Economy of Bangladesh
Skyscrapers in Dhaka
|1 July – 30 June|
|SAFTA, BIMSTEC, WTO|
$226.7 billion (nominal; 2016)|
$628.3 billion (PPP; 2016)
|GDP rank||46th (nominal) / 34th (PPP)|
GDP per capita
$1,403 (nominal; 2016)|
$3,890 (PPP; 2016)
GDP per capita rank
|150th (nominal) / 139th (PPP)|
GDP by sector
services: 56.3% (2015 est.)
Population below poverty line
|13% living below $2/day (2016)|
|81.95 million (2015)|
Labour force by occupation
|agriculture: 40%, industry: 30%, services: 30% (2013)|
|Unemployment||4.5% (2013 est.)|
|jute, cotton, garments, paper, leather, fertilizer, iron and steel, cement, petroleum products, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, tea, salt, sugar, edible oils, soap and detergent, fabricated metal products, electricity, natural gas|
|Exports||$37.61 billion (FY2015-16)|
|garments, knitwear, agricultural products, frozen food (fish and seafood), jute and jute goods, leather|
Main export partners
|US 13.9%, Germany 12.9%, UK 8.9%, France 5%, Spain 4.7% (2015)|
|Imports||$40.69 billion (FY 2014-15)|
|cotton, machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, foodstuffs|
Main import partners
|China 22.4%, India 14.1%, Singapore 5.2% (2015)|
Gross external debt
|$35.49 billion (31 December 2015 est.)|
|31.9% of GDP (2015 est.)|
|Revenues||$20.96 billion (2015 est.)|
|Expenses||$30.75 billion (2015 est.)|
BB- (T&C assessment)
(Standard & Poor's)
|$31.20 billion (July 2016)|
The market-based economy of Bangladesh is the 44th largest in the world in nominal terms, and 32nd largest by purchasing power parity; it is classified among the Next Eleven emerging market economies. According to the IMF, Bangladesh's economy is the second fastest growing major economy of 2016, with a rate of 7.1%. Dhaka and Chittagong are the principal financial centers of the country, being home to the Dhaka Stock Exchange and the Chittagong Stock Exchange.The financial sector of Bangladesh is the second largest in the subcontinent.
In the decade since 2004, Bangladesh averaged a GDP growth of 6.5%, that has been largely driven by its exports of ready made garments, remittances and the domestic agricultural sector. The country has pursued export-oriented industrialisation, with its key export sectors include textiles, shipbuilding, fish and seafood, jute and leather goods. It has also developed self-sufficient industries in pharmaceuticals, steel and food processing. Bangladesh's telecommunication industry has witnessed rapid growth over the years, receiving high investment from foreign companies. Bangladesh also has substantial reserves of natural gas and is Asia's seventh largest gas producer. Offshore exploration activities are increasing in its maritime territory in the Bay of Bengal. It also has large deposits of limestone. The government promotes the Digital Bangladesh scheme as part of its efforts to develop the country's growing information technology sector.
Bangladesh is strategically important for the economies of Northeast India, Nepal and Bhutan, as Bangladeshi seaports provide maritime access for these landlocked regions and countries. China also views Bangladesh as a potential gateway for its landlocked southwest, including Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan.
In 2016, per-capita income was estimated as per IMF data at US$3,840 (PPP) and US$1,386 (Nominal). Bangladesh is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The economy faces challenges of infrastructure bottlenecks, insufficient power and gas supplies, bureaucratic corruption, political instability, natural calamities and a lack of skilled workers.
