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The brown pundit's brown cow. Hey, everybody, I hope you guys are doing well. I am here today with Carol Karpinsky. Carol, could you introduce yourself?


Hi, everyone. Hi, Rajeev. Yes. So my name is Carol. I'm an economist working in a Washington and saw I'm a great fan of the podcasts and for some reason I wanted to talk to me. So hello, everybody.


Well, so, you know, I like to ask people what their cast is. So can you give us your your background, your bio data?


You know, more. I just ordered to the twenty three in May of a couple of days ago, but the results are not in yet, so I can't give you the percentages, but I can tell you a little bit more about where I'm coming from. I was born and raised in a small town in Poland, so I went to university and grad school in the Netherlands. I did some brief stint as an intern in Switzerland and then I ended up working for the World Bank here in Washington, D.C. And from there I moved to Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I lived between twenty fourteen and twenty sixteen.


And I'm back in D.C. right now and I've been doing, you know, mostly all bureaucratic stuff most of my life, but at least in terms of where I lived and all of those places. So I've been pretty lucky to have had an interesting life so far.


Yeah. And obviously, like I reached out to you, partly because you lived in Dhaka. You seem to know a lot about Bangladesh way more than I do. Before we get to that, the what part of Poland is your family farm? Are they from Galicia or are they from, say, the North or are they traditionally from the old Belorussian area?


Oh, that's a very good question. So I was born and raised right across the border from Germany, like the northwest, the top left corner of the Polish map, if you will, which if you know your history, you know that it is all a part of the country that have never been really properly Polish before. Nineteen forty five. It's essentially or loots. That might sound a little bit harsh, but it basically is just a parcel of land that Poland got as a reward when Germany lost the Second World War.


So, you know, I was I was born and raised there, but the whole place just witnessed a massive population exchange in nineteen forty five for so people who all were history connected to that area, the role that they were all deported to Germany and people like myself and my family who moved there after the war, we don't really have any deep connection to the land or at sea. The place I mean no deeper than a running into second or third generation.


But but that's so that's that's where I grew up. But my all my parents and my grandparents are originally from all. Oh, from from the eastern part of the country right now. Sort of close fairly close to the Ukrainian border. So they kind of moved across the country from from the sort of south east, but in the northwest part where I was born. Yeah.


One of the interesting things about Poland is partitions and the divisions of Poland, which have happened multiple times.


People have shown that when you take historical maps and you overlay them on Polish voting patterns, the historical maps actually explain the modern voting patterns, which suggests that there's some deep cultural differences in Poland within the nation state of modern Poland that are, you know, historically rooted in something way, way earlier than just like the modern geographic variation.


I've seen that it's pretty popular and the sort of folksy political science y and I think we'll do post them on Twitter all the time. There's certainly some parts to it. On the other hand, data visualization is also can be quite deceptive. Right, because when we're talking about the voting patterns, often that turns out to be a. A fairly, fairly minor differences, right? You know, you just have a difference of five or seven or eight percentage points and you just give those counties, all those regions different colors.


And that perhaps gives a or shows the kind of division that might not be quite as pronounced in real life. I think, by the way, the country is going politically towards is very much akin to the United States with division more between cities and suburbia versus, you know, the countryside, the interior.


But having said that's a yeah, I like those borders do probably have still some legacy to an extent. But yeah, I wouldn't I wouldn't overemphasize its I wouldn't say it's as dramatic, especially since like if you really look at the look like look at the composition of the population across, it's been all throughout the communist period. It's been really, really mixed. Like one very interesting thing that like I only noticed all when I lived outside Poland, which is throughout most of my life, really my my adult life.


But like I didn't have all that knowledge growing up is that we're pretty exceptional in pretty much eradicating any sort of regional accents. So like there is, of course, class difference where you use a different vocabulary vocabulary and a different sort of register depending on how educated your family is. But it was quite a shock for me to move to the Netherlands and kind of realized that the Dutch spoken. And my tone is very different between from the Dutch spoken in like a village, one I drive away.


We didn't we used to have parts in Poland before before the war, but that's not there anymore. So, you know, the bottom line, I think the differences are there, but they they aren't quite as dramatic as some maps make them out to be.


Well, thanks for reading the infotainment parade there, Carol.


