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Bangladesh THRESHOLD 21 Model

Keywords: Economic Development


The Bangladesh THRESHOLD 21 model is a user-friendly PC computer-based national development model that assesses the long-term (50-100 years) impacts of alternative tax, subsidy and other relative-price factors on national development indicators. Social, economic, environmental, and security implications are analyzed endogenously.

THRESHOLD 21 includes sectors for demography, health care, education, nutrition, goods, trade, agriculture, fuel resources, energy, pollution, military, technology, debt, national accounts and "rest of world." The sectors are dynamically linked through over 1000 equations.


The THRESHOLD 21 model provides social acceptance and consensus by bringing stakeholders' "mental models" out into the open for visual comparison. The user-friendly comprehension of the model provides a level plane for people of all educational backgrounds and computer abilities to reach consensus.

THRESHOLD 21 is a proven practice that has been applied around the world. Some examples include Bangladesh version completed in the Spring of 1995, the United States version near completion in the Summer 1995, and the work on the China model slated for completion in the Fall of 1995. Other potential applications include India and Costa Rica.

The sustainability of our model has been demonstrated by the MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE'S ability to raise over $450,000 to fund the development of this project. This is further supported by the growing level of interest demonstrated by international development organizations and individual countries. Organizations such as the World Bank and Canada's IDRC hosted seminars in October 1995 to showcase the THRESHOLD 21 model. Additional seminars are planned for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in April 1996.

The potential for broader application is apparent for the simple fact that THRESHOLD 21 can be applied to every country on Earth. These country models can then be synthesized into one global model to formulate a global action plan for sustainable development. THRESHOLD 21 can also be applied to sub-national regions.

The development of THRESHOLD 21 has relied exclusively on partnerships. The MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE seeks the cooperation of well-established institutions to develop the new sectors of the model and to strengthen existing sectors. Partnerships already established include UNICEF, US Department of Agriculture, the World Bank, the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Networks (CIESIN), CSIRO in Australia, and several private firms. A partnership with EcoNet, an international Internet communications provider, allows for increased dialogue and rapid distribution of information about the model. The MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE's international advisory groups of prominent economists, modelers, and field experts actively discuss, recommend, and approve changes in THRESHOLD 21.

THRESHOLD 21 is a tool to draw attention to the urbanization process in the context of an entire nation. The model not only illustrates the relative contributions or rural and urban manufacturing to the national economy, but also the relative importance of environmental problems related to rural agriculture and urban manufacturing. The incorporation of a housing sector will facilitate the analysis of housing investment on education, for example.

Data were collected from the World Bank, United Nations, official books published by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and Planning Commission, UNICEF, the Bangladesh Minister of Planning, and Humayun Kabir, ambassador of Bangladesh to the USA. Data were collected in the form of publications, diskettes and CDROMs, telephone calls and personal interviews. Data were analyzed and compiled by the above sources and by the MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE's Dr. Weishuang Qu.

Analysis and error detection were principally done by the data collectors, Dr. Robert Eberlein and Dr. Weishaung Qu. To analyze and validate the model, the THRESHOLD 21 model was first simulated from 1965 to 1995 and the simulation results were compared to actual data and trends for the same period. Where necessary, parameters in THRESHOLD 21 were adjusted so that the simulation fit the historical trends reasonably well. THRESHOLD 21 was then used primarily to study the future (1995 to 2050) using different combinations of various policy scenarios.

The principal demonstrable benefit from using THRESHOLD 21 has been the change in the donor and development community's attitude toward long-term thinking and planning for Bangladesh. THRESHOLD 21 has had a clear impact on the national government and NGOs in Bangladesh. They now want to install the THRESHOLD 21 model in many agencies and NGOs. In addition to being used by UNICEF-Bangladesh, it is also being used by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the Bangladesh Ministry of Planning, the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, BRAC and the Grameen Bank.

Additional institutional links for improving policies or strategies have been developed with Logistics Management Institute of the USA, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, the International Technology and Economy Institute of China, and the National Research Center for Science and Technology for Development of China.

