian countries be denominated in the US dollar and settled in foreign currencies? Why should major Asian economies still suffer from the “Original Sin” syndrome while they hold huge quantities of foreign assets and are in perennial surplus? This situation needs to change for Asia to realize the full benefit of its savings/surplus. Developing financial institutions of global standing is not easy and Asian countries have to go through major regulatory reforms/liberalizations for such institutions to develop over time. The process for that must be accelerated so that Asian currencies are respected and used for mode of payments beyond their domestic borders.

The other central point is how smaller Asian economies like Bangladesh can gain from the Asian growth in this Asian Century, and be not left behind. A few important ingredients for such a strategy, building on our experience with Bangladesh, will be focused here: regional economic integration through renewed and improved regional connectivity; higher investment in the domestic economy with much greater emphasis on closing current infrastructure gap; development of human capital with greater focus on education and skill development; leveraging economic and social development through better utilization of telecommunication and internet revolution; mitigating climate change and ensuring food security.

While the call for domestic demand-driven growth strategy is appropriate for the major Asian economies with large trade account surpluses, it should not be applied indiscriminately. Most East Asian countries and China have reached their current state of economic development through export-led growth strategy. As these economies have grown in size and developed a strong domestic production base, reliance on exports may not be sustainable in the long run. However, for smaller Asian economies like Bangladesh, export-led growth may still be the best strategy for achieving the middle income status. However, countries like Bangladesh should not continue to depend on the concentrated markets in the European Union and the USA, and must diversify their export base by integrating better with other Asian countries. Currently more than 80% of Bangladesh exports are destined for the EU and USA and exports to Asia accounts for only 10-12%. This is true for all other South Asian countries as well. This must change if South Asian countries, particularly the smaller ones, are to benefit from the “Growth Momentum in Asia and the Asian Century.”


We must remember that export dependence of many Asia countries including Bangladesh was not a historical coincidence and did not happen on its own. Europe and North America had become the destination countries because they had relatively more open markets for Asian products along with high purchasing power; and also for many smaller Asian countries, both regions provided preferential trade regimes (lower tariff and nontariff barriers). Unfortunately, this has not been the case for Asian countries: many of the rising Asian economic powers still have tariff and nontariff barriers which discourage intra-Asia trade. This issue is particularly true for countries like Bangladesh which have very little trade relations with Asia. Asian economic power houses need to consider adopting policies to offer preferential trade facilities to lesser developed Asian countries at an accelerated pace.

Regional connectivity could be another important vehicle for trade facilitation and broader economic integration. Fifty years ago the transport networks of South Asia were one of the most integrated in the developing world, but these were disrupted following the partition of the region into seven independent states. At present, highways, waterways and rail links which traverse each country are unable to service the region as they stop at national borders. The rebuilding of this physical infrastructure has been constrained by security-driven apprehensions which the countries found compelling enough to sacrifice mutual economic benefits.

Two of Bangladesh’s neighboring countries, India and China, will be the world’s largest and second largest markets in the near future. This should allow us to attract global companies to use Bangladesh as a base to manufacture, and take advantage of our location and low labour cost to export goods and services to these countries. When formulating off-shoring plans, companies take into account low labour costs as well as the prospects of establishing a future sales foothold in a low-cost country. Only through better regional connectivity Bangladesh will be able to reap the benefits offered by the region. 

The Government of Bangladesh has taken some positive steps to reverse this situation because Bangladesh’s strategic geographical location presents it with a unique opportunity to become a regional economic and commercial hub by 2021. The current government, soon after its accession to power, made regional economic integration through better connectivity as one of the pillars of its economic strategy. The natural first step has been launching of initiatives for better integration with the South Asian neighbors (India, Nepal and Bhutan) through improved road, rail and waterways, connectivity for trade in electricity, and liberalization of cross border trade and investment regimes.

Simultaneously, Bangladesh has also launched the initiatives to connect it with South-Eastern China and Thailand through Myanmar and serve its vast neighbouring region through the proposed Chittagong deep sea port. Faster development of this lagging region—comprising Eastern India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Southeastern China—may only be achieved through strong and improved regional economic integration and connectivity. Bangladesh’s geographic position provides it with greater opportunity to participate in the “Asian Century”. If this strategy is pursued over the medium term, it will also increase the focus, interest and opportunities for global investors in Bangladesh. We would also like to take this opportunity to urge Asian Development Bank (ADB) to take the lead role in catalizing the regional connectivity initiative launched by Bangladesh and supported by all its neighbours (India, China, Bhutan, Nepal, and Myanmar).