I mean, it's still an interesting thing to ponder. I didn't intend to bash it altogether. I would say that, like, that just need to, like, just just perceive that and with a sense of perspective. Yeah, and your point about accents is interesting, generally, the older and more stable a nation is, the more regional accents there will be sort of the United States, for example, as you might know, there's a lot more regional accents in the eastern part of the country, especially in the northeast, where it's like, you know, within Massachusetts, there are several regional accents and stuff like that where, you know, the western half of the United States, there's very few regional accents away from general American.


I mean, there are some regionalisms, but it's very subtle. In Australia, there's not much regional accent, partly because it's also a newly settled country. But even more, you know, we're talking like one hundred years, one hundred and fifty years. Whereas in the United States, the regional accents developed like four centuries ago, like we do have we do have regions that have been settled by Europeans for four hundred years now. So I think that that's indicative of the recent history of Poland, that where there was this great scrambling that you're alluding to probably created a relatively homogenous accent, which that's, again, what happens in the United States.


You know, even like when you think about the upper Midwest accent, that's actually across a really broad zone, whereas you're talking about the Netherlands where tiny little country has different accents. That's super weird. But, you know, that actually happens in England to where this tiny little country has like a bunch of different regional accents. Like what's going on with that? Well, you know, I mean, it's been pretty stable. No one's really invaded except for the Dutch in you know, the Dutch were the last overseas ones which like they they try to emphasize.


But that was real. You know, that's a little bit of propaganda there.


So can you talk about you going to I'm going to go to Bangladesh and it was a twenty fifteen. Twenty sixteen, you said?


Yeah, I was twenty fourteen to twenty sixteen. So it was pretty random.


I mean, OK, so Carol, tell me about going to Dhaka, just like your first impressions when you got there.


Oh yes. So that was twenty. Fourteen. To be perfectly honest, I can't remember that much. Well, know what my first impressions were, you know, like the first days or the early days, it kind of always look at them through the lens of whatever happens next.


But like putting myself and all that might frame I think I was first and foremost just just just it was very exhilarating. I was excited to move on to on to Asia. I was I mean, I never like Washington, D.C. has its nice sights, but I've never been feeling that much at home here. So it was fun and say, well, the funny thing about working for an international organization like the World Bank and probably at this point I shoots are the disclaimer that none of the opinions or stances presented here are the official points of view of the World Bank of its management.


Let's let's see now. Let's hope that I still have a job after we finish. But the funny thing about this of the organizations like that is that they are they allow Weitzen incredible amounts of international mobility for you early on in your career. So working for sort of international corporation or in the United McKinsey's of this world, people do get to move around. That's probably more when you move towards middle upper management.


Whereas in twenty fourteen I was just barely a year into my job and I had a chance to, to, to, to, to move to Dhaka as a very, very junior guy. So that was, that was pretty fun. But anyway, to my impressions of Bangladesh, I, I think that's before Bangladesh I did travel around Asia for a bit. And so I guess one of the interesting parts in parts of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan is but it's just Bangladesh as a I mean, it's in the name Bangladesh.


It's very close to the European nation states rights, you know, that it's it's the land of Bengalese. So one thing that was quite interesting for me was in a way, as you know, if you will, a fresh immigrants to the country.


That was an obvious playbook for me to follow. Right. There is a national thing more or less like a single national culture and language and literature and everything that I immerse myself into. So I guess that was somewhat different than then than what I would experience moving say to to India or Pakistan. So that was one thing, but definitely caught my attention back then. Other than that. Oh, traffic. Oh my gosh. TACA is absolutely the worst in the world.


There's a lot of people complaining about traffic in Jakarta or Manila, and it does not compare to Dakar at all. I mean, you visited it. I don't know what your impressions are, but it's getting worse every year. So I like one thing was that it was completely unexpected, but I would have like, you know, sometimes four hours a day of downtime because my commute with XXXII was in one direction into the other direction. A few months after that, I just snapped and I decided to buy your bike and bicycle and cycled to the office because I just couldn't stand losing my best years of lives, being stuck in traffic.


But yeah, like, I think like being stuck in traffic is most people's first impression of the country. What's the air quality like?


It's it's not great, it's it's pretty bad, but I wouldn't say it's worse than Delhi or the other worst affected cities in the subcontinent.


