Bangladesh’s Journey from “Basket Case” to “Wonder Case”
Bangladesh today is vastly different from what it was 50 years ago when it emerged as an independent state. From a basket case, it is a glorified mystery to many countries.
In 1971, Bangladesh started its journey from zero, and so its inevitably a surprise case from a basket case.
Over the past five decades, Bangladesh has transformed itself to one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Within the 50 years of time, remarkable improvement in socio-economic development took place in the country for which Bangladesh has transformed into a medium earning country.
According to the World Bank’s classification of countries, Bangladesh became a lower-middle income country from being a low-income country in 2015.
And then in February 2021 The United Nations’ announced Bangladesh graduating to a “developing country” from a “least-developed country”.
Bangladesh now can be considered as a role-model for other developing countries. On average, the GDP of Bangladesh has risen from about 3% in the 1970s to 7% in the 2010s, and had crossed 8% in 2021.
Among many, government’s greater attention towards empowering the private sector, focusing on investment, digitization and skill development are some of the notable ones that made this possible.
A graduation from being agriculturally-dependent to growing through the industry and services sector—is an observable element for Bangladesh. The share of agriculture, industry and services in Bangladesh’s GDP were 52%, 7.68% & and 41.28% respectively in 1971 which reached to 13.35%, 35.36% and 51.29% respectively in 2021(Bangladesh Economic Review, 2021). This doesn’t mean the country lost its focus from agriculture, however, the number of businesses in Industry and services dramatically increased compared to those in agriculture sector.
Some Major Initiatives
The government of Bangladesh has formulated investment friendly policies, acts and laws, enhancing Public Private Partnership (PPP) programs and built large industrial parks known as “Economic Zones”.
The Foreign Private Investment Act 1980 provided confidence to the investors especially foreign investors about security of their investment in Bangladesh. Moreover, government has invested in infrastructure and digitization.
Heavy public spending took place on mega development projects such as Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Bangabandhu Tunnel, and Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
The government created the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority to manage the various export processing zones.
In 1972 Bangladesh received $90,000 FDI, and in 2019 received a record $3.61 billion FDI. Investment to GDP ratio was 31.6% in FY 2018-19, out of which 23.4% came from the private sector and 8.13% from the public sector.
This ratio reached to 21.25% and 8.67% respectively in 2020-2021. In 1991, the access to electricity was 14% which reached 99% in 2021.
Furthermore, the country’s literacy rate has risen to 74.9% in 2020 from 26.8% in 1974. Also, extensive training and skill development programs have been vastly available throughout the country. This made people aware of the fact that they not only can prepare themselves to qualify for a job but also in creating job opportunities.
The ICT industry has been a disruptor and game changer for Bangladesh’s economy. The country’s large number of mobile-money agents and rapid growth in cellular subscriptions reflect the unorthodox model of first-generation cellular providers.
Besides, Because of the pandemic, e-learning, online education, tele medicine and online entertainment have seen a significant rise in demand. The Covid-19 has given a clear message that Blockchain, Big Data, robotics, fintech are no longer a luxury, those are a requirement.
As people will be more reluctant to visit shops and crowded areas physically, the e-commerce sector will boom in the days to come and digital payment will also take over cash payment faster than expectation. This is how e-commerce and F-commerce business boomed throughout the nation.
E-learning is another sector that will thrive more in the coming days. Although the schools, colleges and universities are still closed, we have seen an encouraging effort from the government to continue the education through different e-learning platforms.
Telemedicine is another area, which has achieved tremendous growth. Bangladeshi people could never imagine that they will consult with physicians through virtual platforms. But the new normal has also made it a reality.
The concept of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ has made the country a major hub of ICT-led export industries and digital services.
According to the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), there are more than 2,000 software companies where 500,000 people are employed (Kabir, 2021).
Bangladesh has an active 23 million (benews24, 8 August 2017) facebook users and 143.
1 million mobile phone users(benews24, 12 December 2017). More than 100 companies export their products to over 30 countries like USA, UK, EU UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Malaysia, and Singapore. The exports of the ICT sector were about $1.4 billion in FY2020-21.
As Bangladeshi youth are talented in innovation and leading business enterprises, they are working hard to cross the limits and reach the ultimate glory of success. This is how Bangladesh has developed many promising start-ups which are filling up the technology gap in the country.
Currently 1749 startups are operating in Bangladesh, in diverse sectors like Fintech (bKash, PayWell, ShopUp, SureCash), logistics and mobility (Shohoz, Foodpanda,
Truck Lagbe and Pathao), service (Sheba.xyz, Appoint Me and sManager) and health (Praava Health, Maya and Medi Trail).
Moreover, the emergence of active angel investment networks, impact investing, a host of local and international operating accelerators and incubators has propelled the growth of startups in the country.
Some Development at a Glance
After 50 years of independence today Bangladesh stands among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of the following: 1st in Hilsha Fish production, 2nd in Garment Export, Jute & Jack fruit production, 3rd in vegetable & sweet water fish production, 4th in rice production, 6th in Potato production, and 8th in Guava & Mango production & remittance earning (Uddin, 2021). Table-1 gives a glimpse of some major developments Bangladesh has achieved in last 50 years.
Table-1 Development of Bangladesh: 1971 and 2021
Source: Uddin, R. (NTV news: December 16, 2021)
Despite two times partition, huge after war damage and limited resources Bangladesh has recorded a sustaining high economic growth which is why the country is now being called a ‘development miracle’.
However, this country is also called as a ‘paradox’ by some which refers to its deficits in good governance despite its growth and development. Bangladesh did reach quantity education, but still need quality and training-based education that will prepare the nation to compete globally.
The country needs to rank low in the terms of ease of doing business, needs better infrastructure and credit facilities to gear up more startups and women-based businesses.
Especial emphasis could be given on technological and analytical skills development. Private sector should be encouraged to focus on export diversification.
With these initiatives and the 50 years of experience, we can expect to see a faster, inclusive, and sustainable progress in the country in the coming days.
Department of Marketing and International Business
North South University