Half a century of Bangladesh biz: Time to walk the talk
March 12th, 2023 at 7:16 pm
The challenges ahead are daunting, but a pragmatic approach to face them would be the best possible answer amid competitiveness. This nation belongs to us, so we need to help foster our growth.
Half a century of Bangladesh biz: Time to walk the talk

by Nazrul Islam,

A little over half-century into its independence now, Bangladesh is no more a Kissinger’s Bangladesh. Today’s Bangladesh has witnessed a miraculous development boom on socio-cultural and economic fronts. It is no hyperbole, but what is yet to do is exploit the full potential this tiny South Asian country offers through a throng of more than 170 million people, mostly a young demographic.


Bangladesh has been on the right track as a growth engine in many sectors, but it is still to ensure that the promised living standard that people need not bother about their lives and livelihoods. Yet, it is a matter of pride that the country has long shed Henry Kissinger’s proverbial “bottomless basket” parlance in the 1970s, soon after Bangladesh came into being as a sovereign state through a sanguinary war against its long-distant foe Pakistan. At 99, Mr Kissinger may be embarrassed to see the ribbon development of Bangladesh and also for the trademark comment he made 50 years ago. The changes came for everyone’s part in the making of Bangladesh’s development amid a partly turmoil-tattered political landscape of 53 years, including 15-plus years’ military dictatorial rule.


Businesses too struggled under their umbrella body ‘Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI)’ a lot to add value to the national economy. The apex trade advocacy group has played the role of a bellwether over the years with its member trade entities. The Bangladesh Business Summit-2023 is an example of its commitment to making the country’s progress sustainable.

Despite facing a flurry of challenges, Bangladesh’s economy has grown at an impressive rate of more than 7.0 per cent annually over the past decade, attracting massive foreign investments and generating employment opportunities, thanks to the dynamic public-private partnership.


Bangladesh has diversified its economy, with the textile and garment industry being the X factor for a hefty part of gross domestic product (GDP) or economic growth. Bangladesh is just behind China, the world’s largest exporter of apparel items. The sector, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s total exports, employs millions of sewing machinists, mostly women. It is expected to continue to grow as the demand for both affordable clothing and fashion statement is on the rise in the West.

Bangladesh garments
Workers busy making cloths for the western buyers in Bangladesh garment factory


The manufacturing sector has also boomed, with companies like Samsung and LG setting up plants in Bangladesh. It is also poised for further growth with the government incentivising foreign investors to set themselves up business in special economic zones. Same is for the information technology sector like manufacturing, with many startups and tech companies making their footprint in Bangladesh.

The industrial sector, especially small and medium enterprises, contributes up to 31 per cent of GDP. Key sectors like infrastructure, energy, shipbuilding, steel, electronics and light engineering are also priority areas for investment.


Fertile land and a favourable climate are the bedfellows that make Bangladesh a hub of agriculture, a sector that demands an automation push in the era of fourth agricultural revolution or 4AR. The promising jute, food processing, leather and leather goods, services and tourism sectors also require special care.


One of the top four fasted-growing digital economies globally, Bangladesh will be the ninth-largest consumer market by 2030, according to the HSBC Group. Again, the London-based PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted Bangladesh to be the 28th-largest economy by then. Many other indicators also show similar prophesies and prognoses that Bangladesh is a land of opportunities, but they need to be handled with care.


Strategic location, natural resources and the youth-quake make Bangladesh one of the most alluring hubs of foreign investment, especially at a time when it is set to elevate to a developing nation from the ranks of least-developed countries in three years. The graduation takes place at a time when the entire landscape of the global business and trade and commerce are at the juncture of digital transformation marked by breakthroughs like robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cloud and quantum computing, internet of things, 5G service, 3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.


The challenges are harder ahead. It is indeed, a matter of admiration that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ programme, a follow-up to her ‘Digital Bangladesh’ campaign, apparently to gain on with newer technologies. To gain the Sustainable Development Goals-2030 set by the United Nations, and Hasina’s campaign for a prosperous Bangladesh by 2041, Bangladesh needs to put its attention to few vital areas that include an ideal doing-business climate. The government must arrest political instability and eliminate endemic corruption and red tape that deter foreign investors. Investment in building new highways, ports and airports can improve connectivity within and outside the country, thus easing business here.


Nearly 69 per cent of the population falls under the 15-64 age band. So, Bangladesh should give them proper education and skills, especially in the area of ICT and digitalisation, so they can be more productive to contribute to economy. Skills and education are immediate concerns because the imperatives of economic diversification and moving up the value chain will require higher levels of education and more and different skills, according to the Asian Development Bank. Bangladesh is one of the countries having large working-age people with lower skills. The challenges ahead are daunting, but a pragmatic approach to face them would be the best possible answer amid competitiveness. This nation belongs to us, so we need to help foster our growth.

Nazrul Islam is a Bangladeshi journalist and founder of newsnextbd.com. The writer can be reached by e-mail [email protected] He is also working for berlin-based German News Agency dpa in Dhaka.