That was one thing that apparently made a bit of a difference, is all a few years before I came, the government changed the rules and forced the autorickshaw to convert to compressed natural gas CNG, which is actually why, in the popular parlance, actually old people in or Bangladeshis in general just call them CNG like I took CNG to the office. Yeah.


So I was told that moving away from diesel engines and actually natural gas is one of the few things that Bangladesh still can harvest. And so but anyway, putting that aside, I was told that that made quite an improvement in the air quality in the city.


Well, so, I mean, do you you know, so I actually I should, like, tell the listener, you know, I haven't been to Bangladesh since 2004. Before that, I went to Bangladesh in 1990. And obviously I was born and grew up there in the late 70s into eighty one. So my knowledge is like way, way more Egypt and Bangladesh as a society right now, it's like five to 10 percent economic growth per year depending on the year.


So, you know, five years makes a huge difference.


So even Carrolls knowledge from the mid teens is probably a little out of date. But I guess the question that I have is so I don't know, like what's what's the issue with, like, doing a subway or like I mean, obviously, like Dhaka is a city with a transportation problem, like a serious transportation problem, serious overgrowth problem.


It's kind of like maybe like libertarianism in a way was was tried out.


And I'm not sure if it worked. It didn't say so. There is actually a subway being constructed. It's not not for, say, a subway. It generally it's as part of the world what you tend to build elevated rail tracks. But there is one thing builds actually a Japanese development corporation, Jitka, is of footing most of the bill for it. And so hopefully we're going to see it soon ish on that thing. Some delays in opening all.


But I'm you know, I'm actually very much looking forward to that because among of metal, like on the first line, there are two stations that are conveniently located very close to my old office and close to Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of the country, both places where I tended to commute from and to. So looking forward to that. So there is some work being being done. But the problem is, of course, that the population growth is way exceeding the pace of infrastructural growth.


So the the problem is that by the time that is going to be completed and it's just, you know, one line for a whole big city, we're going to have a few more million TACA citizens like this.


Even, you know, before a we have census data from a few years ago, we don't really know for sure how many people live in Toca right now. The estimates are for the metro area, somewhere around 20 million of which basically means that's where 10 percent of Bangladeshis live.


So, yeah, it's it's I think that even in many European or North American countries, if you had to face that kind of population growth, it would be difficult to keep pace with infrastructure and the parts like. One part of the problem also here is that the city was never intended, intended to be a metropolis. And like history writes, if you look at the history of Bengal, that was just like for a long time, the only notable think about it was the British army barracks.


And most of the civic institutions and some basic infrastructure only would appear during the first partition, like the first short lived partition of Bengal. But it does not have metropolitan the roots to the extent Calcutta or even like Chittagong have its growth really has been a very recent phenomenon.


Yeah, yeah, that's for sure. So, you know, I have a question actually. Why, why aren't local. Regional I mean, so there's returns to economies of scale.


Right. So people want to be co-located, but it seems like with the transportation problems, that's going to cut it to productivity. How come? Aside from Chittagong, I think the gingersnap it should have, I don't know. But anyway, there's really like I mean, how come secondary cities, satellite cities are not like, cool.


There's Rangpur, the north, you know, my family's from Jaipur.


I mean, these cities, like they're not growing in the same way. Obviously, people are going to Dacca like as a, you know, economically oriented thinker. Like, do you have any insight about that? Like why, you know, like a nation of two hundred million people, almost like and it's like this megacity is absorbing. All of the migration, migration, it seems like, yeah, it's got indeed, so they like they they now officially Chittagong is so ground, which basically means a small village in Bengali, which makes it funny, but insistent that perhaps its people from Dhaka.


But once the supremacy anyway, we're you know, I'm just as puzzled as you are. But they are I would add to what you said about to go on go to ground. That is also still. That's right. And Siletz historically has been benefiting from a great deal of remittances sent by British Bangladeshi who to, you know, disproportionately tend to be from that area. But the problem really is to me, in all the sort of vicious circle that we have, there's no you know, there's no great infrastructure outside talk.


It's it is so getting improved. But ultimately, the economy of Bangladesh as an export driven economy, depending very strongly on the export of readymade garments and, oh, as a sort of, you know, second ring around the the the RMV businesses, you have all sorts of service oriented economy that drives it all. But in either case. Right. It's pretty difficult.


