Sheikh Hasina is the longest serving prime minister of Bangladesh. She is currently serving her fourth term in the government. Her administration changed the destiny of the nation since it brought about a period of stability and inclusive growth. She is one of the most seasoned leaders in South Asia and has steadily advocated for inclusive politics for over 40 years.
Hasina continues the legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led the war-ravaged Bangladesh in 1972. This progressive objective, which has been dubbed the "leave no one behind" strategy locally, is in line with the UN's development goals. Hasina, who tragically lost her father and most of her family members, rose through the political ranks in an ever-evolving environment, from activist to full-fledged politician leading a coalition against a military junta to a seasoned statesman, reads a write-up published on Centre for Research and Information (CRI) website.
By emphasising long-term planning rather than just firefighting, the Hasina administration changed the direction of policymaking in Bangladesh for the first time in 2009. For any developing nation with low-income levels, this is a difficult decision. The wager was successful: in less than 15 years, Bangladesh's income tripled, exceeding that of its other significant South Asian neighbours, and the country's economy experienced growth that has consistently ranked among the top 10 in the world.
Hasina is well known for her people-centric policies in Bangladesh. It's because she is one of the few politicians to have visited every part of the nation. Unbeknownst to many, Hasina enjoys reading a lot, especially anything with a focus on politics or statecraft.
Vision 2021, Digital Bangladesh, the Delta Plan, Vision 2041, and the Social Security Strategy are a few of Hasina's noteworthy initiatives. She chose her priorities, just like every politician who takes risks. Among the top investments were those in the energy and infrastructure sectors. She drew a thin line separating the development agenda from the political clamour. Simply said, all of these policies are interrelated, with the premise being that long-term, visionary thinking is required.
For instance, the nearly century-old multisectoral Delta Plan gives climate change first priority in all national fiscal decisions. Bangladesh's development is most at risk from climate change because it is a low-lying nation. Vision 2021, which was developed to raise Bangladesh to middle-income status, also calls for the universal digitalization of an antiquated governance structure and the e-connectivity of a predominately rural economy. Vision 2041 solely focuses on Bangladesh's goal to become a developed, high-income economy.
These policies must be implemented in a specific setting. When the Hasina administration began office, Bangladesh was faced with a number of complex issues, some of which were exclusive to Bangladesh but many of which were also experienced by other emerging nations. Political instability, infrastructural bottlenecks, inadequate energy and power supplies, low income levels, and digital disconnect were among the main issues cited by Bangladesh observers and development partners (such as the World Bank).
Hasina's initiatives reduced poverty at an unprecedented rate. According to the World Bank's classification, Bangladesh transitioned from a low-income nation to a lower-middle income country in 2015. Bangladesh was scheduled to transition from a least developed country (LDC) to a developing country in 2021, as per UN criteria.
The determination of the Hasina administration to revive Bangladesh's economy frequently makes international news. Who wouldn't want to learn about a success story from the developing world, after all? The fact that she gave agriculture utmost priority receives less attention. From being reliant on food help, Hasina deliberately transformed Bangladesh into a food-secure nation. Nothing less than a stealthy revolution has occurred here. In Bangladesh, periodic famines were common even 30 years ago. Agriculture and poverty went hand in hand. Hasina made the audacious choice to step in. She made a research investment.
According to insight, Hasina holds farmers in high regard and gives policies pertaining to the agriculture sector high priority. The Hasina administration funded agricultural research, particularly at universities and research centres with public funding. In parallel, she has kept agriculture subsidies even as subsidies were disappearing from other sectors.
Hasina recognised that Bangladesh is the world's most populous nation (other than city-states). Farmland will inevitably get smaller. Efficiency and productivity are the only options. In the media, Hasina frequently appears urging common Bangladeshis to "produce anything they can, and not leave an inch of land unoccupied." An obvious illustration of how political rhetoric may reflect policy priorities.
Hasina is subject to criticism and never fails to come under fire. What matters is that she remained true to her vision while taking advice from her detractors. She has shaped a "Bangladesh model" for development that academics have yet to analyse.