Bangladesh’s participation in the Asian Century will only be worthwhile if it is successful in its strive to achieve 8%-10% real GDP growth rate by 2021. Currently, Bangladesh’s growth rate has been hovering at around 6.0% with domestic investment remaining at 24% of GDP. The regional integration through connectivity is part of our strategy. Achieving such an acceleration of GDP growth and regional connectivity will require massive investment in the domestic economy with particular emphasis on infrastructure. The required level of investment would need to be around 35%-37% of GDP from the current level of 24% of GDP, including infrastructure investment of 8.0% of GDP (from the current level of 4.0% of GDP) per annum.

The task is massive and the challenge lies both on the implementation side and on mobilization of financing. International community, particularly the World Bank and ADB, including some bilateral donors are supporting Bangladesh’s efforts through their technical and financial support for the Padma bridge (costing $2.9 billion) and the electricity interconnector between Bangladesh and India. We are confident, with support from multilateral and bilateral development partners, Bangladesh will establish Chittagong deep sea port as the regional transportation and trading hub. The Government has also announced the framework for Public Private Partnership (PPP) for investment in a wide range of sectors, with emphasis on infrastructure (power, highways and expressways, ports etc.). Bangladesh and other South Asian countries must catch up with East Asia in reducing their infrastructure gaps to reap fully the benefits of Asian Century.

Education and skill development: Challenges for a developing country like Bangladesh with limited land mass and natural resources are multifaceted. Perhaps the most oft-quoted statistic on Bangladesh is the fact that it is the most-densely populated country in the world with 150 million people squeezed into only 144,000 sq km. But whether this proves to be a demographic dividend or disaster will be defined by the country’s ability to increase investment into human capital. The median age of the population, at just over 23 years, is also one of the lowest in Asia ensuring that rapid expansion of labour force will remain a dominant trend for the foreseeable future. 

If we cannot convert Bangladesh’s young masses into skilled and educated labour force, we cannot be successful in realizing our economic dream. Education and skill development will play a key role in that direction. “Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” (Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General, United Nations). The effectiveness in ensuring improved education across the spectrum from greater literacy to focused vocational training would be the determinant on whether the massive populations of countries like Bangladesh become its most productive asset or a growing burden and constraint. In that sense, education policy remains at the core of Bangladesh’s future economic development.

Many economists now attribute much of the economic success of the “Asian tigers” to their governments’ commitment to public funding of primary education as the foundation for development. In 1960, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea had similar incomes but quite different school enrolment ratios—30% in Pakistan and 94% in Korea. Over the next 25 years, per capita GDP in Korea grew to three times that of Pakistan. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has estimated that if Korea’s enrolment ratio had stayed the same as Pakistan’s, its per capita GDP would be about 40 per cent less than it is today (incidentally, in 1950 Bangladesh and South Korea had the same per capita GDP, but now differ by a factor of more than 50).

Turning to the importance of vocational training, the global manpower industry will amount to USD 600 billion by 2015. A recent report by DANIDA has estimated that Bangladesh could capture 5.0% of this, amounting US$30 billion. To gain 5.0% market share by 2015, Bangladesh would have to find jobs for 0.8-0.9 million people abroad annually. The industrialized world is aging and facing negative growth in population, Bangladesh with a young and energetic population has a huge opportunity to benefit. Emerging Europe as well as the Central Asian economies are sending their own manpower to more prosperous economies which is creating a vacuum in their own countries. Bangladesh can also fill this labour shortage.

There is substantial demand for unskilled/semi skilled jobs such as masons, cleaners, fabricators, carpenter and garment operators. For skilled jobs these include doctors, computer programmers, engineers, teachers, surveyors and managerial jobs. With focused investment in training, Bangladesh could capitalize on these opportunities.

The current manpower recruitment agency sector remains relatively undeveloped and unregulated. There are substantial opportunities to create stand-alone recruitment agencies and Manpower Consultancy firms which provide integrated training & human resources (HR) services. Vocational Training Institutes are critical in developing a more profitable manpower exports further up the value chain. Bangladesh could aim to emulate the Philippines’ story and train more nurses targeting the growing demand in developed economies.

Digital Bangladesh: As part of its agenda to build a Digital Bangladesh, the government has identified the mobile phone as a key medium of electronic service delivery to citizens. Although, mobile phones and their many technology options are already being utilized by several agencies of the government, to truly utilize its true potential, an effective and long-term partnership with the private sector is essential. Over 33% of the population in Bangladesh currently has a mobile phone.

With a government that is eager to give service to the neediest, and with private telecommunication firms that are eager to expand their businesses in rural Bangladesh, an effective national strategy for mobile governance and service expansion can unlock a win-win solution for both parties. Not only will it give people access to the information they truly need and save time and money in the process, by adding additional services like mobile money transaction and mobile commerce, it can also be used as a tool for economic growth. Concurrently, it can unlock a major new avenue for market expansion for mobile companies.