So if you imagine trying to get things from automate and wrong for so on the port in Chittagong, it's a nightmare. I used to like what we had a bunch of different projects in a run for division, and I did travel Tarong Power and a little satellite times around it.


So it's it's been pretty crazy, right? I mean, you can try to fly to a site for athletes, but it's like there's a tiny landing strip except accepting like the turboprops, but like the roads, even the river transports. It's not quite the same thing with broadband's. So in a way, it's like that making it possible to know that since and Chittagong have many more is is going to be given to them because that's where the money is.


So you're basically you'd have to kind of decentralize Bangladesh.


You really would have to, I guess, act with a powerful authority, which isn't isn't that right?


And there it's a tragedy of commons for the country as a whole, probably boosting more on growth and more business and the sort of interior and developing the infrastructure would be a good thing. But it's not really necessarily a good thing in the short run for any of the individual individual parties. So to be honest, if you asked me, I think that making TACA more livable as a sort of political and economic project that has more chance of succeeding than creating a sort of alternative economic sense somewhere.


And yeah. And the wrong war in Iraq. Shuki or elsewhere.


Yeah. I mean, I think what you're describing is a coordination problem, right? Pretty much so. Yeah. Yeah.


Well, so we're talking about economics.


I'm curious about the culture.


Like, what was your you know, you're a worldly guy promoting. What was your biggest surprise culturally when you arrived in Dhaka in the middle teens?


That's that's a very good question.


I think the biggest surprise was really all the division, let's say, between that that your listeners are probably familiar in the Indian context. But I was surprised to see that in Bangladesh, when the sorts of Anglophone and Bengali culture, I felt that there are you know, it's partly a matter of class where, of course, you know, the richest people, which tends to be more possibly associated with its own Anglophone, more Anglophone community. But still, it wasn't exactly as clear cut.


It was more perhaps, you know, old money versus new money with a new money being more Anglophone.


But it was it was pretty interesting to me that basically, first of all, the Anglophone culture in in Bangladesh makes less sense than Anglophone culture in and, say, India, because at the end of the day, everybody in Bangladesh is Bengali and they do speak they grew up speaking Bangla at home.


So it's strictly a sort of community and a class thing. So it was it was very surprising to me that in a way, at least among the sort of middle and upper middle class that were those to attack us, one could say that that the people, depending on whether you were more part of that kind of Bengali or the Anglophone community, you'd all have gone to different schools. You'd probably live in a different neighborhoods. And quite likely you'd also have a very different kind of patterns of consumption of culture.


I find it pretty interesting that, like Takala, English is not a native language for most of the people could sustain, for instance, like five or six English daily newspapers and a similar similar number of Bengali ones. So that was one kind of surprising thing to me. I did not say I was expecting that English would be just the language of the expats class. I didn't quite understand that the sort of cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan Bengali community.


And really we'll see, you know, kind of a negative, even though it's English, it was very much a homegrown native sort of community in a sense that, like I would meet friends who have spent their whole lives in English schools, they would not even like learn written by law, and they would speak with this kind of American style international school accent. But they actually have never been outside Bangladesh. I mean, those are extreme cases, but I know people like that.


So that was, I guess, one thing that surprised me the most in my early days.


So, I mean, how can you survive in Bangladesh? I mean, I'm illiterate myself, but so. But I don't live there. How could you survive Bangladesh without knowing how to read or write the language? All. I mean, it's you just you just have some people who read all rights for you, it's pretty funny, but like one of my bosses, you know, she was Bengalese. She wasn't very fluence in Bangla. So when we with some government appointments, often you need to find yourself or your name, like on the lists of appointments with a security guy to to get all the right passes and so on.


So I would be like looking up her name for her because you know how to read and write. I learned.


Yeah, I learned pretty quickly. I figure it's, you know, it's like I should be a good immigrant.


So, yeah, you basically have like you have a whole ecosystem. Or for people who are only familiar with the English script, you know, you've got English newspapers, you've got so.


Yeah. And it sort of depends on who. Oh, while you are professionally like you definitely could not deal with your job not knowing Bangalore if you worked for the government, I mean, you wouldn't have got the job in the first place. The Bangladesh Civil Service Exam has like a long Bangalore paper. But if you're looking at sort of more internationally oriented environment, let's imagine you work for an international bank.


