Many challenges are still posing problems for Bangladesh in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were set by the United Nations. Hunger, malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities and environmental degradation in rural areas are the problems that retard the progress of the goals.
The country's main objective is to achieve the targets of SDGs by 2030. The SDGs mean a 'universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity'.
The SDGs, which build on the UN's previous goals of MDGs, seek to address issues of economic growth, education, health, social protection and climate change. The SDGs were adopted by the world leaders in 2016 and came into effect in January 2016.
For Bangladesh, among some of the areas to work on seriously, it is crucially important to focus on reducing persistent rural-urban gap by implementing innovative development programmes that address rural needs. Unlike many developing countries, rural Bangladesh remains underserved and faces multiple challenges like severe environmental degradation, agrarian crises and acute youth unemployment.
As such, there is the need for rural revitalisation through policies, institutions and investments that can make rural areas vibrant and healthy to live in, work and raise families. Rural areas should be made premier hubs of innovations through revitalisation. Such revitalisation should be timely, achievable and critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade.
Improving rural roads helped Bangladesh reduce extreme poverty by 3.0 to 6.0 per cent and boosted school enrolment. Besides, availability of health workers and women's political, social and economic empowerment also contributed to its success.
Emphasis on sustainable land management and pursuing the goal of enhancing agricultural productivity may help face challenges pertaining to environmental sustainability. Besides, there is a need for investment in quality schooling in rural areas, creating new source of employment in agriculture and high productivity employment in non-farm sector.
A report of the General Economics Division (GED) on SDGs financing strategy provides an outlook of the annual resource gap and an opportunity to revise government interventions and financing strategies. The report says the National Board of Revenue (NBR) must embark on new initiatives based on reforms, automation, capacity development and audit to improve revenue mobilisation to the required level.
It appears that Bangladesh needs to address four areas properly to achieve success in SDGs. They are: no poverty (Goal-1), zero hunger (Goal-2), reduced inequalities (Goal-10), and climate action (Goal-3). However, it will be difficult for the country to quickly reduce inequalities to a satisfactory level, take climate action and ensure good governance. Obviously, these are the most challenging areas for Bangladesh to achieve the SDGs.
Though the country has been posting modest economic growth consistently, income inequalities at individual-level are making room for consumption inequalities. As such, the country needs to address all sorts of inequalities among the people and also inequality between men and women.
If the inequalities are reduced, another goal -- gender equalities (Goal-5) -- will be achieved as one is related to the other. Alongside poverty eradication, Bangladesh needs to address hunger, particularly malnutrition, as many children even from relatively better off families suffer from malnutrition.
There are, however, other challenges too on way to achieving the SDGs. Ensuring efficiency in public sector spending, for example, is a must to that end. Delays in project implementation have adverse impact on cost as well as on the intended benefits to be accrued.
Achieving the targets of SDGs demands concerted and collective efforts with strong political commitment at all levels. The 2030 Agenda comes at a time when Bangladesh has already kicked off its journey towards an upper middle income country by 2030 and a developed country by 2041.
Bangladesh has incorporated priorities of the SDGs in all its development policies. It has adopted an inclusive approach to development so that the poorest and the most vulnerable sections can be integrated into its national development efforts.