Paths to development: is there a Bangladesh surprise?

M. Niaz Asadullah, Antonio Savoia, Wahiduddin Mahmud

Is Bangladesh’s development progress surprising, given its level of economic development? Using aggregate indices of education, health, demographic and gender equality outcomes, we empirically investigate the hypothesis that Bangladesh made exceptional gains in human development compared with countries with similar level of per capita income. Stylised facts and cross-country regression results indicate that, for a broad range of dimensions, there is a human development surplus. Further tests show that such surplus does not reflect the role of economic growth and public expenditure programmes. We conclude by speculating on the role of Bangladesh’s human development to sustain the process of growth and on the implications of governance and institutional quality for the nexus between growth and human development.