Yeah. You know. Oh, by reading and writing needs, you have to have a guy that's actually. Yeah, that's, uh, that's fascinating.


You know, so my parents, they grew up and they grew up in Pakistan, I guess.


But I mean, they were shocked when they first started going back to Bangladesh a lot in the 90s about the switch to native medium as opposed to English language, which is what they grew up with predominantly. So just in school. But I mean, they don't how to read it, right? I mean, this this is like a whole new thing happening.


I got an Anglophone native class that's not entirely shocked, but it's it's still kind of weird because, as you said, this is a nation with one primary linguistic ethnicity, Anglo ethno linguistic group. So it's not like you could have an English speaking group that, you know, is just one of the many different language groups. You know, it's just it's weird.


Did you like what is your take on, like, religious divisions or fundamentalism or anything like that? Like I mean, I'm just curious. Like what you perceive that dimension.


That's very interesting because in those years. Twenty, fourteen, twenty sixteen, I spent that workwise, I would say pivotal. And the developments all fall on Islamic Islamist fundamentalism. And so the overall trajectory. So, you know, it was as you very well know, the origins of the country were very certainly secular with the sort of secular or Bengali identity and Bengali nationalism that was sort of rallying cry and the liberation war against Pakistan. But since then, since 1971, things kind of moved in different waves.


But so when I when I when I arrived, all the secularism was, I would say, very sternly defended by most of the people that I interacted with from various social classes and of all religious backgrounds. But having said that, you know, there are certain quirks, right. Sorry that in the 1990s are Shad's, for instance, moved on all the working week from Monday to Friday to Sunday to Thursday. So that, for instance, is is kind of not exactly a secularist move, if you wish.


But still, you know, it was. Very, very I would say quite entrenched, more so than probably in most other Muslim countries have ever been to. But now between when I landed in Takhar and then when I left all if you recall the global developments, that was also the peak of the activity of the Islamic State in in the Middle East and the overall rise in Islamist fundamentalists attacks and in Europe. And you could slowly, slowly see these ideas getting seeded and finding funding all listeners and followers in Bangladesh.


I would say that's just one theory out of many. But the way I see it is much of it's much of the sort of modern day modern day fundamentalism would be imported from Britain often, you know, ethnic Bangladeshis from Tower Hamlets or elsewhere in Britain would be channelling ideas, money and so on.


And so different recruitment or persuasion materials over to their cousins and in Bangladesh. And so you could see the fundamentalism of all or slowly rising in in the media, in the social media and in the public square. All that has been like shortly after I arrived, the first killings of of atheists, booksellers and overall free thinkers would start. And that really started having quite a chilling effect on the expression so far of activism and in the public square. The the biggest watershed moments was actually twenty sixteen when.


Well, twenty, fifteen, twenty sixteen when all the foreigners started to get targets.


It's in a sort of funny a little bit for alliance grotesque way because one of the first ISIS assassinations of a foreigner, a Japanese dude and the wrong before had actually converted to Islam a few months or like a few years before. But they didn't update the records.


But anyway, so that the kind of the apprehension that you felt was rising and the peak of it was, I would say, the attack on the Holy Bakery in twenty sixteen and July twenty sixteen, which was the biggest terrorist attack that Bangladesh had seen in a long time. And that kind of I guess at that point, everybody had noticed that Bangladesh had a problem. I mean, funnily enough or not so fondly, Borz or the bakery actually was on the street where I lived in Dhaka.


So I was actually at that point on the day of the attack. I see. But like, I could like I turn on BBC and like literally the police line the guy was broadcasting from in front of the police line, which was set right next to the entrance of my apartment block.


So that was quite unnerving. I did. I knew I knew people who.


Or were killed in that attack. I knew people who were killed in other attacks, too, so it was at was quite gloomy.


But also at that point, I would say it was it was the sort of watershed moment in a sense, that like a lot of people who were very much on the sort of either, you know, involved in the atheist community or other Islamic pursuits, like fighting for LGBT rights or simply being associated with the Shia community, Ahmadis say they were all like, no, we need to get out of the country.


