Economy of Bangladesh

Bangladesh has made significant strides in its economic sectors since independence in 1971. The country is in 46th position among 193 countries with a gross domestic product of US$ 242,200 million. The economy has grown at the rate of 6-7% annually over the past few years. More than half of the GDP belongs to the service sector that employs 25% of the work force, while half of the work force is employed in the agricultural sector that counts for 18% of our GDP.

With sound planning and forward vision of the regulatory body as well as the Government, Bangladesh proved to be resilient to the latest global meltdown. Rather it showed a very healthy and steady growth of its GDP during last few years and is predicted to have similar trend in the coming years, while most of the developed and developing countries of the world are experiencing either gridlock or backward move of their GDP.

Remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas, mainly in the Middle East and East Asia, as well as exports of garments and textiles are the main sources of foreign exchange earning. Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have shown themselves adept at competing in the global garments marketplace. This industry is now worth more than $11 billion. Among other export items Tea, Shrimp & Sea fishes, Cement, Ceramics wear, Medicine, leather & leather goods, jute, and Ships are notable ones.

Bangladesh has significant reserve of natural gas and coal alongside a little reserve of hard rock and oil. However, the best natural resource of Bangladesh is the soil itself. Land is so fertile that it produces nearly everything that could be grown on earth. The land is mainly devoted to produce rice. Because of the fertile soil and normally ample water supply, rice can be grown and harvested three times a year in many areas that made Bangladesh the third largest producer of rice on earth. We also produce Jute, sugar cane, Banana, oil seeds, several fruits and vegetables.

Micro Credit, initiated by Nobel Laureate Dr. Md. Yunus, is being implemented by NGOs and local banks. This was a leap forward for the country in terms of rural development as well as women empowerment. This also helped Bangladesh achieve very low rate of unemployment, which is only 2.50%. Despite regular natural calamities and frequent political instabilities over the years, Bangladesh has set an example for the world in keeping constant economic development through industrialization in an open market policy without shifting its concentration from Agricultural base and maintaining a low disparity between rich and poor (GINI ratio 33.2).

The economy of Bangladesh is a rapidly developing market-based economy. Its per capita income in 2010 was est. US$1,700 (adjusted by purchasing power parity). According to the International Monetary Fund, Bangladesh ranked as the 43rd largest economy in the world in 2010 in PPP terms and 57th largest in nominal terms, among the Next Eleven or N-11 of Goldman Sachs and D-8 economies, with a gross domestic product of US$269.3 billion in PPP terms and US$104.9 billion in nominal terms. The economy has grown at the rate of 6-7% per annum over the past few years. More than half of the GDP is generated by the service sector; while nearly half of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector. Other goods produced are textiles, jute, fish, vegetables, fruit, leather and leather goods, ceramics, ready-made goods.

Remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas, mainly in the Middle East, is the major source of foreign exchange earnings; exports of garments and textiles are the other main sources of foreign exchange earnings. Ship building and cane cultivation have become a major force of growth. GDP's rapid growth due to sound financial control and regulations have also contributed to its growth; however, foreign direct investment is yet to rise significantly. Bangladesh has made major strides in its human development index.

The land is devoted mainly to rice and jute cultivation as well as fruits and other produce, although wheat production has increased in recent years; the country is largely self-sufficient in rice production. Bangladesh's growth of its agricultural industries is due to its fertile deltaic land that depend on its six seasons and multiple harvests.

Transportation, communication, water distribution, and energy infrastructure are rapidly developing. Bangladesh is limited in its reserves of oil, but recently there has been huge development in gas and coal mining. The service sector has expanded rapidly during last two decades and the country's industrial base remains very positive. The country's main endowments include its vast human resource base, rich agricultural land, relatively abundant water, and substantial reserves of natural gas, with the blessing of possessing the world’s only natural sea ports in Mongla and Chittagong, in addition to being the only central port linking two large burgeoning economic hub groups SAARC and ASEAN.


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.

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 chemical industry, steel industry, mining industry and the paper and pulp industry.

Textile sector

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 80% of Bangladesh's exports of $15.56 billion in 2009. Bangladesh is 2nd in world textile exports, and 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.

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).