Bangladesh has long been a paradox. On the one hand the country’s burden of poverty is enormous: about 40 percent of its 158 million people live below the poverty line, compounded by challenges due to repeated natural disasters, weak governance and the confrontational politics of its very young democratic system. On the other hand, Bangladesh’s economic and social performance has been impressive. Over the last decade, economic growth has been steady at 5-6 percent a year. Income per capita has almost doubled following a sharp drop in population growth, and the country has made great strides toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Some of the country’s progress is due, in part, to local innovations such as the world-renowned microcredit initiative and partnerships with nongovernmental organizations to deliver public services.
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