Bangladesh has shown the valor by giving shelter to a large number of persecuted Rohingya people. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with limited resources. Hence, it has its own struggles and challenges to overcome. This large number of refugees, who apparently are stateless, may need to stay in Bangladesh for a period longer than we can guess right now. Of course, we have to show diplomatic shrewdness and ask the international community to put pressure on Myanmar so that they take the Rohingyas back to their country. Besides, it is important to realize that this additional population may impede the process of sustainable development if Bangladesh does not work on a concrete plan to handle the upcoming social, economic and environmental challenges.
In today’s world, we talk about the sustainable development and Bangladesh is not an isolated land. The effort from Bangladesh to ensure growth with sustainability is evident. As a part of that exertion, South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) has recently done a research work for General Economics Division, Planning Commission of Bangladesh in order to estimate the additional cost for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Bangladesh and assess the potential financing sources. The study shows that the total additional cost for implementing SDGs in Bangladesh will be 928.48 billion USD for the rest of the SDG period (FY2017-FY2030). The study also unveils that more than 85% of this additional cost will be financed by domestic resources. Thus, emphasizing on building own financing capacity is going to be one of the pre-requisites for attaining SDGs. High GDP growth and redistribution of existing domestic resources are going to be key here. It is a huge task. Now, the addition of Rohingyas may make the job huger.
Only feeding Rohingyas thrice a day is not going to be enough. The other things will come if they stay for a longer period. We can definitely argue that the foreign aid will come for the Rohingyas. But will the volume of aid be enough to help them? Will they come for the endless period? At the end of the day, we may need to help them with our own resources. Therefore, we may need to re-redistribute the domestic resources.
We will need to give Rohingyas health services. As a result, we will see a reallocation of our existing medical resources. They will compete with our labor force for employment (mostly in informal sectors). The increase in labor supply will lower the wage level and consequently, reduce the income level of the poorest section of the society. This will boost the inequality level. Moreover, we may need to appoint our own resources to educate their children in the future.
The government has an ambitious target of achieving 9% GDP growth by the FY2030. The main driver of this high level of economic growth will be the investment by the private sector but the lack of security in Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf may help to lose the volume of private investment in that area and contribute to the reduction of total private investment.
Moreover, the environment is going to be affected adversely by the surge of Rohingyas if appropriate measures are not adopted by the authority. The impact is already visible in Teknaf and Ukhiya. A total of 2,000 acres of forestland have been allocated to accommodate the incoming refugees and the immediate result is deforestation. If this continues, it may contribute to undesirable climate change (i.e. increase in CO2, raise in sea level, etc.) and make our task of achieving SDG13 difficult. It has economic effect as well. The degradation of the environment may contribute to loss of agricultural production in that area.
Furthermore, the possibility of decline in law and order is another concern. The crime like drug smuggling, hijacking, etc. can increase and overall law system can worsen. This kind of deterioration has both social impact and economic impact. We will observe the depletion of social values. The young people from that region will get directly involved with the unlawful activities and many will be drug addicted. Moreover, the downfall of law situation will attract a lower number of tourists and result in a decrease of contribution by tourism sector to GDP.
A small economy like Bangladesh does not have the capacity to absorb all the effects caused by the influx of Rohingyas completely. In the long run, we will have to give them medical services, house to live, land to cultivate or job for a living, education, etc. Nevertheless, we can use the right tools and minimize or eliminate the negative impacts. We have to shift this huge additional population to a safe place as soon as possible so that we can avoid issues such as deforestation, degeneration of environment, etc. Besides, it will be important to keep a record of Rohingyas coming to Bangladesh and maintain proper tracking of their movement in order to avoid any kind of unpleasant event or anarchy.