Integrating sustainable economic growth with human progress is essential for sustainable development in developing economies like India and Bangladesh, noted Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. Notwithstanding increased economic growth and an almost double per capita income, India is yet to improve in social development and women empowerment in comparison to Bangladesh, he mentioned. In his public lecture “Economic Growth and Human Progress” organised by CPD and Prothom Alo on Monday, 23 February 2015, Dr Sen highlighted that Bangladesh excelled in improving many social indicators including gender equity, life expectancy, mortality rate, women empowerment and vaccination.
A Harvard Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Dr Sen addressed a massive audience at Krishibid Institute in the capital preceding the launch of the Bangla translation of his book titled Bharat: Unnayan O Banchana from An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions. The Bengali translation of the book, co-authored by Belgium-born Indian economist Jean Drèze, has been published by Ananda Publishers.
In his book, Dr Sen primarily explored the interrelationships and differences between economic growth and human progress in the Indian context. Drawing upon the ideas of Adam Smith, he mentioned that increasing wealth corresponds to better livelihood and better public expenditure, both of which are undermined in India despite its economic progress. According to Dr Sen, Adam Smith’s 1776 book The Wealth of Nations categorised the Indian subcontinent, particularly Bengal under the wealthy nations, which later declined. The Indian subcontinent experienced a mere economic growth of 0.01 percent during the 1900 and 1947, which only climbed up to above three percent after its independence. Dr Sen mentioned the role the private sector played in development in both Bangladesh and India. However, lack of adequate healthcare remains a major impediment towards improved public health and average lifespan, especially in India. After 1971, Bangladesh made major advancements in producing healthcare workers. However he mentioned that no country could improve these aspects without government intervention.
On politics, he said that there may be limitations in all political settings but discussion and debate are essential to overcome those in any democratic country. Advising the media, he said that journalists should have a better focus on human and development issues that go undermined, such as child trafficking experienced mostly by the poorer segment of the society. CPD Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan chaired the lecture, with introductory notes from Mr Matiur Rahman, Editor and Publisher, Prothom Alo. Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director, CPD moderated the Q&A session with the audience.