East Bengal - the eastern segment of Bengal - was a historically prosperous region. The Ganges Delta provided advantages of a mild, almost tropical climate, fertile soil, ample water, and an abundance of fish, wildlife, and fruit. The standard of living is believed to have been higher compared with other parts of South Asia. As early as the thirteenth century, the region was developing as an agrarian economy. Bengal was the junction of trade routes on the Southeastern Silk Road. Under Mughal rule, it was a center of the worldwide muslin, silk and pearl trade. The British East India company, however, on their arrival in the late eighteenth century, chose to develop Calcutta, now the capital city of West Bengal, as their commercial and administrative center for the company held territories in South Asia. The development of East Bengal was thereafter limited to agriculture. The administrative infrastructure of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reinforced East Bengal's function as the primary agricultural producer—chiefly of rice, tea, teak, cotton, sugar cane and jute — for processors and traders from around Asia and beyond.
After its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh followed a socialist economy by nationalising all industries, proving to be a critical blunder undertaken by the Awami League government. Some of the same factors that had made East Bengal a prosperous region became disadvantages during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As life expectancy increased, the limitations of land and the annual floods increasingly became constraints on economic growth. Traditional agricultural methods became obstacles to the modernisation of agriculture. Geography severely limited the development and maintenance of a modern transportation and communications system.
The partition of British India and the emergence of India and Pakistan in 1947 severely disrupted the economic system. The united government of Pakistan expanded the cultivated area and some irrigation facilities, but the rural population generally became poorer between 1947 and 1971 because improvements did not keep pace with rural population increase. Pakistan's five-year plans opted for a development strategy based on industrialisation, but the major share of the development budget went to West Pakistan, that is, contemporary Pakistan. The lack of natural resources meant that East Pakistan was heavily dependent on imports, creating a balance of payments problem. Without a substantial industrialisation program or adequate agrarian expansion, the economy of East Pakistan steadily declined. Blame was placed by various observers, but especially those in East Pakistan, on the West Pakistani leaders who not only dominated the government but also most of the fledgling industries in East Pakistan.
Since Bangladesh followed a socialist economy by nationalising all industries after its independence, it underwent a slow growth of producing experienced entrepreneurs, managers, administrators, engineers, and technicians. There were critical shortages of essential food grains and other staples because of wartime disruptions. External markets for jute had been lost because of the instability of supply and the increasing popularity of synthetic substitutes. Foreign exchange resources were minuscule, and the banking and monetary systems were unreliable. Although Bangladesh had a large work force, the vast reserves of under trained and underpaid workers were largely illiterate, unskilled, and underemployed. Commercially exploitable industrial resources, except for natural gas, were lacking. Inflation, especially for essential consumer goods, ran between 300 and 400 percent. The war of independence had crippled the transportation system. Hundreds of road and railroad bridges had been destroyed or damaged, and rolling stock was inadequate and in poor repair. The new country was still recovering from a severe cyclone that hit the area in 1970 and cause 250,000 deaths. India came forward immediately with critically measured economic assistance in the first months after Bangladesh achieved independence from Pakistan. Between December 1971 and January 1972, India committed US$232 million in aid to Bangladesh from the politco-economic aid India received from the US and USSR. Official amount of disbursement yet undisclosed.
After 1975, Bangladeshi leaders began to turn their attention to developing new industrial capacity and rehabilitating its economy. The static economic model adopted by these early leaders, however—including the nationalisation of much of the industrial sector—resulted in inefficiency and economic stagnation. Beginning in late 1975, the government gradually gave greater scope to private sector participation in the economy, a pattern that has continued. Many state-owned enterprises have been privatised, like banking, telecommunication, aviation, media, and jute. Inefficiency in the public sector has been rising however at a gradual pace; external resistance to developing the country's richest natural resources is mounting; and power sectors including infrastructure have all contributed to slowing economic growth.