The telecoms sector in Bangladesh has seen growth in mobile penetration that has exceeded all expectations with over 65.1 million subscribers as of September 2010 versus only 4.0 million in 2004. The rapid growth in mobile telephony has undoubtedly had a transformative impact on the economy in terms of aggregate investment, FDI and productivity levels. There have also been substantial benefits from greater connectivity in terms of social cohesion and poverty alleviation. Bangladesh Government is committed to bring about accelerated social and economic transformation through its Digital Bangladesh Programme, although realization of the objective will certainly be challenging. The program entails:

l Community-based tele-centers or rural shared Internet access points are being developed as parts of the Last Mile Connectivity (LMC) infrastructure by both private sector and the government. Our rural people have started to reap the benefit of modern information communication technology (ICT)-based applications through these tele-centers. Through the intermediaries they can call a help line or have access to a website for their query.

l A plan to set up Union Parishad Information Centers (UIC- a shared access point setup under public-private partnership) at all 4,498 unions with computers and Internet connections is currently under implementation and should be completed soon.

l In addition, government can explore the possibilities of using installations like Community Health Clinics (approximately 18,000 all over Bangladesh) as last mile information access points for the local communities. In addition, the government is exploring the possibilities of using installations like Community Health Clinics (approximately 18,000 all over Bangladesh) as last mile information access points for the local communities.

l Presently, more than 2300 telecenters and 500 Community Information Centers (set up by mobile operators) are in operation all over Bangladesh. Telecenters or rural information centers provide a range of services with high variance (e.g. net connectivity for the community population, ICT training, agro-based information service, photocopy service, digital photography, printing out government forms, telemedicine, courier service etc)

l Studies to assess the impact of telecommunications penetration on economic growth rates indicate that for every 10 percentage point increase in the penetration of mobile phones, there is an increase in economic growth of 0.81 percentage point in developing countries, versus 0.60 percentage point in developed countries (World Bank 2009).

There are four major areas in Bangladesh where increased internet usage should have the largest economic and social impact, namely in education, healthcare, banking and rural development. Internet has the potential to improve access to education and quality of education in multiple ways, and can be applicable to a broad spectrum of countries. Thus Digital Bangladesh Program also underscores the growing importance of: (i) m-health for delivery of health services; (ii) improvement in providing education-related service delivery via mobile technology; (iii) m-agriculture initiatives include Farmers’ Call Centre by Banglalink, Early Disaster Warning alerts by Teletalk, GP and Banglalink, and agriculture content development for tele-centres by GP etc.; (iv) to promote m-banking, Bangladesh Bank has approved a form of mobile banking known as digital wallet. Even though it is quite restrictive, with pilot phase set to start soon, further deregulation and clear guidelines can possibly have tremendous impact for remittance, development and SME sectors.

The World Bank study also found that all information and communications technologies promote growth more effectively in developing countries than in developed ones. This is because telecommunications services help improve the functioning of the markets, reduce transaction costs and increase productivity through better management in both the public and private sectors. These issues were more acute in developing economies than in developed ones. Therefore, developing countries gain more by resolving some of them through better access to telecommunications.

Climate Change: Climate change through global warming is also a major emerging concern for Bangladesh along with other Asian countries like the Maldives, Nepal, and the other Pacific islands. As noted in the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan, the combination of frequent natural disasters, high population density, poor infrastructure and low resilience to economic shocks, makes Bangladesh especially vulnerable to climatic risks. The high incidence of poverty and heavy reliance of poor people on agriculture and natural resources increases their vulnerability to climate change.

“In a world that is hot – a world that is more and more affected by global warming – guess who is going to suffer the most? It will be the people who caused it the least – the poorest people in the world who have no car, no power plants, and virtually no factories to emit CO2 into the atmosphere.” (Thomas Friedman, “Hot, Flat and Crowded”, 2008).

“Confronting climate change is in the series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems” (John Gardiner, Founder of Common Cause)

Climate change is a grave threat to the developing world and a major obstacle to continued poverty reduction across its many dimensions. First, developing regions are at a geographic disadvantage: they are already warmer, on average, than developed regions, and they also suffer from high rainfall variability. As a result, further warming will bring poor countries high costs and few benefits. Second, developing countries - in particular the poorest - are heavily dependent on agriculture, the most climate-sensitive of all economic sectors, and suffer from inadequate health provision and low-quality public services. Third, their low incomes and vulnerabilities make adaptation to climate change particularly difficult. Because of these vulnerabilities, climate change is likely to reduce further already low incomes and increase illness and death rates in developing countries. Falling farm incomes will increase poverty and reduce the ability of households to invest in a better future, forcing them to use up meagre savings just to survive. At a national level, climate change will cut revenues and raise spending needs, worsening public finances.

