Bangladesh has made remarkable gains in ensuring access to basic and secondary education in the past two decades. In 2015, the country’s net enrollment rate at the primary school level reached above 90 percent, and that at secondary school level, around 62 percent. With nearly 6.4 million girls in secondary schools in 2015, Bangladesh is among the few countries to achieve gender parity in school enrollment and has more girls than boys in secondary schools. Improving the quality of education remain the largest challenge for Bangladesh at all levels. The country is gradually overcoming the issue of equitable access at the post-secondary level with a combination of policy change and participation of the private sector.
Government spending on education is only around two percent of the GDP, one of the lowest among countries at similar levels of development. IDA is the largest external funder in the education sector covering the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, as well as technical training and vocational training, and education for the hard-to-reach children.
Bangladesh achieved a number of MDG targets for health, nutrition and population (HNP) outcomes. Child and maternal mortality, as well as fertility rates, have continued to decrease over the past decade, although progress on child undernutrition has been slower. Bangladesh has embraced the SDGs, including SDG 3, encompassing universal health coverage. The country faces several challenges. First, the country needs to address important financing, governance, and system management gaps for effective use of the increased public spending on health. Second, there are significant parts of the MDG agenda that remain unfinished. While many service utilization indicators, such as immunization coverage, have reached high levels, it is necessary to maintain those gains, achieve still higher coverage, improve quality, and reduce socio-economic and geographic inequalities. Third, the country needs to address emerging health challenges arising from non-communicable diseases, urbanization and climate change as well as adolescent health.
The World Bank is supporting Bangladesh in aligning financing and technical support to meet these challenges. The Bank supports the government’s fourth Health Nutrition Population (HNP) sector program for the period 2017-22, helping strengthen health system governance, management and service delivery capacities, implement an essential services package, and a focus on lagging regions, in particular, Sylhet and Chittagong Divisions. With co-financing from the Global Financing Facility (GFF), Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada, the IDA-financed Health Sector Support Program totals over US$750 million. The GFF is fostering collaboration between the HNP and education sectors to improve adolescent health and nutrition.
In addition, the World Bank is supporting the government to respond to the health needs of one million displaced Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar District. With US$50 million in grant funding (including IDA and financing from Canada), this component is strengthening capacities to lead and coordinate the response by the government and partners, while strengthening delivery of HNP services.
IDA has been a major partner in the development of Bangladesh’s rural infrastructure, having funded three consecutive rural road improvement projects. By improving the livelihoods of rural women, around 820 km of Upazila and Union roads have been improved along with maintenance of almost 6,000 km rural roads in 26 districts, as well as dredging of 46 km of rural waterways. Additional financing will also promote road safety engineering measures and community road safety campaign in project districts. All these activities have improved safer access to schools and health facilities, reduced transport costs, increased rural non-farm incomes, and generated employment in project areas, for both women and men.
Further, IDA support has helped build piped and non-piped water sources that provided nearly 1.1 million people access to clean water in rural areas with high arsenic and salinity infiltration.
In the last decade, energy demand in Bangladesh has increased on an average of 10 percent per annum. The current installed generation capacity is 20,133 MW (including captive and renewable energy generation), but much is frequently inoperable because of gas scarcity, reliability of older plants, and underdevelopment of the electricity grid. Unreliable power supply is estimated to cost the country about 2 percent of GDP.
The World Bank has $2.1 billion of ongoing support in the energy sector to enhance capacity, generate clean energy, improve efficiency in generation and transmission & system operation, reduce technical losses, as well as increase access to both grid and renewable electricity. IDA support has so far added 2,147 MW electricity to the national grid, and 100 MW to off grid through solar home systems. Another 475 MW capacity will be added in the coming months when the ongoing projects complete. With support from IDA and other development partners, more than 4 million households and shops in remote rural areas have installed solar home systems. IDA support has expanded to pilot solar irrigation pumps, solar mini grids and other renewable energy options and installed one million improved cookstoves. It has also been working to improve the transmission network in the countryside, as well as promote power sector policies and create effective institutional capacity within the Government, power and gas utilities and Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) with the aim to improve the financial health, investment and service quality.
Despite high population density, decreasing arable land, and frequent natural disasters, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in achieving food security. While having one of the fastest rates of agriculture productivity growth in the world since 1995 (2.7 percent per year and second only to China), this self-sufficiency is continuously threatened by a decrease of arable land by at least one percent per year, an increasing population and stagnating yields.
The World Bank is helping over 1 million rural households modernize farm practices and use new technologies and about 500,000 households increase grain reserve to meet their post-disaster needs, and the country improve the efficiency of grain storage management.
Bangladesh’s geographical position renders it especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. The 2014 Climate Change Vulnerability Index ranks Bangladesh as the number one economy at risk to climate change. The vicious circle of natural disaster and poverty, whereby each new calamity risks poor becoming poorer and slows development, is a major challenge to poverty reduction efforts in Bangladesh.
The World Bank helped Bangladesh address climate change impacts and disaster risk management. The country has built stronger disaster-coping mechanisms, and these have significantly reduced the impact of recent storms, cyclones, and floods in terms of numbers of deaths and economic losses.
IDA has an ongoing portfolio of $1.04 billion supporting Bangladesh to build resilience against natural disasters and climate change impacts. So far, 352 new cyclone shelters have been constructed; 565 km of embankment has been repaired; 17,500 hectares of block plantations and 2,000 km of strip plantations have been completed in climate vulnerable areas; 40,000 people residing in saline, flood and drought prone areas have received adaptive basic needs (house, water, agriculture, health) and livelihood support; about 6,000 poor and forest dependent households in 200 communities have participated in the alternative livelihoods support programs.
Local government institutions in Bangladesh traditionally had a limited role in delivering services to their citizens due to limited responsibilities coupled with lack of adequate resources. Most government services have often been delivered in a top-down manner, with little accountability to local communities. Over the past decade, the World Bank has been supporting the government’s move towards a stronger and more accountable local governance system.
Since 2006, IDA has been supporting a nationwide program that augments the government’s block grants provided to all 4,504 Union Parishads (the lowest tier of elected local government). The block grant enables Union Parishads to decide and spend on local priorities. Since 2006, the discretionary funds that a Union Parishad receives annually has grown by more than ten-fold and has benefitted 130 million people. Female members are managing 30 percent of the funds. More than 35,000 community schemes generating employment for poor people have been implemented, including construction or rehabilitation of rural roads, culverts, drainage and embankment systems; water and sanitation facilities; and schools and clinics. Under the ongoing third project, IDA is assisting to institutionalize the block grants with the government’s own resources and supporting a pilot for an urban fiscal transfer system in 16 municipalities.
Last Updated: Oct 08, 2018