In the mid-1980s, there were encouraging signs of progress. Economic policies aimed at encouraging private enterprise and investment, privatising public industries, reinstating budgetary discipline, and liberalising the import regime were accelerated. From 1991 to 1993, the government successfully followed an enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but failed to follow through on reforms in large part because of preoccupation with the government's domestic political troubles. In the late 1990s the government's economic policies became more entrenched, and some gains were lost, which was highlighted by a precipitous drop in foreign direct investment in 2000 and 2001. In June 2003 the IMF approved 3-year, $490-million plan as part of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) for Bangladesh that aimed to support the government's economic reform program up to 2006. Seventy million dollars was made available immediately. In the same vein the World Bank approved $536 million in interest-free loans. In the year 2010 Government of India extended a line of credit worth $1 billion to counterbalance China's close relationship with Bangladesh.
Bangladesh historically has run a large trade deficit, financed largely through aid receipts and remittances from workers overseas. Foreign reserves dropped markedly in 2001 but stabilised in the USD3 to USD4 billion range (or about 3 months' import cover). In January 2007, reserves stood at $3.74 billion, and then increased to $5.8 billion by January 2008, in November 2009 it surpassed $10.0 billion, and as of April 2011 it surpassed the US $12 billion according to the Bank of Bangladesh, the central bank. The dependence on foreign aid and imports has also decreased gradually since the early 1990s. According to Bangladesh bank the reserve is $30 billions in August 2016
This is a chart of trend of gross domestic product of Bangladesh at market prices estimated by the International Monetary Fund with figures in millions of Bangladeshi Taka. However, this reflects only the formal sector of the economy.
|Year||Gross Domestic Product (Million Taka)||US Dollar Exchange|| Inflation Index|
| Per Capita Income|
(as % of USA)
Mean wages were $0.58 per man-hour in 2009.
Most Bangladeshis earn their living from agriculture. Although rice and jute are the primary crops, maize and vegetables are assuming greater importance. Due to the expansion of irrigation networks, some wheat producers have switched to cultivation of maize which is used mostly as poultry feed. Tea is grown in the northeast. Because of Bangladesh's fertile soil and normally ample water supply, rice can be grown and harvested three times a year in many areas. Due to a number of factors, Bangladesh's labour-intensive agriculture has achieved steady increases in food grain production despite the often unfavourable weather conditions. These include better flood control and irrigation, a generally more efficient use of fertilisers, and the establishment of better distribution and rural credit networks. With 28.8 million metric tons produced in 2005-2006 (July–June), rice is Bangladesh's principal crop. By comparison, wheat output in 2005-2006 was 9 million metric tons. Population pressure continues to place a severe burden on productive capacity, creating a food deficit, especially of wheat. Foreign assistance and commercial imports fill the gap, but seasonal hunger ("monga") remains a problem. Underemployment remains a serious problem, and a growing concern for Bangladesh's agricultural sector will be its ability to absorb additional manpower. Finding alternative sources of employment will continue to be a daunting problem for future governments, particularly with the increasing numbers of landless peasants who already account for about half the rural labour force. Due to farmers' vulnerability to various risks, Bangladesh's poorest face numerous potential limitations on their ability to enhance agriculture production and their livelihoods. These include an actual and perceived risk to investing in new agricultural technologies and activities (despite their potential to increase income), a vulnerability to shocks and stresses and a limited ability to mitigate or cope with these and limited access to market information.
Manufacturing and industry
Many new jobs - mostly for women - have been created by the country's dynamic private ready-made garment industry, which grew at double-digit rates through most of the 1990s. By the late 1990s, about 1.5 million people, mostly women, were employed in the garments sector as well as Leather products specially Footwear (Shoe manufacturing unit). During 2001-2002, export earnings from ready-made garments reached $3,125 million, representing 52% of Bangladesh's total exports. Bangladesh has overtaken India in apparel exports in 2009, its exports stood at 2.66 billion US dollar, ahead of India's 2.27 billion US dollar and in 2014 the export rose to $3.12 billion every month.
