The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success

Published on 23 February 2017

From an unpromising start as ‘the basket-case’ to present day plaudits for its human development achievements, Bangladesh plays an ideological role in the contemporary world order, offering proof that the neo-liberal development model works under the most testing conditions. How were such rapid gains possible in a context of chronically weak governance? 

The Aid Lab subjects this so-called ‘Bangladesh paradox’ to close scrutiny, evaluating public policies and their outcomes for poverty and development since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. Countering received wisdom that its gains owe to an early shift to market-oriented economic reform, it argues that a binding political settlement, a social contract to protect against the crises of subsistence and survival, united the elite, the masses, and their aid donors in the wake of the devastating famine of 1974. This laid resilient foundations for human development, fostering a focus on the poorest and most precarious, and in particular on the concerns of women. 

In chapters examining the environmental, political and socioeconomic crisis of the 1970s, the book shows how the lessons of the famine led to a robustly pro-poor growth and social policy agenda, empowering the Bangladeshi state and its non-governmental organizations to protect and enable its population to thrive in its engagements in the global economy. Now a middle-income country, Bangladesh’s role as the world’s laboratory for aided development has generated lessons well beyond its borders, and Bangladesh continues to carve a pioneering pathway through the risks of global economic integration and climate change.

30% discount available for online purchases of “The Aid Lab”

Oxford University Press are offering a promotional discount of 30% for individuals wishing to purchase Dr. Hossain’s book. Visit the OUP website and use the promotional code ASFLYQ6 (for up to maximum 10 copies of the book). This offer is available until 31 December 2017.


Book Review: The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success, by Naomi Hossain – by Duncan Green, Strategic Adviser for Oxfam GB and author of From Poverty to Power

Photo gallery and presentation

A photo presentation of Aid Lab can be viewed on Naomi Hossain’s website.

Launch events


Naomi Hossain

Research Fellow

Publication details

published by
Hossain, N.


About this publication


Related content