Welcome to the inaugural issue of WhiteBoard, a quarterly policy magazine with a difference. WhiteBoard is the first publication of its kind in Bangladesh: created by and aimed at young people.
Why have we launched this new initiative? Because Bangladesh is growing rapidly and confronting new challenges, with young people at the helm. Bangladesh is set to be among the world’s top 30 economies by 2030. But there is a lack of data-driven and coherent analysis on what is happening in our country.
This is where WhiteBoard steps in. Aimed at students and young professionals, policy-makers and practitioners, both at home and abroad, WhiteBoard will be the go-to resource for the latest commentary on Bangladesh. We promote evidence-based analysis and incisive debate on topics ranging from the economy to gender-based violence, from tech innovation to youth employment. Nothing is off the table!
We have put together a dynamic and diverse set of people to kick-start our mission. Our editorial team comprises economists, analysts, anthropologists, researchers and designers. Combined with guidance from our Editorial Advisory Board, which is made up of experts in their respective fields, and contributions from some of the most exciting thinkers in Bangladesh, we will provide our readers with cutting-edge, world-class commentary.
The world is changing fast. The Covid-19 induced shock has certainly accelerated the change. In the era of big data, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution interacting with global development needs, it is crucial to understand what role we can play. WhiteBoard’s publications seek to unite innovation with reflection, and historical context with future possibilities.
We at the Centre for Research and Information are launching this first issue to coincide with the centenary of the birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – or Mujib Borsho: The Year of Mujib. To be able to look ahead at how Bangladesh will progress, we believe an understanding of our country’s founding principles is crucial. In a post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery era, these principles will be ever more important.
Most people know Mujib’s role in gaining Bangladesh’s independence. Yet little is known about the post-independence period, especially around Mujib’s efforts in nation-building, post-war reconstruction and governance. This issue’s contributors have delved into the various and little-discussed challenges that Mujib faced in building our nation back up from scratch, from setting up a central bank to starting a sports regulatory body.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did this at a time when international expert predictions said that Bangladesh would not survive as a country. Parallel to tackling a post-war emergency and building the firm structures of a state, Mujib also envisioned polices that were progressive and far-sighted. Mujib was not given his due time, not even a full term, before his efforts were cut short and he was murdered through a military coup. Nonetheless, he set some standards, which still bear relevance today.
Our feature article underlines the strategy behind Mujib’s economic policies. The long-term national formulation practices that he set out have policy implications today. One of the complex challenges confronting him, one which very few post-colonial regimes faced, lay in reviving economic activity in a vast swathe of Bangladesh’s economy. Issues such as social equity and infrastructure management were at the core of Mujib’s policies. He wanted to build a social welfare state through heavy fiscal investment in health and education.
This issue also touches on Mujib’s clarion call for transformative change, what he referred to as the ‘second revolution’. His strategies of taking money out of politics and decentralising the governance order are discussed in detail. Some of the challenges in this regard were similar to those Bangladesh is facing today. Other matters include his cooperation with development partners in dealing with relief and disasters, and the creation of a constitution for the country.
This issue also carries a feature on how Mujib became a statesman of world politics and analysis on the development of Bangladesh’s ‘friendship to all’ foreign policy. As the country recovers from the unprecedented socio- economic hit of Covid-19, the lessons from Mujib’s rejuvenation strategies will be time-befitting.
Finally, the WhiteBoard team has put together a timeline of Mujib’s major policy actions, providing readers with an overview of his statecraft with limited resources.
We hope you enjoy our first issue – and your thoughts are welcome. I thank our readers, contributors, advisory board members and partners for their support, and would also like to give a special shout-out to the team for their hard work in pulling this issue together. This exciting journey has just begun. Stay tuned!