Economy of Bangladesh
|Economy of Bangladesh|
|Rank||36 (ppp)/ 58 (nominal)|
|Currency||৳ Bangladesh Taka (BDT)|
|1 July - 30 June|
|WTO, SAFTA, BIMSTEC, Developing 8 Countries, BCIM, IOR-ARC|
|6.1% (2013-14 est.)|
GDP per capita
$3,167 (PPP" 144th; 2013 est.)$1,033 (nominal; 2013)
GDP by sector
|Agriculture: 19%; industry: 30%; services: 51% (2013 est.)|
Population below poverty line
|12 (2013 est.)|
|87.9 million (2013)|
Labour force by occupation
|agriculture: 40%, industry: 30%, services: 30% (2013)|
|Unemployment||4.5% (2013 est.)|
|Textiles, food processing, natural gas, jute, shipbuilding, pharmaceuticals, leather, ceramics, cement, glass, paper, fertilizer, appliances, solar energy, information technology|
|Exports||$35.2 billion (2014-15 est.)|
|textiles, leather goods, fish and seafood, porcelain and china, ships and ferries, medicine, software, appliances, jute and jute goods, tea|
Main export partners
| United States 18.7%
United Kingdom 10.2%
India 2% (2013 est.)
|Imports||$33.27 billion (2014-15 est.)|
|machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum products, grains and pulses|
Main import partners
| China 19.5%
South Korea 4.5%
Canada 4% (2013 est.)
Gross external debt
|$36.21 billion (31 December 2012 est.)|
|22.8% of GDP (2013 est.)|
|Revenues||$14.67 billion (2013.)|
|Expenses||$22.15 billion (2013.)|
|BB - (domestic)
BB - (foreign)
BB -(T&C assessment)
(Standard & Poor's)
|$22.327 billion (Jul 2014)|
Bangladesh is a Next Eleven developing country and a market economy. It is dominated by a diversified private sector, alongside state-owned enterprises. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh has a gross domestic product of US$ 173.8 billion in nominal terms and US$ 419.2 billion in PPP terms. Per-capita income stood at US$ 1,190 in 2014. GDP growth has at averaged at a modest rate of 6 percent in the last ten years, in spite of political instability, poor infrastructure and natural disasters. Bangladesh has made significant advances in human development- establishing universal primary education, raising health and nutrition levels and promoting family planning and population control. The country is identified as a major frontier market by global financial institutions.
International trade plays a vital role in the economy. The Bangladesh textile industry is one of the largest in the world, employing 13 million people and generating over $25 billion in foreign exchange. Other major exports include medicine, software, seafood, leather goods, ceramics, electronics and ships. There are reserves of natural gas and coal, with further exploration planned in the Bay of Bengal. The service sector accounts for 50% of GDP. Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing telecommunations markets in the world. The development of banking and financial services, including mobile banking and microfinance, has greatly contributed to economic growth.
Agriculture holds a crucial position in the economy and employs most of the country's workforce. The land is devoted largely to rice and jute cultivation, as well as fruits, tea and other produce; wheat production has increased in recent years. Bangladesh is self-sufficient in food production. The growth of its agricultural industries is due to its fertile soil and geography, that depend on six seasons and multiple harvests.
Bangladesh continues to face major infrastructure bottlenecks, and has mulled massive schemes for the development of highways, rail transport, deepwater seaports and energy security. The service sector has expanded rapidly during the last two decades and the country's industrial base remains very positive. Bangladesh's main endowments include its vast human resource base, rich agricultural land, abundant water, substiantial reserves of natural gas and coal, two natural seaports and central strategic location at the crossroads of SAARC, the ASEAN+3 and the Indian Ocean.
East Bengal - the eastern segment of Bengal - has been historically an important center of trade and commerce since at least the first millennium BCE. 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. The region was a junction on the south west silk route, and commercial centers emerged at several ancient and historical cities across the region. Under Mughal rule, the region flourished as the center of the worldwide muslin trade. The British, 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 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 nationalizing 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 modernization of agriculture. Geography severely limited the development and maintenance of a modern transportation and communications system.
The partition of South Asia 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 industrialization, 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 industrialization 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 nationalizing 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 USA 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 nationalization 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 privatized, 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, privatizing public industries, reinstating budgetary discipline, and liberalizing 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 of the early 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 stabilized 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.
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||US Dollar Exchange||Inflation Index
|Per Capita Income
(as % of USA)
2010 70.20 Taka
2014 76.20 Taka
Mean wages were $0.58 per manhour 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 labor-intensive agriculture has achieved steady increases in food grain production despite the often unfavorable weather conditions. These include better flood control and irrigation, a generally more efficient use of fertilizers, 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 labor 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. Indian companies grabbing Bangladeshi quota in Europe |publisher=Associated Press of Pakistan
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, electronics industry and light engineering industry.
Bangladesh's textile industry, which includes knitwear and ready-made garments along with specialized 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 labor unrest was increasing despite vigorous government action to enforce labor 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 labor participation in Bangladesh. While it can be argued that women working in the garment industry are subjected to unsafe labor 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 labor unrest in 2006 the government formed a Minimum Wage Board including business 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 labor protests involving 100,000 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 July 28, 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 September 21, 2006 then ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia called on textile firms to ensure the safety of workers by complying with international labor law at a speech inaugurating the Bangladesh Apparel & Textile Exposition (BATEXPO).
The stock market capitalization 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.
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.
The formation of labour unions within the EPZs is prohibited as are strikes.
Bangladesh's exports to the U.S. amounted $4.9 billion in 2012.
Bangladesh has been a world leader in its efforts to end the use of child labor in garment factories. On July 4, 1995, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association, International Labour Organization, and UNICEF signed a memorandum of understanding on the elimination of child labor in the garment sector. Implementation of this pioneering agreement began in fall 1995, and by the end of 1999, child labor in the garment trade virtually had been eliminated. The labor-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.
Sylhet is fast becoming a major center of retailing in Bangladesh, with many shopping centres being built by expatriates to serve fellow expatriates visiting Sylhet and the emerging middle class. Many of these developments hark back to Britain.
Bangladeshi women and the economy
“Bangladesh is a highly patriarchal society (as are many countries in the region) with gender being a key factor in defining social roles, responsibilities and power relationships within the family and workplace.” Male workforce participation is significantly higher than female participation, with men participating at 83 percent and women at 59 percent; however, male workforce participation has decreased by 4 percent, while female participation has increased by 4 percent from the year 2000. It should be noted that a 59 percent female participation rate is high in comparison to a lot of countries like Iran, which has a 16.5 female labor participation rate (World Bank 2010), and Lebanon, which has a 22.5 female labor participation rate.
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 labor 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 labor force participation data from the World Bank, the UN, and the ILO vary and often under report on women's work due to unpaid labor 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 Organizations. 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 labor 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 liberalizing 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.
|Fiscal Year||Total Export||Total Import||Foreign Remittance Earnings|
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- Next Eleven
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- Bangladesh textile industry
- Bangladeshi RMG Sector
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- Bangladesh Budget 2007 - 2008
- Bangladesh Income Tax at a Glance, 2009
- World Bank Summary Trade Statistics Bangladesh, 2007