Rehman Sobhan
Rehman Sobhan

General Information
Economist and Freedom Fighter

Full Name: Professor Rehman Sobhan

Affiliation: Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)

Current Position: Chairman

Date of Birth: March 12, 1935

Place of Birth: Kolkata, India

Home District: Dhaka

Nationality: Bangladeshi


Professor Rehman Sobhan (born 12 March 1935) is a Bangladeshi economist and freedom fighter. He played an active role in the Bengali nationalist movement in the 1960s. He was also a member of the first Planning Commission in Bangladesh and a close associate of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was also a member Advisory Council of the Caretaker Government in 1991. He was awarded the Independence Day Award in 2008.

Professor Sobhan was educated at St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, Aitichison College, Lahore and Cambridge University where he was awarded an MA in Economics. He began his working career at the faculty of Economics, Dhaka University in 1957 and retired as Professor of Economics in 1977. In a seminar in 1961, he made a remark on the economic disparities between West and East Pakistan saying "Pakistan consisted of two economies". It made the headlines on the Pakistan Observer and the then President of Pakistan Ayub Khan expressed the opposite point of view. In the 1960s, Sobhan, with a number of other nationalist economists under the intellectual leadership of Nurul Islam, contributed to the drafting of the six-points programme that became the basis for the struggle for autonomy in the then East Pakistan. The writings of this group of economists on the regional disparity between West Pakistan (Pakistan since 1971) and East Pakistan (Bangladesh since 1971) played an important role in fomenting nationalist aspirations of the people of Bangladesh. During the liberation war (from 26 March to 16 December 1971), he was a roving ambassador for Bangladesh and lobbied in the United States. After the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, Sobhan was appointed a member of the Planning Commission in charge of the Divisions of Industry, Power and Natural Resources, and of Physical Infrastructure. He quit when he, along with others, fell from the grace of Sheikh Mujib in 1975.

Upon Professor Sobhan’s return to Bangladesh in 1982, he joined Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS). Later he served as Chairman, Research Director, Director General and Emeritus Fellow, BIDS from and as a Visiting Fellow, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford. He was a Member of the Advisory Council of the President of Bangladesh in 1991, in charge of the Ministry of Planning and the Economic Relations Division. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a non-governmental think tank in Bangladesh. He has been the Executive Director, South Asia Centre for Policy Studies (SACEPS), a Visiting Scholar, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University and a Senior Research Fellow, at the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance, Harvard University. Currently he is the Chairman of CPD.

Professor Sobhan has held a number of important professional positions. He was a Member of the Panel of Economists to review the Third and Fourth Five Year Plans of Pakistan, Editor, Pakistan Economic Journal and Editor, Forum, a weekly magazine by The Daily Star. He served the independent Government of Bangladesh as Envoy Extraordinary with special responsibility for Economic Affairs, during the Liberation War in 1971. He was President, Bangladesh Economic Association, Member, Bangladesh National Commission on Money, Banking and Finance, Member, U.N. Committee for Development Planning, Member, Governing Council of the U.N. University, Tokyo, Member of the Commission for a New Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Member of the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva, Member of the Executive Committee of the International Economic Association, Member of the Group of Emminent Persons appointed by the SAARC Heads of State to review the future of SAARC, Chairman, South Asia Centre for Policy Studies, Chairman of the Board of Grameen Bank, Member of the BIDS Board of Trustees and Member of the International Advisory Committee of the Ash Institute, Harvard University. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Freedom Foundation, Bangladesh, Chairman of the Pratichi Trust (Bangladesh) set up by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Board Member of SACEPS, Kathmandu.

Professor Sobhan has published 27 books, 15 research monographs and 140 articles in professional journals. His principal publications include: Basic Democracies, Works Programme and Rural Development in East Pakistan, Public Enterprise in an Intermediate Regime, The Crisis of External Dependence: The Political Economy of Foreign Aid to Bangladesh, Debt Default and the Crisis of State Sponsored entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, Planning and Public Action for Asian Women, Rethinking the Role of the State in Development: Asian Perspectives, Bangladesh: Problems of Governance, Agrarian Reform and Social Transformation, Aid Dependence and Donor Policy: The Case of Tanzania, Transforming Eastern South Asia, Rediscovering the Southern Silk Route, Challenging Injustice: The Odyssey of a Bangladeshi Economist, Milestones to Bangladesh and The Political Economy of Malgovernance in Bangladesh.

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