smart solution

DHAKA, 20 August (News Network) – Bangladesh Priorities promises to have an impact for years to come. Copenhagen Consensus has signed a 3-year MoU with Access to Information (a2i) of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The purpose of the MoU is to advocate for policies in order to give tailwind to smart interventions with high benefits for every taka spent.

Bangladesh Priorities, a research collaboration between Copenhagen Consensus Center and BRAC, provides a menu of policy options, based on cost-benefit analysis. It has produced 1,100+ pages of new, made-for-Bangladesh research — but the real impact is in the implementation of locally-driven policy options.

Bangladesh Priorities has provided specific inputs to the upcoming National Nutrition Plan of Action for the next decade. It was reported by the national news agency of Bangladesh that the “research was a timely input to the revitalized Bangladesh Nutrition Council, and the Bangladesh National Plan of Action for Nutrition.”

What’s more, the Hon’ble Finance Minister has read the outcomes and clearly been influenced. In the latest budget, he has, for the first time, used the word “priorities” to discuss implementation of the current Five Year Plan.The Budget emphasizes some of the most effective solutions prioritized by the Bangladesh Priorities Eminent Panel, including automated VAT collection, scaling of e-procurement across the government, revamped focus on nutrition, and expansion of digital public and private services through Union Digital Centers.

The project has also created positive headlines internationally. On May 07, 2016, The Economist published a story titled “How to spend it.” It reported the research findings of Bangladesh Priorities and concluded that Bangladesh Priorities provided an opportunity for more scrutiny of promising projects, and, “almostanything would be better than spending money on projects because their backers can tell agood story, or because they are supported by powerful politicians.”

Research process

The groundwork for the major research undertaking started in March 2015 when Copenhagen Consensus and BRAC met with more than 150 prominent individuals from across Bangladesh, representing government and donors, academia, NGOs, think-tanks, and sector experts. This created a rare opportunity to extract an in-depth and nuanced overview of the challenges facing Bangladesh. These meetings result in hundreds of research ideas, from health, education and ICT skills to land administration, climate change and infrastructure.

From May to July, 2015, BRAC and Copenhagen Consensus organized a series of 20 roundtables.The 20 topics selected for the roundtables are informed by a review of the 26 background studies’ recommendations that formed the basis of the 7th Five Year Plan (7FYP, 2016-2020).

More than 800 people from government, NGOs, think-tanks, businesses, donors, multilateral organizations and academia identified and prioritized 76 promising solutions for Bangladesh.All these 76 solutions fall within the purview of the ongoing 7th Five Year Plan.More than 30 top economists were commissioned to undertake cost-benefit research of each solution, taking into account not just economic effects but also the social, health and environmental impacts.

Peer groups of economists shared outlines and draft papers for feedback, and early findings were shared with sector experts and non-academics in Review Roundtables starting from December 2015 to February 2016. These had the aim of gaining inputs from sector experts and fellow economists in order to improve papers and their cost-benefit analysis. Sector experts from the government, donor community, academia and nonprofits attended the roundtables.

The feedback was incorporated into final cost-benefit papers and short reviews. All of the research papers are publicly available, accessible to anyone interested in Bangladesh’s future.

Prioritization by Eminent Panel

A panel of distinguished economic and development experts was invited to convene in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in May, 2016 to consider these issues. The members of the Eminent Panel comprised of:

The panel was asked to address the research and to answer the question: Where should additional resources be spent first? The panel examined the 76 proposals in detail and each proposal was discussed with its principal author over three days.

Each Eminent Panel member assigned his or her own ranking to the proposals. The Eminent Panel’s ranking was calculated by taking the median of individual rankings (see Table 1).

Looking ahead

Given that a number of the top priorities turned out to be in the digital realm, many of the champion seminars are planned to take place at the PMO, under the purview of Copenhagen’s joint MoU with a2i. In the upcoming months, with support from the PMO of Bangladesh, BRAC, CRI and other local and international development partners, Copenhagen Consensus will be organizing more champion seminars to give tailwind to smart investments as revealed by Bangladesh Priorities.

For example, Copenhagen Consensus will be working with a2i in bringing together stakeholders in land digitization to develop a more coherent strategy for smarter investments.

Bangladesh Priorities is making a real difference to Bangladeshi policy prioritization. It is only the dawn of a more evidence-based intellectual discussion, using a simple tool of economics: cost-benefit ratios. It is clear that the research is having a real impact on guiding decisions on national priorities and promises to help even more into the future, as Bangladesh journeys to Vision 2021 and beyond.

Table 1: Eminent Panel’s Top 10 Rankings

Rank Intervention
1 TB treatment
2 e-procurement across government
3 Nutrition & micronutrients, ½-5 year olds
4 Land records digitization
5 Bus Priority for Dhaka
6 Increase secondary education for girls
7 Iron and folic acid in pregnancy
8 Psycho-social stimulation for stunting
9 Immunize children in urban slums
10 Hypertension medication

Bangladesh Priorities Activities and Impact: A Snapshot

Time frame Activity Outreach impact
March – May
  • Interview with some 150+ prominent individuals from across Bangladesh, representing government and donors, academia, NGOs, think-tanks, and sector experts
  • Attracting initial interest to the cost-benefit approach to the prioritization of different solutions
June – July
  • Sector Experts Roundtables: Ideas
  • Building academic interest focusing on solutions which can be considered for cost-benefit research
  • Filtering 1,000+ research ideas through online surveys
  • Prioritizing a list of 76 solutions
  • Commissioning 30+ economists (both international and national) to undertake cost-benefit research on the different solutions
  • Not applicable
  • Sector Experts Roundtables: Review
  • Targeting participants to ensure that the interventions received feedback from experts working with the respective solutions
  • Finalization of research
  • Not applicable
  • Bangladesh Priorities Opening Night jointly organized with Access to Information (a2i), Prime Minister’s Office
  • Copenhagen Consensus-a2i MoU
  • Eminent Panel event at BRAC
  • Nobel Night event at the Prime Minister’s Office which was attended by the Finance Minister as the Chief Guest
  • Meeting with State Minister of Finance and Planning, Chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR), and once again, with the Finance Minister
  • Research inputs for the Budget FY2016-17
  • Nutrition Policy Seminar jointly organized with Centre for Research and Information (CRI)
  • Attended by the Health Minister and Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Family and Welfare
  • Inputs for the upcoming National Plan of Action on Nutrition
  • More champion seminars
  • Under the MoU between Copenhagen Consensus and Access to Information (a2i) of the Prime Minister’s Office, a series of seminars is going to be organized for exploring more smart spending options


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