The resources and strategies adopted to tackle climate change in both mitigation and adaptation can be a source of national and company level competitiveness. This was amply illustrated by a country such as Denmark that used the energy crisis triggered by a spike in oil prices in the 1970s to move away from the over-reliance on fossil energies. This in turn created new industries and export capabilities whereby now the Danish companies are world leaders in products such as wind turbines. Similarly, Bangladeshi corporate sector can use resources and technologies that are available from PPCR, SPCR and the range of other Climate Change funding to move into new markets, both domestically and internationally increase their levels of productivity and hence profitability.

As the 2010 World Development Report has noted: “The capacity to tackle mitigation and adaptation will help build strong competitive economies”...Many advanced technologies, such as information and communication technologies, can help specifically with climate change yet are generic enough for use across a wide range of productivity-enhancing areas. Although climate-smart innovation is concentrated mostly in high-income countries, developing countries are starting to make important contributions. Developing countries accounted for 23 per cent ($26 billion) of the new investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy in 2007, up from 13 per cent in 2004. Eighty-two per cent of those investments were concentrated in three countries—Brazil, China, and India. This should change for the Asian Century to be truly Asian in being broad-based.

Agriculture and Food Security: Agriculture is important for all countries of Asia and the Pacific. More than 60% of the economically active population and their dependents—which amounts to 2.2 billion people—rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Although only 20% of Bangladesh’ GDP is derived from the agriculture sector, it employs half the country’s total workforce. Furthermore, rural density is extremely high, with 1,249 people per square kilo meter (km2) of arable land.

Even with no climate change, world prices for the most important agricultural crops—rice, wheat, maize, and soybeans—will increase between 2000 and 2050. Climate change adds a significant price increase on top of higher prices under a no climate change scenario. Climate change adds additional 29% to 37% to the price of rice compared to the no climate change price in 2050.

As the ADB also notes: “Developing countries have chronically underinvested in science, technology, and innovation.” However, crop breeding—using biotechnology and genetic modification—will be an essential component of adapting to key biotic and a biotic stresses related to climate change, including drought, heat, salinity, pests, and disease. These should be combined with tapping of traditional knowledge on crop varieties and adaptation.”

Against this background, food security remains a major challenge for Asia as a whole, and countries like Bangladesh in particular. Rice is the main staple for Asians. Most of global rice production and consumption also take place in Asia. However, rice price is particularly sensitive to supply shocks, much more than wheat price, because of thinness of the rice market relative to overall production and demand. Preventing another spike in rice prices, as happened in 2008, will require concerted efforts and commitments. All rice producing Asian countries need to commit that in the event of a supply shock they will refrain from imposing export bans which tend to severely limit supply of rice in the international market. At the same time Asian countries can build up a large buffer stock of rice to meet supply shortfalls in participating Asian countries.

In the long run, market stability for agriculture products including rice, will depend on boosting of supply. On the supply side, potential strategies to ensure food security through agricultural productivity may include the following:

l Countries can build on the traditional knowledge of farmers. Such knowledge embodies a wealth of location-specific adaptation and risk management options that can be applied more widely.

l Policies that change the relative prices that farmers face have great potential to encourage practices that will help the world adapt to climate change (by increasing productivity) and mitigate it (by reducing agricultural emissions).

l New or unconventional farming practices can increase productivity and reduce carbon emissions. Farmers are beginning to adopt “conservation agriculture,” which includes minimum tillage (where seeds are sowed with minimum soil disturbance and residue coverage on the soil surface is at least 30 percent), crop residue retention, and crop rotations. These tillage methods can increase yields, control soil erosion and runoff, increase water and nutrient-use efficiency, reduce production costs, and in many cases sequester carbon.

In conclusion, the policy imperatives for the Asian Century, as we elaborated above, are many and multi-dimensional. This is the time to initiate discussions and debates on these wide-ranging issues at different forums at home and abroad. The strategy for the Asian Century should be inclusive—smaller Asian countries like Bangladesh must not be left behind. While pressing this agenda in international forums will be important, Bangladesh must do its own part starting with broad-based reforms at home.


Ahsan H Mansur is Executive Director, Policy Research Institiute of Bangladesh and can be reached at e-mail:  amansur@pri-bd.org
and Ifty Islam is Managing Partner, AT Capital. He can be reached at e-mail: ifty.islam@at-capital.com