On March 16, 2018, for the second time in the history of independent Bangladesh, the country was adorned with a crown for its achievements in development. The first time was in 2015 when it upgraded itself to the World Bank's “lower middle income” category by increasing its Gross National Income.
Following the end of almost fifty years of military rule in Myanmar and the release of the Nobel Laureate leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2011, the world had looked at the country with much enthusiasm. The quasi-civilian new government brought some hope for the country to return to democracy as well as economic progress. Even with rich natural resources including land, forests, minerals, oil and gas, the country remained poor and could achieve a per capita income of only USD 1,197 in 2011. So once freed from the military regime, with a view to modernise its economy, Myanmar embraced economic openness and initiated reforms in areas such as currency exchange rates, taxation, foreign investment laws and anti-corruption. Several countries, including those which isolated the nation through economic sanctions such as the US and the European Union, saw opportunities to rebuild economic ties with Myanmar. Political leaders from the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, China, India, Thailand, Bangladesh and many other countries flew in, investors rushed and businessmen flocked into the country to explore its untapped resources. International endorsements revived the country's confidence and growth prospects. Its GDP grew by more than 7 percent in the last couple of years.
President Barak Obama's speech at the seventy first session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2016 carries great significance. This is not only because it was his last speech at the UN as the US president, but also for its content and message. While his speech has implications for the world today, some are probably more relevant for his own country. Emphasising that the world “must go forward, and not backward”, he spent a great deal of time highlighting the need for global integration and its benefits. He said that billions of people are now enjoying better lives, and the number of people living in extreme poverty has been reduced from about 40 percent to below 10 percent in the last 25 years, thanks to integration of the global economy. Reference to the contribution of immigrants to the US was another notable point of Obama's speech, as he stated, “Today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself.”
At a time when Bangladesh has broken the 6 percent growth trap and has begun its journey towards achieving a faster growth of about 7 percent, and at a time when Bangladesh has achieved the status of a lower middle income country with a per capita income of USD1314 in 2015, it experiences the greatest shock in recent times. This has suddenly changed the perspective on Bangladesh. The ruthless killing of 20 lives, including 17 foreigners at the Holey Artisan Bakery of Gulshan in Dhaka on July 1, 2016, by terrorists has brought new realities for Bangladesh. A country which boasts to be a moderately Islamic country, holding the values of Islam yet being tolerant to other religions and a country that is reputed for its warmth and hospitality towards foreign nationals, has come under the global radar due to the brutality of recent terror attacks. While the grief for the lost lives is going to make a permanent place in our hearts, the implications of this painful episode on other spheres of lives cannot be ignored either.