August 30, 2023
DHAKA – As much as 70 percent of the respondents in a recent survey think Bangladesh’s economy is heading in the wrong direction, and they cite high prices of products as the basis for their viewpoint.
The disclosure was made in the study titled ‘The State of Bangladesh’s Political Governance, Development and Society: According to Its Citizens’ jointly conducted by The Asia Foundation in Bangladesh and the Brac Institute of Governance and Development.
The latest report, which was unveiled yesterday, used a divisionally representative survey conducted from November 2022 to January 2023 in all 64 districts with a sample size of 10,240 men and women.
Similar surveys were conducted in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The percentage of people who thought the country was heading in the right direction across all three domains of a citizen’s life is significantly lower than what it was in 2019, indicating a considerable deterioration in public perceptions about the country’s future.
For instance, in 2019, 28 percent said the country was heading in the wrong direction from an economic perspective.
While the majority of the respondents across all income groups say Bangladesh is going in the wrong economic direction, respondents among the highest income group are the most pessimistic.
As much as 87 percent of the respondents from the highest income group said Bangladesh is going in the wrong direction from an economic perspective.
For the 70 percent of the respondents who say Bangladesh’s economy is heading in the wrong direction, the reasons are: the high price of products (84 percent), poor economic conditions (35 percent), increased scarcity of necessary goods (25 percent), lack of employment opportunities (16 percent), lower pay compared to workload (10 percent), decent employment opportunities (8 percent), and business is down (8 percent).
For the quarter of the respondents who say the country is heading in the right direction, the top reasons includegood economic condition (46 percent), overall development (36 percent), good infrastructure (27 percent), increased employment (16 percent), increased quality of life (14 percent), there is no shortage (14 percent), improved business (11 percent), offering of various government allowances (10 percent), communication system improvements (9 percent), improved electricity system (7 percent), salary increases for government jobs (4 percent).
The respondents were asked to identify the major challenges faced by the country currently, and about 44 percent of them said the main problem in Bangladesh is the ‘price hike’.
The other problems mentioned by the respondents include business downturn (11 percent), unemployment (10 percent), political instability (8 percent) and corruption (3 percent).
Respondents were asked about the political direction of the country, and if they think Bangladesh is heading in the right or wrong direction. Almost half the respondents (48 percent) said Bangladesh is heading in the wrong direction, an increase from 31 percent in 2019.
The percentage of the respondents uncertain about the direction of the country also increased from 5 percent in 2019 to 11 percent in 2022.
In a follow-up question, the 39 percent of the respondents who say Bangladesh is moving in the right direction explain why they think so. Just over half, 51 percent cite political stability as a reason why Bangladesh is moving in the right direction.
The other reasons include: overall development(22 percent), improved human rights situation (20 percent), reduced political violence (15 percent), reduced terrorism activities (10 percent) and infrastructure development (2 percent).
For the 48 percent who say Bangladesh is politically heading in the wrong direction, the reasons include instability (46 percent), the dominance of one political party (25 percent), price hikes (20 percent), no democracy (10 percent), vote cast without consent (12 percent), one-sided politics (10 percent) and a lack of opportunity to express an opinion (9 percent).
Findings show 96 percent intend to vote in the upcoming elections.
The survey explores perceptions of democracy and democratic principles.
When asked what they understand by democracy, more than a third of the respondents admit they “don’t know” (36 percent). Nearly one-fifth said “equal rights for all” (18 percent), people’s freedom (17 percent), government by the people (15 percent), the opportunity to vote freely (15 percent), freedom of speech (11 percent) and public participation in all activities (7 percent) are what they understand to be a democracy.
Pronounced differences emerge by education level as respondents with a bachelor’s degree or above are more likely to describe democracy as the opportunity to vote freely (16 percent), equal rights for all (14 percent) and people’s freedom (12 percent).
In contrast, 48 percent of the respondents with no formal education say “don’t know”. As income levels decrease, respondents are more likely to say they do not know what democracy means.
The proportion of the respondents who believe Bangladesh is moving in the right direction socially dropped from 77 percent in 2019 to 58 percent in 2022.
For those who say the country is socially heading in the wrong direction, the reasons are: deterioration of law and order (64 percent), increase in corruption (23 percent), the bad education system (16 percent), increase in drug use (16 percent), torture of innocent people (11 percent), increased violence against women (9 percent) and power concentrated among the rich (7 percent).
As much as 73 percent said it is never or not very often safe to post political opinions on Facebook, while 63 percent said the same posting about social issues.
The majority of the respondents follow news through Facebook and consume news through private TV channels. Only 25 percent said they read newspapers.
Respondents with at least an undergraduate degree are more likely to get news through Facebook (84 percent) than those with no education (64 percent).
Overall trust towards Facebook news is higher (55 percent) than trust in newspapers (27 percent).
Regarding the construction of the Padma Bridge, 72 percent of participants consider it the most significant success in Bangladesh.
The report states that 47 percent of the respondents credited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the bridge’s construction, while 28 percent gave credit to the government.