Eastern Bengal was known for its fine muslin and silk fabric before the British period. The dyes, yarn, and cloth were the envy of much of the premodern world. Bengali muslin, silk, and brocade were worn by the aristocracy of Asia and Europe. The introduction of machine-made textiles from England in the late eighteenth century spelled doom for the costly and time-consuming hand loom process. Cotton growing died out in East Bengal, and the textile industry became dependent on imported yarn. Those who had earned their living in the textile industry were forced to rely more completely on farming. Only the smallest vestiges of a once-thriving cottage industry survived.
Other industries which have shown very strong growth include the pharmaceutical industry, shipbuilding industry, information technology, leather industry, steel industry, and light engineering industry.
Bangladesh's textile industry, which includes knitwear and ready-made garments (RMG) along with specialised textile products, is the nation's number one export earner, accounting for $21.5 billion in 2013 – 80% of Bangladesh's total exports of $27 billion. Bangladesh is 2nd in world textile exports, behind China, which exported $120.1 billion worth of textiles in 2009. The industry employs nearly 3.5 million workers. Current exports have doubled since 2004. Wages in Bangladesh's textile industry were the lowest in the world as of 2010. The country was considered the most formidable rival to China where wages were rapidly rising and currency was appreciating. As of 2012 wages remained low for the 3 million people employed in the industry, but labour unrest was increasing despite vigorous government action to enforce labour peace. Owners of textile firms and their political allies were a powerful political influence in Bangladesh. The urban garment industry has created more than one million formal sector jobs for women, contributing to the high female labour participation in Bangladesh. While it can be argued that women working in the garment industry are subjected to unsafe labour conditions and low wages, Dina M. Siddiqi argues that even though conditions in Bangladesh garment factories "are by no means ideal," they still give women in Bangladesh the opportunity to earn their own wages. As evidence she points to the fear created by the passage of the 1993 Harkins Bill (Child Labor Deterrence Bill), which caused factory owners to dismiss "an estimated 50,000 children, many of whom helped support their families, forcing them into a completely unregulated informal sector, in lower-paying and much less secure occupations such as brick-breaking, domestic service and rickshaw pulling."
Even though the working conditions in garment factories are not ideal, they tend to financially be more reliable than other occupations and, "enhance women’s economic capabilities to spend, save and invest their incomes." Both married and unmarried women send money back to their families as remittances, but these earned wages have more than just economic benefits. Many women in the garment industry are marrying later, have lower fertility rates, and attain higher levels of education, then women employed elsewhere.
After massive labour unrest in 2006 the government formed a Minimum Wage Board including busineref>"Bangladesh world's 2nd most pro-free market country". Dhaka Tribune. 1 November 2014.ss and worker representatives which in 2006 set a minimum wage equivalent to 1,662.50 taka, $24 a month, up from Tk950. In 2010, following widespread labour protests involving 60,000 workers in June 2010, a controversial proposal was being considered by the Board which would raise the monthly minimum to the equivalent of $50 a month, still far below worker demands of 5,000 taka, $72, for entry level wages, but unacceptably high according to textile manufacturers who are asking for a wage below $30. On 28 July 2010 it was announced that the minimum entry level wage would be increased to 3,000 taka, about $43.
The government also seems to believe some change is necessary. On 21 September 2006 then ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia called on textile firms to ensure the safety of workers by complying with international labour law at a speech inaugurating the Bangladesh Apparel & Textile Exposition (BATEXPO).
Shipbuilding and ship breaking
Shipbuilding is a growing industry in Bangladesh with great potentials. The potentials of shipbuilding in Bangladesh has made the country to be compared with countries like China, Japan and South Korea. Referring to the growing amount of export deals secured by the shipbuilding companies as well as the low cost labour available in the country, experts suggest that Bangladesh could emerge as a major competitor in the global market of small to medium ocean-going vessels.
Bangladesh also has the world's largest ship breaking industry which employs over 200,000 Bangladeshis and accounts for half of all the steel in Bangladesh. Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard is world's second-largest ship breaking area.
