BD economy growing fast since 2009 under PM Hasina: Economist
The economy of Bangladesh has been growing rapidly over the past few years, thanks in no small part to its massive textile exports. But risks are looming on the horizon.
Bangladesh has been making progress and the country is so successful in many areas that it is a "role model for South Asia." These are not the words of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, but the British business magazine Economist.
Bangladesh is going to the polls on December 30 to elect a new government and PM Hasina's Awami League (AL) party is pulling out all the stops to secure victory and retain power, said the magazine in its latest issue.
During the election campaign, ruling party members have repeatedly pointed to Bangladesh's robust economic development under the incumbent government and promised that, should they win, this trend will continue in the coming years.
The economy of the Muslim-majority nation, with a population of over 165 million inhabitants, has grown by an average of over six percent per year since 2008.
Last year, Bangladesh's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 7.3 percent, a faster rate than that of either India or Pakistan. Based on the US dollar exchange rate, Bangladesh's per capita economic output is now higher than in Pakistan, an impressive feat by the former.
Today, industry accounts for around 30 percent of the nation's GDP. In 1971, the year of the bloody struggle for independence from West Pakistan, the share of industry in what was then East Pakistan was less than seven percent.
In 1970, when a devastating cyclone killed hundreds of thousands of people, the country did not even have enough material to make shrouds for the victims, lamented Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who went on to become the first prime minister of the newly founded state.
Today Bangladesh exports more finished textiles than India and Pakistan combined, a remarkable turnaround.
Bangladesh fares far better in some aspects of human development than its larger neighbors like India and Pakistan. Child mortality, for instance, is lower in Bangladesh.
The country also does better than India and Pakistan when it comes to child literacy and life expectancy. According to data from the Global Hunger Index, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, 26.5 percent of the Bangladeshi population suffered from hunger last year. This shows the acute problems the country still faces.
Nevertheless, the poverty rate in Bangladesh today is half as many as in 1992, when it stood at around 53.6 percent. Moreover, fewer people are under poverty line than either in India (31.4 percent) or Pakistan (32.6 percent).
A key factor in economic success is demographic development. While the birth rate in Pakistan was as high as 3.5 children per woman in 2016, the figure in Bangladesh stood at 2.1, a lower rate than even in India (2.3).
The population growth has fallen sharply, and the fertility rate of 2.1 is barely enough to maintain the current level of population in the long term.