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. However, around 17 percent of children ages 6-11 remain out of school – either having never enrolled or dropped out before completing grade 5. Socio-economic issues coupled with less women-friendly environment at the post-secondary level also marks slow gains in female labor force participation. The World Bank is playing a role in training Bangladeshi youth for jobs through its skills, higher education and college financing projects. 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. But more policy initiatives from the government and development partners would be critical for education access to all.
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.
Health, Nutrition and Population
Bangladesh has 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, as it transitions to a middle-income economy, the country needs to address important financing, governance, and system management gaps for effective use of the necessary increased public spending on health. Second, significant parts of the MDG agenda 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 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, strengthening health system governance and management capacities, and delivery of essential services, with a focus on the lagging regions of 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 contributes over $750 million to the government’s program. 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 $50 million in grant funding (including IDA and financing from Canada), this component supports delivery of HNP services while developing the government’s capacity for coordination and management of the response.
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 safe and arsenic-free water to nearly 1.48 million beneficiaries. Water connections were created for 21,802 households, resulting in an estimated 98,109 people gaining access to safe water through new piped schemes. A total of 20,475 deep tube wells, rain water harvesting structures, pond sand filter and ring wells were constructed. In addition, 247,500 people received improved sanitation access from new latrines.
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 457 MW capacity was added to the national grid through ongoing projects. 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 declining output growth with the share of agriculture in total GDP decrease from 28 percent in 1990 to just 13 percent in 2018. This has contributed to a decline in employment growth and to a slowdown in poverty reduction. The major challenges that contributed to the recent slowdown in agricultural growth include a lack of diversification, rice-focused agricultural policies, poor logistics and transportations, limited commercialization, weak food safety and quality regulations, and natural disasters and climate change negative effects.
The World Bank’s strategic framework in Bangladesh aims to support the GoB in its desired pivot of the sector towards climate resilient diversification and value addition for greater job creation, entrepreneurship and resilient food systems. 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 $1.23 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. Hundreds of community schemes generating employment for the poor have been implemented, including construction or rehabilitation of rural roads, culverts, drainage and embankment systems; water and sanitation facilities; and schools and clinics. Thirty percent of the schemes are women-preferred schemes. 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: Mar 27, 2019