Khulna Shipyard Limited (KSY) with over five decades of reputation has been leading the Bangladesh Shipbuilding industry and had built a wide spectrum of ships for domestic and international clients. KSY built ships for Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Army and Bangladesh Coast Guard under the contract of ministry of defense.
Until 1980s, the financial sector of Bangladesh was dominated by state-owned banks. With the grand-scale reform made in finance, private commercial banks were established through privatization. The next finance sector reform program was launched from 2000 to 2006 with focus on the development of financial institutions and adoption of risk-based regulations and supervision by Bangladesh Bank. As of date, the banking sector consisted of 4 SCBs, 4 government-owned specialized banks dealing in development financing, 39 private commercial banks, and 9 foreign commercial banks.
The stock market capitalisation of the Dhaka Stock Exchange in Bangladesh crossed $10 billion in November 2007 and the $30 billion mark in 2009, and USD 50 billion in August 2010. Bangladesh had the best performing stock market in Asia during the recent global recession between 2007 and 2010, due to relatively low correlations with developed country stock markets.
Major investment in real estate by domestic and foreign-resident Bangladeshis has led to a massive building boom in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Recent (2011) trends for investing in Bangladesh as Saudi Arabia trying to secure public and private investment in oil and gas, power and transportation projects, United Arab Emirates (UAE) is keen to invest in growing shipbuilding industry in Bangladesh encouraged by comparative cost advantage, Tata, an India-based leading industrial multinational to invest Taka 1500 crore to set up an automobile industry in Bangladesh, World Bank to invest in rural roads improving quality of live, the Rwandan entrepreneurs are keen to invest in Bangladesh's pharmaceuticals sector considering its potentiality in international market, Samsung sought to lease 500 industrial plots from the export zones authority to set up an electronics hub in Bangladesh with an investment of US$1.25 billion, National Board of Revenue (NBR) is set to withdraw tax rebate facilities on investment in the capital market by individual taxpayers from the fiscal 2011-12. In 2011, Japan Bank for International Cooperation ranked Bangladesh as the 15th best investment destination for foreign investors.
2010-11 market crash
The bullish capital market turned bearish during 2010, with the exchange losing 1,800 points between December 2010 and January 2011. Millions of investors have been rendered bankrupt as a result of the market crash. The crash is believed to be caused artificially to benefit a handful of players at the expense of the big players.
The Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has predicted textile exports will rise from US$7.90 billion earned in 2005-06 to US$15 billion by 2011. In part this optimism stems from how well the sector has fared since the end of textile and clothing quotas, under the Multifibre Agreement, in early 2005.
According to a United Nations Development Programme report "Sewing Thoughts: How to Realize Human Development Gains in the Post-Quota World" Bangladesh has been able to offset a decline in European sales by cultivating new markets in the United States.
"[In 2005] we had tremendous growth. The quota-free textile regime has proved to be a big boost for our factories," said BGMEA president S.M. Fazlul Hoque told reporters, after the sector's 24 per cent growth rate was revealed.
The Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) president Md Fazlul Hoque has also struck an optimistic tone. In an interview with United News Bangladesh he lauded the blistering growth rate, saying "The quality of our products and its competitiveness in terms of prices helped the sector achieve such... tremendous success."
Knitwear posted the strongest growth of all textile products in 2005-06, surging 35.38 per cent to US$2.82 billion. On the downside however, the sector's strong growth came amid sharp falls in prices for textile products on the world market, with growth subsequently dependent upon large increases in volume.
Bangladesh's quest to boost the quantity of textile trade was also helped by US and EU caps on Chinese textiles. The US cap restricts growth in imports of Chinese textiles to 12.5 per cent next year and between 15 and 16 per cent in 2008. The EU deal similarly manages import growth until 2008.
Bangladesh may continue to benefit from these restrictions over the next two years, however a climate of falling global textile prices forces wage rates the centre of the nation's efforts to increase market share.