The sustainable impact of the Bangladesh THRESHOLD 21 model can also be seen in the following facts:

  • After initial use in Bangladesh, THRESHOLD 21 has now been replicated for the United States, and is being replicated for China and Tunisia, all at the national level.
  • The MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE has been invited by UNICEF-Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh again in early 1996 to further the institutional use of THRESHOLD 21 in major Bangladesh government agencies.
  • Rolf Carriere has nominated the THRESHOLD 21 model for the $1 million Hilton Prize.
  • The European Union has invited the MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE to submit a proposal for 1 million ECUs to provide support for use of the model in Bangladesh.
  • Wally N'Dow has invited the MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE to make presentations on THRESHOLD 21 at Habitat II.
  • The Business Section of Habitat II has also invited the MILLENNIUM INSTITUTE to make presentations on THRESHOLD 21 to the Business Section.


  • Improved decision making for UNICEF-Bangladesh and the Bangladesh government on issues related to Bangladesh children and to sustainable development.
  • Improved understanding of the relative importance of urban and rural development and associated budget priorities.
  • Improve understanding of alternative taxes, subsidies, and other relative price policies in Bangladesh.
  • Improved dialogue and cooperation among major donors, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh.
  • Improved ability to review and critique models used by government ministries, donor organizations, and non-governmental organizations.


a. Changes in legislation, laws and by-laws:

    * potential for influencing all national budget legislation.

b. Changes in sectoral policies and strategies

    * provides a means of assessing the relative contributions of urban, rural, social, economic, demographic, health care, education, nutrition, goods, trade, agriculture, fuel resources, energy, pollution, military, technology, debt, and national accounts so that a balance can be maintained.
    * becomes a vehicle for maximizing the effectiveness of national investments.

c. Harmonization of sectoral policies and strategies:

    * THRESHOLD 21 harmonizes the many sectors and provides a coherent analysis of national policy impacts and adjustments.

d. Changes in institutional arrangements:

    * strengthens the ability of non-governmental organizations, social agencies, labor groups, bankers, and business people to thoughtfully and constructively engage with ministers on national policy.

e. Changes in management systems and decision-making processes:

    * improves transparency in decision-making.
    * facilitates constructive dialog
    * builds consensus

f. Use of new technology:

    * state-of-the-art, Windows based, PC computer simulation software.
    * bridges the gap between statistics collection and policy decisions by visually presenting mental models and underlying assumptions about how policy changes will shape the future.
    * ability to manipulate data indicators and instantaneously view the consequences of policy levers.
    * most advanced and user-friendly modeling system software of its kind to successfully manage a nation's economic, social, and ecological policies.

g. Changes in public awareness and perceptions:

    * creates awareness in multilateral donor and lending agencies that a new level of sophistication in national modeling is both possible and necessary.
    * creates awareness among non-governmental organizations that models can be understandable, useful, and influential.


  • Threshold 21 is now in use in Bangladesh, United States, China, and Tunisia. Negotiations are in progress for many additional clients.
  • The US Department of Agriculture has signed contract to develop agricultural models to link with Threshold 21.
  • To date more that 450,000 US$ has been raised to support the development of the THRESHOLD 21 model.
  • Threshold 21 improves the understanding of the relative importance of urban and rural development and associated budget priorities.
  • Threshold 21 improves understanding of alternative taxes, subsidies, and relative price policies in Bangladesh.
  • Threshold 21 improves dialogue and cooperation among major donors, government agencies and non-government organizations .


    Millennium Institute
    1117 North 19th Street, Suite 900


    UNICEF - Dhaka, Bangladesh
    Dr. Rolf C. Carriere, UNICEF
    House 73, Road 5A


    US Department of Agriculture, Washington DC
    Dr. Rolf Carriere, UNICEF
    House 73, Road 5A

    World Bank, Washington DC
    Dr. Weishuang Qu
    1117 North 19th Street, Suite 900

    ISTIC, China
    Jim Herm, President of ACTS, Inc.
    120 Cutler Road
    United States

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