Or if they decided to stay, they would just, you know, scale down or eliminate all sort of public activities, just just stick to private matters. I was at that time, I was really concerned that the country was on on on on very short or, you know, it was it was very close to like going totally belly up for us for as Islamism was concerns and and close friends of mine would emigrate free, flee the country. I think that's looking in hindsight.


I think that's the worst predictions that I myself had had, did not come to or did not all become reality.


But of course, still, I would say the situation right now is worse when it comes to, like, free thinking than it was 10 years ago.


But I think that's what I didn't quite appreciate, is the eradication of of of the Islamic State as a sort of physical entity in Syria. And Iraq was quite, quite a blow to that propaganda. And actually, I think that the people in South Asia and Southeast Asia kind of benefited from it. It was the we tends to kind of discount these things in the West.


But the very fact that the caliphate was existing and striving and they had like the glossy magazines and the like, slick videos distributed through the social media, that was a powerful recruitment tool that I would say is not there anymore. Thank God.


Yeah. Yeah. So I want to I want to close out, like, speak your predictions economics. Bangladesh has made huge strides over the last generation in kind of in a shocking way, to be frank, focusing on this export like textile exports.


But, you know, the other people, many of the Bengali who are quite gloomy about future possibilities because it seems like maybe Bangladesh is stuck in its segment of the value chain, I guess is sort of going up. It's just kind of like stabilized as a, you know, upper lower or lower middle income country.


I mean, what are your thoughts about that from an economic perspective? All of a month gets thoroughly trashed for that, but I'm still quite an optimist, I think.


But you, like Bangladesh, does have all. All it takes to have that leap that the people are generally comparing, comparing to other countries are the same income level.


All people are pretty well-educated. The you know, the schooling system is not perfect, but it's better than in many other places. They are very well connected. It's, you know, the moments you kind of attune yourself to Bengali accents and Bagla as a language.


You kind of hear that everywhere you go in the world. So I think that's also something that shouldn't be discounted.


There are you've you've got all Bangladeshi businesses doing things in Singapore, Malaysia or Japan, or actually there is, you know, links between Japan and Bangladesh are pretty strong. So I think that's I know I wouldn't describe the possibility of Bangladesh becoming more like saying Malaysia or in 50 years time. The big, big obstacle, as we, you know, where we started is really the infrastructure. And it's pretty difficult to get that moving parts other than that.


So I watched a lot of Bangladesh. I mean. I mean.


I mean, that's good to hear. I guess the question are so one of my friends who actually does some some development economics and he's Bangladeshi, is like his concern is that the economic growth has been driven by this like low skill textile sector and that there's not diversification in terms of like services and other high skill value added sectors of the economy.


Kind of a little bit the inverse of India's problem, where India has a lot of segments, sectors that are high value add, but it's kind of underperforming on the manufacturing, the lower skill at. Right. So I guess what you're saying is you're still optimistic that at some point the other half or the other elements of the economy will snap into place? Oh, yeah, I would say so the I mean, to be honest, I'm not quite optimistic when it comes to, you know, industry as such, I don't think that at this point all of Bangladesh has exactly the potential to to become another South Korea or Taiwan on Terrace.


You know, we're not going to have, like semiconductor manufacturing coming out of Bangladesh any time soon. But I mean, there are some sectors that are doing all right. I would say pharmaceutical pharmaceuticals, similar to India is something that you can grow in.


But say at the end of the day, you know, you can still do relatively well even if you don't manage to industrialize like they are. If you look at some of the examples, I mean, let's say, you know, the Philippines, it's not doing economically fantastic, but it's it's still a comparatively well-off country compared to, let's say, Bangladesh stands.


So just so you know, growth and the export of services and some like manufacturing.


So we can take you to some pretty good places.


I mean, even where I'm coming from, where I'm coming from, Poland is doing economically pretty well.


But much of it was just I mean, of course, a great part of it was simply the the big boost of development funds that the country got from the EU.


But it's managed to do economically pretty well still without the sort of a South Korean driven, South Korean style export import substitution driven development.


So I could very well see that's you know, there's a more vibrant domestic consumption driven economy, plus exporting those services abroad, outsourcing everything from call centers to be opposed to to software developments. It's got some potential I. Tune in next week for Brownell's.