Can Social Business Be Able to Lead Bangladesh to Become a Middle Income Country By 2021?

Md Fashiul Alam, M Manirul Alam


The ‘Social Business’ a concept developed by Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. Muhammad Yunus, refers to ‘a non-loss, non-dividend company with a social objective’, focusing ‘the purpose to achieve a maximum of social benefit through the production of affordable but high-quality products and services adapted to the low purchasing power of poor people’. Further, it states that ‘all the net profits remain within the company for further expansion and reach. The investor will get the principal amount back, but nothing beyond that’. Empirical evidence exhibits that ‘the model can work and that it also helps international companies to adapt their business strategies to the needs of markets with low purchasing power’. As an imperative, it puts the condition that ‘the company must cover all costs and be financially sustainable, while achieving the social objective in sectors such as healthcare, education, poverty, environment, housing, climate urgency etc’. Bangladesh, a country with a legacy of bloodshed of three million martyrs, loss of sanctity of two hundred thousand women, inhumane suppression and oppression during nine months liberation struggle, has been striving arduously since its independence in 1971 to come out of the labels of 3rd world country’s bracket. Meanwhile, it has attained laudable progress in respect of foreign currency reserve, per capita income, agriculture, food stock, women literacy and empowerment, social forestry, reduction of mortality rate of women and children at delivery phase, social safety, export of garments etc. However, it will have to go much ahead to create an atmosphere of good governance as a precondition to build up many segments of socio-economic sectors at a rapid pace and thereby survive in a competitive global order. In recent years, the ruling government has reiterated its earlier commitment to building the country to such an order so that its ‘citizens are able to lead prosperous and happy lives’. It also envisions ‘a Bangladesh which by 2020/2021, will be a middle income country where poverty will be drastically reduced, citizens will be able to meet every basic need and where development will be on fast track, with ever-increasing rates of inclusive growth’. As viewed by many experts, Bangladesh in recent times has achieved rapid progress in many social development indicators despite still widespread poverty and the poor quality of public service delivery. The country has witnessed a remarkable process of social transformation involving changes in social norms and attitudes towards female empowerment and schooling, contraceptive adoption, health care, aforestation, health and hygiene, environmental pollution, natural disaster etc. This was geared up to a commendable degree by a strong presence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and public support in the form of many innovative interventions. While Bangladesh has transformed itself from being a laggard to an over-performer in respect of social development indicators, continued progress may become increasingly difficult to fulfil its vision of being a ‘middle income country’ without larger public social spending and an improvement in service delivery along with a more rapid reduction in poverty. Under the existing socio-economic setting of Bangladesh, public and private institutional framework, development policies and strategies, such question may be raised: could ‘social business’ be an effective means to achieve social objective in general and to eradicate poverty in particular and thereby improve the standard of living of common people in Bangladesh? Under this backdrop scenario, this paper aims at examining, inter alia, (i) the operational effectiveness of social business in delivering essential products and services to those who are economically and socially underprivileged, struggling for survival and changing status; (ii) how and to what extent it could be able to lead Bangladesh to become a middle income country by 2021. It will also attempt to assess and analyse the feelings and attitudes of concerned stakeholders towards social business as an alternative mode of achieving social objectives.

Aus. & NewZe J. Soci Busi. Env. Sus. Vol 1(1), October 2015, P 1-19

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