They offer a range of incentives to potential investors including 10-year tax holidays, duty-free import of capital goods, raw materials and building materials, exemptions on income tax on salaries paid to foreign nationals for three years and dividend tax exemptions for the period of the tax holiday.
All goods produced in the zones are able to be exported duty-free, in addition to which Bangladesh benefits from the Generalised System of Preferences in US, European and Japanese markets and is also endowed with Most Favoured Nation status from the United States.
Furthermore, Bangladesh imposes no ceiling on investment in the EPZs and allows full repatriation of profits.
Bangladesh has been a world leader in its efforts to end the use of child labour in garment factories. On 4 July 1995, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, International Labour Organization, and UNICEF signed a memorandum of understanding on the elimination of child labour in the garment sector. Implementation of this pioneering agreement began in fall 1995, and by the end of 1999, child labour in the garment trade virtually had been eliminated. The labour-intensive process of ship breaking for scrap has developed to the point where it now meets most of Bangladesh's domestic steel needs. Other industries include sugar, tea, leather goods, newsprint, pharmaceutical, and fertilizer production.
The Bangladesh government continues to court foreign investment, something it has done fairly successfully in private power generation and gas exploration and production, as well as in other sectors such as cellular telephony, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. In 1989, the same year it signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, it established a Board of Investment to simplify approval and start-up procedures for foreign investors, although in practice the board has done little to increase investment. The government created the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority to manage the various export processing zones. The agency currently manages EPZs in Adamjee, Chittagong, Comilla, Dhaka, Ishwardi, Karnaphuli, Mongla, and Uttara. An EPZ has also been proposed for Sylhet. The government has given the private sector permission to build and operate competing EPZs-initial construction on a Korean EPZ started in 1999. In June 1999, the AFL-CIO petitioned the U.S. Government to deny Bangladesh access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), citing the country's failure to meet promises made in 1992 to allow freedom of association in EPZs.
Bangladeshi women and the economy
A 2007 World Bank report stated that the areas in which women's work force participation have increased the most are in the fields of agriculture, education and health and social work. Over three-quarters of women in the labour force work in the agricultural sector. On the other hand, the International Labour Organization reports that women's workforce participation has only increased in the professional and administrative areas between 2000 and 2005, demonstrating women's increased participation in sectors that require higher education. Employment and labour force participation data from the World Bank, the UN, and the ILO vary and often under report on women's work due to unpaid labour and informal sector jobs. Though these fields are mostly paid, women experience very different work conditions than men, including wage differences and work benefits. Women’s wages are significantly lower than men’s wages for the same job with women being paid as much as 60-75 percent less than what men make.
One example of action that is being taken to improve female conditions in the work force is Non-Governmental Organisations. These NGOs encourage women to rely on their own self-savings, rather than external funds provide women with increased decision-making and participation within the family and society. However, some NGOs that address microeconomic issues among individual families fail to deal with broader macroeconomic issues that prevent women's complete autonomy and advancement.
Bangladesh has made significant strides in its economic sector performance since independence in 1971. Although the economy has improved vastly in the 1990s, Bangladesh still suffers in the area of foreign trade in South Asian region. Despite major impediments to growth like the inefficiency of state-owned enterprises, a rapidly growing labour force that cannot be absorbed by agriculture, inadequate power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms, Bangladesh has made some headway improving the climate for foreign investors and liberalising the capital markets; for example, it has negotiated with foreign firms for oil and gas exploration, better countrywide distribution of cooking gas, and the construction of natural gas pipelines and power stations. Progress on other economic reforms has been halting because of opposition from the bureaucracy, public sector unions, and other vested interest groups.
The especially severe floods of 1998 increased the flow of international aid. So far the global financial crisis has not had a major impact on the economy. Foreign aid has seen a gradual decline over the last few decades but economists see this as a good sign for self-reliance. There has been a dramatic growth in exports and remittance inflow which has helped the economy to expand at a steady rate.
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