The Bangladesh Paradox

Issue Date October 2020
Volume 31
Issue 4
Page Numbers 138-50
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Bangladesh has experienced impressive socioeconomic development in recent decades even as its political system has taken an authoritarian turn. These contradictory economic and political trajectories constitute the “Bangladesh paradox.” Contrary to assumptions that the country was on track to becoming fully democratic, Bangladesh’s democratic “window” in the 1990s was followed by closure and the rise of a soft dictatorship. In the near term it seems likely that Bangladesh will continue to do well as far as development goes, with governance “good enough” to get the job done. Over the middle and longer term, however, things are likely to sour. The big question is whether the pressures that result will fuel a drive for a more open and competitive political system, or stiffen the authoritarianism that already has blanketed the country.