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Assessing the Awami League manifesto and how Smart Bangladesh could be achieved

The Bangladesh Awami League (AL), the largest political party in the country, declared its election manifesto for the 12th Jatiya Sangsad election to win support from the people. This manifesto has encapsulated a vision for building a “Smart Bangladesh,” After reading the manifesto, the questions which popped up in my mind are: What is a smart Bangladesh? Is it achievable? How will it benefit the country and its citizens? I will try to find answers to these questions.

The idea of the smart country has been an extension of the concept called smart city popularized by IBM in the late 2000s. A smart city is “a high-tech, advanced city that connects people, information, and city elements using new technologies to create a sustainable, greener, competitive, innovative, and livable city”.

A smart country is a larger urban space where all kinds of economic, political, and cultural activities are efficiently managed by employing digital technologies such as the internet and the IoT (internet of things). The AL has adopted a vision to convert Bangladesh into a smart country by 2041 using digital technologies along with artificial intelligence which will be an inclusive knowledge society. Smart Bangladesh will hinge upon four key components such as smart citizens, smart government, smart economy, and smart society.

Smart citizens will be literate and able to utilize new knowledge and innovation to change their lives and the lives of their community members. The smart economy will employ digital technologies, artificial intelligence, and robotics to enhance production in agriculture, industry, the service sector, and small as well as medium enterprises eliminating exhaustive labour and reducing production costs. Smart government has been defined as an efficient, effective, and service-delivering system that will utilize IoT, machine learning, and cloud computing to generate data for delivering various services. Finally, the smart society will be a society that is inclusive and knowledge-based and guided by the mantra of equality.

Smart Bangladesh is an advanced phase of Digital Bangladesh, the vision that was enshrined in the party’s election manifesto in 2009. After returning to power with a landslide victory in 2009, the AL government began to transform Bangladesh into a knowledge society with the adoption and use of digital technologies. Smart Bangladesh will build on the foundation created by Digital Bangladesh.

To achieve a smart Bangladesh by 2041, the ruling party has set some targets for the next five years and included them in their election manifesto. If they return to power, they promise to strive to achieve those targets.

To produce smart citizens, the party will endeavour to guarantee universal education where priority will be given to teaching different languages, advanced mathematics, and science at the secondary and higher secondary levels. The government will offer scholarships to the students who demonstrate extraordinary performance in science and mathematics.

The smart economy which has been envisioned in the manifesto will record high growth and will be sustainable and inclusive. To ensure growth, the party has set a target of increasing yearly export earnings to $150 billion by 2030 through the diversification of products and the creation of new markets. Agricultural production including vegetables, fish, and livestock will be increased steadily. The potential of the blue economy will be explored at an accelerated rate.

The creation of jobs is mentioned as a key priority. The party has set a goal of creating 15 million new jobs to bring down youth unemployment to 3% by 2028 from the current rate of 10.6 %. The economy will maintain parity between income and inflation. The overall objective of the economic activities will be to bring down the poverty rate to 11% by 2028.

To keep the industries and agricultural activities running smoothly, the party has planned to secure two vital components of the economic and social life such as power and transportation. It has promised to continue ensuring adequate power supply. It set a target of developing the capacity to generate 40 thousand megawatts of electricity by 2030. To ensure efficiency in the power sector, it has promised to gradually shut down the quick rentals and inefficient power plants.

The government will continue implementing plans to expand transportation facilities to achieve national and regional connectivity by constructing expressways, expanding railways and riverways, and building new airports. More specifically, it will complete four more lines of the metro-rail (MRT-1, 2, 4, 5) system within the next five years.

The party promises to offer a smart government that will undertake initiatives to ensure good governance by enhancing accountability and transparency of government activities, upholding human rights, the rule of law, and freedom of the press, and ensuring the accountability of law enforcement agencies. It will bring the people involved with financial crimes such as usurping bank money and money laundering to justice.

The smart society promised in the manifesto will be a harmonious and welfare society that will ensure universal pension, healthcare, and education. Every citizen will be incorporated into a digital health system with a unique ID to provide quality health services. An international standard vaccine research centre will be established to produce vaccines for the prevention of different diseases.

Smart Bangladesh will manage the rights and privileges of workers according to the ILO convention. It will continue striving for women’s empowerment. The party aspires to ensure that one-third of the political leadership in the country is coming from women.

The above promises are aimed at continuing the ongoing development march of the country by resolving the nagging discontent and rectifying the malpractices. The question that remains to be asked is: Could we trust the AL to deliver on their promises?

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Autor(en)/Author(s): A J M Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan

Quelle/Source: Dhaka Tribune, 04.01.2024

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