On March 26, 2021, Bangladesh will be celebrating 50 years of its independence. The country has come a long way since overcoming the challenges of post-war restructuring and resource management from its early days. Today, Bangladesh is a lower-middle income country ready to shed off its least developed country (LDC) status in 2024. According to the World Economic League Table 2020, Bangladesh is primed to become the 25th largest global economy in 2034. Before the coronavirus crisis affected global growths, the country had been growing steadily at over 6.0 per cent since 2008. Even during the pandemic, Bangladesh is now poised to cross India's per capita GDP in 2020 as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Under the leadership of the Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country is marching towards achieving Vision 2021, the SDGs, and Vision 2041.
Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in the areas of health, education, infant mortality, life expectancy, and poverty alleviation over the years, thereby reducing its economic vulnerability. Since the 1980s, the burgeoning ready-made garments industry has heavily contributed to Bangladesh's rise. Currently, the country is the second largest global apparel producer, the sector generating more than 80 per cent of the country's export earnings.
The country also boasts the highest number of green factories in the world. Among others, pharmaceuticals, basic steel, cement, ceramic and various other industries have flourished over the last few decades. Development of the agricultural sector is demonstrated by the achievement of food sufficiency.
Bangladesh's private sector has also created momentum in economic activities. Currently, the country's total investment is 31.56 per cent of its GDP, and the private sector contributes 23.40 per cent of it. These, coupled with a growing annual remittance north of $18 billion (FY20), have helped Bangladesh to develop the foundation for sustainable growth.
Bangladesh has undergone a vast digital transformation of late. The government's promise of Digital Bangladesh has translated into huge ICT progress, and currently, there are over 110 million internet users in the country. As recognition of its success, the country has also been listed as an ideal outsourcing destination by the European Union (EU).
Finally, Bangladesh entered the space age when it became the 57th country to reach the orbit with Bangabandhu Satellite-1, its own geo-stationary communications satellite. This marked a new era for Bangladesh.
A key to economic growth is the level of infrastructure in a country, something the government has taken great initiatives to build up. With over 4.5 million installed units, Bangladesh is already the global leader in using solar household systems, covering more than 13 million users. 90 per cent of the country's population now has access to electricity. In addition, Padma Bridge, Metro Rail, Elevated Express Way, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Matarbari deep sea port -- all these mega projects in progress are testament to the country's infrastructural development.
The government must be credited for taking initiatives for developing infrastructure, attracting local and foreign investments, ensuring uninterrupted power supply and utilities, and pursuing a business-friendly environment. Initiatives like opening up its market for foreign investments and pursuing 100 economic zones are working well for the country's progress, bringing in investments from different parts of the world.
The economy of Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last two decades. The government needs to ensure prudent governance in money and capital markets and diversification of the export sector beyond the RMG industry so as to attract essential foreign investments vital for economic growth.
As we prepare to embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution(4IR), skills development of the workforce must also be emphasised so that our huge labour force does not become redundant beside machines. It will certainly be a challenging task.
Nevertheless, judging from the resilience Bangladesh demonstrated over the last five decades, it has every reason to envision a developed country status by 2041.
This is the editorial of the Chamber News (Issue-1, January 2021), the monthly news bulletin of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI).