Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was named in a list of 100 global thinkers by US-based Foreign Policy magazine.
“Sheikh Hasina has responded to the greatest security challenge facing Bangladesh with a generosity. . . Rather than turn away the approximate 700,000 Rohingya[s] who fled persecution in Myanmar, Hasina welcomed them and allowed them to remain in her country,” the journal wrote in its 10th annual special edition titled Winter 2019.
Hasina made the list under the “Defense and Security” category.
Referring to the background of the list, the Foreign Policy said they had selected the leading global thinkers cautiously considering their stake in shaping the world mind.
“In a year of worldwide economic crisis and dangerous wars, of radical innovation and newfound realpolitik, street revolution and blunt rhetoric, we could think of no better way to make sense of it than through the big ideas of those who shape our understanding of the world.”
Last year, Sheikh Hasina was ranked 26th in Forbe’s list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
Foreign Policy is an award winning and well-established magazine which was started around 40 years ago.
One of the most influential American magazines Foreign Policy has published a list of 100 top global thinkers of the present decade and Sheikh Hasina is one of them. Four years ago, in 2015, Foreign Policy published another list of 100 great global thinkers of the world. Hasina was included in that list also. In the decision makers category 13 top intellectuals were selected and Hasina was included there. Foreign Policy said that Hasina faced the greatest challenge in the field of defence and security but she handled the opposition with tolerance. She did not oust the 7 lakh Rohingyan refugees from her country but gave them shelter.
After her massive election victory in Bangladesh Hasina’s leadership has been far more appreciated all through the outside world. In the past she received a peace prize from Neil Kinnock, the former leader of the British Labour Party. For her role in ending the long war in the hill tracts and her non-aggression policy to settle disputes with the neighbouring countries she was awarded the Helsinki peace prize. Even a war mongering British leader like Tony Blair praised Sheikh Hasina for her peace making role in the world. Henry Kissinger, the controversial ex-foreign secretary of America praised Hasina for her contribution to world peace.
A few years back there was a strong possibility that Sheikh Hasina will be awarded the Noble Peace Prize. She deserves it. But it was rumoured that the-then Clinton presidency exerted their influence to give this prize to a Bangladeshi banker, who had no contribution to keep peace in the world or even in his own country. For her contribution in the movement to save the world environment from pollution, Hasina was named Mother of the Earth. She has received numerous awards, medals, honorary doctorates from different institutions of the world. Her constant effort for empowering women, rehabilitating the homeless and the street children and introducing social benefits for the elderly, widow and the families of the freedom fighters has been appreciated in home and abroad.
Under her stewardship the country is no more a bottomless basket, but has become a wonderland of economic development. With this background she has become the country’s prime minister for the fourth time. Her political enemies accused her of malpractice in the election. But the world opinion is not fully in agreement with the opposition’s propaganda. The British weekly Ecnomist commented that even without any malpractice Hasina would have won the general election.
In the last ten years she has fulfilled almost all her promises to the people. She fought against poverty and hunger successfully. The war criminals of 71 including the killers of Bangabandhu were put on trials and punished. Under her leadership politics in the country has stabilized, the democratic practices are continuing, economy is flourishing and the law and order has not deteriorated. If this process continues then within the next ten years the country will become a developing country of middle-income. The most dangerous enemies of democracy in Bangladesh are communalism and ultra-fundamentalism. These forces have almost been crushed. The unfulfilled agenda of the Hasina government is the taming of the demon of corruption which has created a powerful place inside Awami League too. The Prime Minister assured the public that this time her government’s main target is to free the society and administration from corruption and that the government will try to establish good governance for the people.
My friend Barrister Moudud Ahmed, though he belongs to BNP keeps himself above political controversy as a writer. He wrote a book on the Mujib era in Bangladesh. In his opinion Sheikh Mujib’s politics in the opposition and government created an era called Mujib era. He paid tribute to Sheikh Mujib for making the country independent and criticized his own leader General Ziaur Rahman strongly. His analysis of the Mujib era is sometimes nearer to truth, but as a politician Moudud himself could not uphold this truth. As a politician Moudud’s vision has been blurred by opportunism. Otherwise, he could establish himself as a true political analyst than many members of our so-called civil society.
The history of Bangladesh has witnessed several glorious periods or eras from the ancient times, especially the era of Shaista Khan is very prominent and has turned into a folk lore. People say that in that era one could buy a huge amount of rice in one rupee, which means that the price of essentials was within easy reach of people. There was also the era of Alivardi Khan when several groups of vicious thugs called ‘Bargi’ and another killer group under Bhashkar Pandit were crushed through strong operation and good governance was established. During the British rule the era of Fazlul Haque was known for the renaissance of the Bengali Muslims, the rise of peasant powers, spreading of education and the emancipation of ordinary people from the torture of landlords.
The most significant era was Mujib era when Bangladesh achieved its independence and the rise of a non-communal, cultural nation state was accepted by the whole world. Then progress of this era was disturbed by the counter revolutionary forces who were defeated in 1971. After defeating these evil forces Sheikh Hasina came to power in1996 and again in 2008. Since then a glorious period of development and democracy started and is still continuing. Now this is called the Hasina era.
I have already mentioned her amazing success in socio political and economic fields earlier. She has shown courage to face mighty America, ignored the threat of the World Bank and started building Padma Bridge with undaunted courage and stamina. No doubt this era will be included in annals of the history of Bangladesh and will turn into a folk lore among the future generations like Shaista Khan’s era. I don’t want to add to the list of her success and make it longer. I feel proud and fortunate that I am one of the witnesses of the two glorious eras associated with the names of Mujib and Haisna.
SHEIKH HASINA AMONG THE 5 MOST AUSTERE LEADERS OF THE WORLD
DHAKA, April 15, 2019 (BSS)-Nigeria’s most influential newspaper The Daily Leadership has termed Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as one of the most austere leaders of the world.
The Daily Leadership carried a feature story on Sunday in its “Unreported” section on five world leaders entitled “World’s Most Austere Presidents,”
Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, is said to have a monthly salary of $800 (about N288000), said the daily mentioning that Sheikh Hasina was ranked at 59 in Forbes’ list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women”.
It said her (Hasina) political career has spanned more than four decades during which she has been both Prime Minister and opposition leader. She has been the leader of the ruling Awami League since 1981 and her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was the first President of the country, it added.
As opposition leader, the daily said, she (Hasina) herself was the target of an assassination attempt in 2004.
“Two of the most outstanding achievements of Sheikh Hasina are her leadership roles and success behind the trials of Bangabandhu killers and the persons who committed crimes against humanity in 1971,” said the prestigious daily.
Bangladesh has become one of the world’s economic success stories in Recent years . Per capita income has risen nearly threefold since 2009, reaching $1,750 in 2018, achieved near self-sufficiency in food production for its 166 million-plus population .The Sheikh Hasina lead Government took power in 2009. Now Bangladesh Named as one of the Next Eleven Economy & ranks 43rd in terms of nominal GDP , 29th in terms of purchasing power parity . Earlier this year, Bangladesh Achieved economic milestone by graduating from “least developed country” to “developing economy” .
Sheikh Hasina , The Current Prime Minister of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh Said in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review in December
“Exiting LDC status gives us some kind of strength and confidence, which is very important,
Per Capita Income witness a Boost after 2010 and Rapid growth rate compared to Historical Data .
Sheikh Hasina , The Current Prime Minister of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh & Head of Bangladesh Biggest Political Party ,
Foreign Direct Investment nearly tripled during Hasina’s nine years in office, from $961 million in fiscal 2008 to nearly $3 billion in the year to June 30,
Bangladesh’s exports of software and IT services reached nearly $800 million in the year to June 30 and are on track to exceed $1 billion this fiscal year. The government’s target of reaching $5 billion in ICT-related exports by 2021
DOES SHEIKH HASINA DESERVE THE CREDIT?
The political opposition or some expert may try to evaluate the achievement in different way . But History and those economic indicator say The leadership of a Country is sole responsible for its failure and achievement . Time will Honor The leader who tried to Change the economic and Social culture of Our Sonar Bangla .
Sheikh Hasina The Daughter of Bangladesh First Leader and Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman . She is the Second survivor of a Brutal Murder of all of her Family Member . She is the only living World Leader who lost all of her family member in an single day .
BANGLADESH RECORDS FASTEST GROWTH IN RICH POPULATION
Bangladesh has the fastest growing class of rich people in the world today, according to a global report.
In six years between 2012 and 2017, the country has seen a 17.3 per cent growth in the number of what is called ‘Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW)’.
Bangladesh has thus surpassed all other countries, according to the World Ultra Wealth Report 2018 by US-based WEALTH-X, reports UNB.
UHNW refers to individuals with a net worth of US$30 million or more.
WEALTH-X found only five countries in the world that have posted double digit growth in the number of their rich people, said the latest report released on 5 September. These countries are: Bangladesh (17.3 per cent), China (13.4), Vietnam (12.7), Kenya (11.7) and India (10.7).
“Looking at a broader range of nations, China – perhaps surprisingly – is not the global leader. That status lies with Bangladesh, which has registered compound annual growth in its UHNW population of 17.3 % since 2012,” reads the report.
The performance of the countries such as Vietnam, Kenya and India also illustrates ‘significant opportunities for wealth creation across the emerging world’, added the report.
Five other countries that are among top 10 are: Hong Kong (9.3 percent), Ireland (9.1), Israel (8.6), Pakistan (8.4) and United States (8.1).
The number of rich rose by 12.9 per cent globally in the six years.
Their combined wealth surged by 16.3 per cent to $31.5 trillion, implying healthy gains in average net worth.
In terms of richest concentration of rich people, the top 10 countries are: The United States (79,595 UHNW population), Japan (17,915), China (16,875), Germany (15,080), Canada (10,840), France (10,120), Hong Kong (10,010), United Kingdom (9,370), Switzerland (6,400) and Italy (5,960).
Bangladesh has topped the list of countries that saw the quickest growth in the number of ultra-wealthy people between 2012 and 2017, according to a new report from New York-based research firm Wealth-X.
The number of ultra-high net-worth (UHNW) individuals in Bangladesh rose by 17.3 percent during the period, the World Ultra Wealth Report 2018 shows.
UHNW individuals are defined as people with investable assets of at least $30 million, usually excluding personal assets and property such as a primary residence, collectibles and consumer durables.
In terms of growth, Bangladesh is ahead of China, Vietnam, Kenya, India, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Pakistan and the US.
Although the US recorded the weakest growth in its ultra-wealthy population, it remained by far the leading country for UHNW individuals in 2017, accounting for a 31 percent share.
The US was home to 79,595 ultra-wealthy individuals last year, followed by Japan, China, Germany, Canada, France, Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland and Italy.
Among the top 10 countries, China and Hong Kong have achieved the strongest gains in their ultra-wealthy populations over the past five years. In contrast, those of Japan, Canada, Italy and the UK have largely stagnated. Looking at a broader range of nations, China – perhaps surprisingly – is not the global leader.
“That status lies with Bangladesh, which has registered compound annual growth in its UHNW population of 17 percent since 2012,” said the report.
“Double-digit increases have also been posted by Vietnam, Kenya and India, illustrating the significant opportunities for wealth creation across the emerging world.”
To size and forecast the ultra-wealthy population and its combined wealth, Wealth-X uses proprietary Wealth and Investable Assets Model, which covers the top 75 economies that account for 98 percent of the global GDP.
To estimate total private wealth, it uses econometric techniques that incorporate a large number of national variables such as stock market values, GDP, tax rates, income levels and savings from sources such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and national statistics authorities.
Wealth-X estimates wealth distribution across each country’s population.
According to the report, in 2017, the world’s UHNW population rose by 12.9 percent to 255,810, a sharp acceleration from a year earlier. Their combined wealth surged by 16.3 percent to $31.5 trillion, implying healthy gains in average net worth.
The finance, banking and investment sector was the primary industry focus for the largest proportion of the global ultra-wealthy population in 2017, accounting for a 14.2 percent share.
Manufacturing was the second most significant industry, with its share edging higher to 7.6 percent.
The proportion of the global ultra-wealthy population whose fortunes are predominantly self-made continued to increase last year, hitting 67.5 percent.
The global ultra-wealthy population remains heavily male dominated, although the proportion of women has risen gradually over recent years and increased further in 2017 to a record high of 13.7 percent.
The number of UHNW women grew by an estimated 31 percent to just under 35,000.
Philanthropic activity is cited regularly as one of the main interests of the global ultra-wealthy population.
Education is the top charitable cause among men and women, with around a third of UHNW individuals directing at least part of their philanthropic endeavours to programmes such as scholarships, outreach courses, teacher training and more.
RECORD 7.86 PERCENT GDP GROWTH OF BANGLADESH ECONOMY IN 2018
In recent years Bangladesh witnessed record economic growth. Under the leadership of nations founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Daughter Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is aiming for the Digital transformation of its economy and development in key SDG Human Development indicator. The Awami League lead government is giving highest priority to developing the energy sector. Now 90 Percent population Have Access To The Elctrecity .
Bangladesh has ranked 18th among the 25 most powerful countries in the Asia-Pacific in the survey of the Lowy Institute. Bangladeshi economy is projected to grow from $180 billion to $322 billion by 2021 according to IMF.
Despite various environmental challenges, Bangladesh maintained robust growth. Its exports have rebounded – primarily led by the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector – with a 6.33% growth in FY18, compared with 4% in the previous year and 17% growth in remittances.
The national poverty rate fell in both rural and urban areas. The poverty rate stands at 21.8 percent and the extreme poverty rate at 11.3 percent in 2018, which was 23.1 percent and 12.1 percent respectively in 2017.
Bangladesh Investment Development Authority received the proposal of $23.25 billion for investment from, foreign and joint venture sources in 2017.
Exports and private investments are likely to be the key growth drivers. The national foreign reserve has increased more than five times in last 10 years from $6.14 billion in 2007-08 to $32.21 billion in March 2017 and $33 billion in August 2017 .
The stock market size of the Dhaka Stock Exchange in Bangladesh crossed USD 50 billion in August 2010. Bangladesh had the best performing stock market in Asia during the recent global recession between 2007 and 2010.
The banking sector, the most important
player in the money market, has continued to move in the
wrong direction. Despite some push from the BB, asset
quality and governance has not improved. State-owned
various Bank performed with a poor record of
large non-performing loans.
The Bangladesh economy is charging towards record growth figure for the second consecutive year, driven by double-digit growth in manufacturing and construction sectors.
GDP growth in fiscal 2017-18 is likely to be 7.65 percent, up from 7.28 percent a year earlier, as per the estimate of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
This is the third consecutive year that the economic growth was above 7 percent after years of languishing in the neighbourhood of 6 percent.
The rise in construction growth is attributable to progress in implementation of mega projects and increased growth in housing construction, stimulated, among others, by recovery in remittance, said Zahid Hussain, lead economist at the World Bank’s Dhaka office.
The provisional estimates show that the manufacturing sector grew 13.18 percent this fiscal year and the construction sector 10.11 percent.
“The final figures may be higher,” said Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal while unveiling the provisional estimates at a press conference held at the National Economic Council auditorium after the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council.
The provisional figures are based on data from the past 6 to 9 months.
Various macroeconomic indicators are now showing positive trend, he said, citing export and remittance as examples.
“Due to these causes, growth was good. Besides, there is no depression in world economy, which also helped,” the planning minister added.
Kamal’s disclosure comes after Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Sunday said the economy is on track to log in better GDP growth figures than last year even though it is an election year.
The BBS data shows that the agriculture sector, whose contribution to the GDP is 14.10 percent, grew 3.06 percent in fiscal 2017-18, up from 2.97 percent last year.
The services sector, whose contribution to the GDP is 52.85 percent, grew 6.33 percent this year, down from 6.69 percent registered a year earlier.
There was a decrease in growth of wholesale and retail trade, transport and communication, financial intermediation, education, health and social work sectors. Only hotel and restaurants saw higher growth.
The industrial sector, whose contribution to the GDP is 33.71 percent, grew 11.99 percent against 10.22 percent in fiscal 2016-17.
The work of various mega projects including the Padma bridge and metro-rail are advancing rapidly, said the BBS report.
“Investment in both the public and private sectors is rising this year. In the construction and housing sector, there is a positive trend this time. This is why the industrial output is increasing,” Kamal said.
Hussain though found the manufacturing sector’s growth to be puzzling.
“Where did it come from? Is it exports? Clearly not, because the export to GDP ratio has declined to 14.04 percent from 14.36 percent. Is it addition of new manufacturing capacity? Again, the answer appears to be no.”
The private investment to GDP ratio increased marginally from 23.1 percent in fiscal 2016-17 to 23.25 percent in fiscal 2017-18.
“This leaves increased capacity utilisation as the source of such high manufacturing growth. Was there so much slack in manufacturing to begin with?”
But, gas production is projected to increase by 1.32 percent, coal production declined 20.47 percent, electricity production plus imports increased 9.4 percent, and industrial raw materials import in nominal dollars increased 8.2 percent.
Employment in manufacturing increased 2.3 percent in 2017, according to the latest labour force survey.
“Growth in none of these inputs mirrors the image of 13.2 percent manufacturing growth. Hence, the puzzle,” he added.
Meanwhile, at the Ecnec meeting yesterday, the planning minister presented the GDP size and per capita income in dollar term.
In dollar term, the GDP size is $274.5 billion this fiscal year, which was $249 billion last year. The country’s per capita income is $1,752, which was $1,610 in fiscal 2016-17.
GWEN ROBINSON, Editor-at-large, Nikkei Asian Review
The economy is booming. Does Sheikh Hasina deserve the credit?
DHAKA — Bangladesh defies economic and political gravity. Since its 1971 war of independence with Pakistan, the country has been known for its tragedies: wrenching poverty, natural disasters and now one of the world’s biggest refugee crises, after the influx of 750,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in neighboring Myanmar.
Yet, with remarkably little international attention, Bangladesh has also become one of the world’s economic success stories. Aided by a fast-growing manufacturing sector — its garment industry is second only to China’s — Bangladesh’s economy has averaged above 6% annual growth for nearly a decade, reaching 7.86% in the year through June.
From mass starvation in 1974, the country has achieved near self-sufficiency in food production for its 166 million-plus population. Per capita income has risen nearly threefold since 2009, reaching $1,750 this year. And the number of people living in extreme poverty — classified as under $1.25 per day — has shrunk from about 19% of the population to less than 9% over the same period, according to the World Bank.
Earlier this year, Bangladesh celebrated a pivotal moment when it met United Nations criteria for graduating from “least developed country” status by 2024. To Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the elevation to “developing economy” means a significant boost to the nation’s self-image.
“Exiting LDC status gives us some kind of strength and confidence, which is very important, not only for political leaders but also for the people,” she told the Nikkei Asian Review in an exclusive interview in December. “When you are in a low category, naturally when you discuss terms of projects and programs, you must depend on others’ mercy. But once you have graduated, you don’t have to depend on anyone because you have your own rights.”
Despite its automation push, Giant Group still employs thousands of workers. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
Hasina says Bangladesh’s strong economic growth will not just continue, but accelerate. “In the next five years, we expect annual growth to exceed 9% and, we hope, get us to 10% by 2021,” she said.
“I always shoot for a higher rate,” she laughs. “Why should I predict lower?”
On many fronts, Bangladesh’s economic performance has indeed exceeded even government targets. With a national strategy focused on manufacturing — dominated by the garment industry — the country has seen exports soar by an average annual rate of 15-17% in recent years to reach a record $36.7 billion in the year through June. They are on track to meet the government’s goal of $39 billion in 2019, and Hasina has urged industry to hit $50 billion worth by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of what Bangladeshis call their Liberation War.
A vast community of about 2.5 million Bangladeshi overseas workers further buoys the economy with remittances that jumped an annual 18% to top $15 billion in 2018. But Hasina also knows the country needs to move up the industrial value chain. Political and business leaders echo her ambitions to shift from the old model of operating as a low-cost manufacturing hub partly dependent on remittances and international aid.
To that end, Hasina launched a “Digital Bangladesh” strategy in 2009 backed by generous incentives. Now Dhaka, the nation’s capital, is home to a small but growing technology sector led by CEOs who talk boldly about “leapfrogging” neighboring India in IT. Pharmaceutical manufacturing — another Indian staple — is also on the rise.
The government is now implementing an ambitious scheme to build a network of 100 special economic zones around the country, 11 of which have been completed while 79 are under construction.
The concept neatly capitalizes on Bangladesh’s record population density, leveraging what Faisal Ahmed, chief economist at Bangladesh Bank, calls the “density dividend. “The proximity of our population also helped us design and spread social and economic ideas such as microfinance and low-cost health care. But we need to better manage our scarce land resources, and part of the answer is to develop well-functioning industrial parks and SEZs,” he said.
Behind the impressive numbers and bold ambitions, however, are daunting hurdles ranging from structural problems to deep political divisions, which have come to the fore ahead of national elections on Dec. 30.
Bangladeshi politics have been dominated for years by the bitter rivalry between Hasina and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, whose family histories go back to opposing sides of the liberation struggle, when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. Both women have been in and out of power — and prison — over the past three decades. Khaleda Zia, who chairs the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is in jail on corruption charges that she says are false.
Since 1981, Hasina has led the ruling Awami League, founded by her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president, who was killed by army personnel along with most of his family in 1975. The party enjoyed strong support in some past elections. But opposition activists and human rights groups have voiced concern about potential polling fraud and intimidation tactics. After two consecutive five-year terms for the ruling party, analysts point to a palpable “anti-incumbency” sentiment among some voters. Yet from an economic standpoint, many agree that a ruling party victory would support further development.
“If the polling passes without too much strife and the status quo is maintained, then [Bangladesh] would seem an attractive long-term story,” said Christopher Wood, managing director and chief strategist at Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.
The crowded streets of Dhaka (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
A shopping mall in Dhaka: Bangladesh is on track to become a “developing country” in 2024. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
Speaking at her official residence in central Dhaka, the prime minister rejected local and international criticism of creeping authoritarianism. Her party, she insisted, is “committed to protecting democracy in Bangladesh.”
Business seems largely on the ruling party’s side — if only for stability’s sake. In recent interviews in Dhaka, executives and political analysts dismissed suggestions that political turbulence could derail the country’s growth trajectory.
“We feel relieved that all political parties are participating in the elections,” said Faruque Hassan, managing director of Giant Group, a leading garment manufacturer, and senior vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “We feel positive that despite political differences we can continue to keep economic issues separate — although we know that without political stability you can’t grow, and you could scare international customers.”
Tailoring its industrial policy
The ready-made garment industry is a key factor in the country’s phenomenal success story. The industry is the country’s largest employer, providing about 4.5 million jobs, and accounted for nearly 80% of Bangladesh’s total merchandise exports in 2018.
It has undergone seismic changes since the watershed Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, when a multi-story garment factory complex collapsed, killing more than 1,130 workers. In the aftermath, the industry was forced by international apparel brands to implement sweeping reforms, including factory upgrades, inspections and improved worker conditions.
A visit to one of Giant Group’s gleaming factories brings home the industry’s rapidly changing dynamics. In a vast room a handful of workers oversees a fully automated operation that feeds fabric and thread into a huge machine that cuts, stitches and turns out finished garments. In another space nearby, about 300 workers, mostly women, operate machines that embroider and add applique to garments.
Giant Group has introduced a high level of automation at its garment factories. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
Giant Group says it aims to move into more value-added areas, such as embroidery and high-performance materials. (Photo by AKira Kodaka)
“Our entire industry changed in just 90 seconds in April 2013, generally for the better,” said Hassan of Giant. “We don’t actually want 100% automation — hopefully we can offset the impact by shifting more workers into value-added fields, applique, embroidery and so on.”
Further investment is needed if Bangladesh’s garment industry is to remain competitive.
“Bangladesh is still dominated by more basic products and cotton, whereas growth worldwide has been in man-made fibers. We need more investment in these areas, not to produce more cotton shirts,” he said.
Bangladesh’s textile industry could gain if China’s garment exports are hit by a prolonged U.S.-China trade war. But other garment centers are also taking aim at a vulnerable China, including Vietnam, Turkey, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
Intensifying international competition has already sparked consolidation in Bangladesh’s garment industry, reducing the number of factories by 22% in the last five years to 4,560, according to the BGMEA.
CLSA’s Wood believes that Bangladesh’s reliance on the garment sector is a potential obstacle to future growth. “This sector on a 10-year view faces the risk of cheap wage alternatives such as Africa, automation and the loss of duty-free market access if Bangladesh transitions from LDC status [as scheduled for 2024],” he said.
“For now the challenge is to develop other sectors, with pharmaceuticals and business process outsourcing being two areas of promise. But this will require much more foreign investment,” he said.
FDI is not Bangladesh’s strong point. While it nearly tripled during Hasina’s nine years in office, from $961 million in fiscal 2008 to nearly $3 billion in the year to June 30, this compares poorly with other Asian countries, including Vietnam and Myanmar.
Government officials partly blame the country’s consistently low rankings in the World Bank’s annual “Ease of Doing Business” survey, which they fear deters foreign investors. The latest survey, issued in December, put Bangladesh at 176th of 190 countries, citing excessive red tape, poor infrastructure and transport.
The government has moved to streamline the investment process with the creation of a “one-stop” investor service intended to replicate similar services in Singapore and Vietnam. But this has yet to gain momentum.
More successful is Hasina’s digital push. With her son, a U.S.-educated tech expert, as a key adviser, the program has introduced generous tax breaks for the information and communications technology sector and a sweeping scheme to build 12 high-tech parks across the country.
In Dhaka, a new generation of IT entrepreneurs talks about beating India — which leapt onto the global map with its basic outsourcing industry — by focusing on AI, robotics and disruptive technologies.
Bangladesh’s exports of software and IT services reached nearly $800 million in the year to June 30 and are on track to exceed $1 billion this fiscal year. The government’s target of reaching $5 billion in ICT-related exports by 2021 is “very, very challenging but achievable,” said Habibullah Karim, CEO of software company Technohaven and a co-founder of the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services, an industry body.
“From $800 million to $5 billion is a sixfold increase in three years. That’s tough in itself. The second challenge is that the global outsourcing market is actually shrinking,” Karim said. “Many tasks, such as airline and hotel reservations and insurance claims … are now fully automated.”
There have been outstanding homegrown tech successes, such as ride-sharing service Pathao, which received a $2 million investment from Indonesian unicorn Go-Jek, and mobile financial services group bKash, in which Alipay, an arm of China’s Alibaba Group Holding, took a 20% stake in April.
But go-ahead industries badly need more financing, said Khalid Quadir, CEO and co-founder of Brummer & Partners (Bangladesh), which manages Frontier Fund, the country’s only private equity fund. He argues that innovation thrives on a strong private equity industry that can channel funds to promising companies and help them list.
After decades of turmoil, Bangladesh has become South Asia’s fastest-growing economy. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
Employees work at of Technohaven’s office in Dhaka. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)
“We have invested nearly $200 million over the years in areas including communications infrastructure, garments and pharmaceuticals. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to the growth opportunities on offer. But to attract more capital of this kind, regulation could be more investor-friendly,” he said, citing three-year lockup provisions on investments in newly listed companies.
Shameem Ahsan, chairman of IT company eGeneration and a former head of BASIS, sees Bangladesh’s tech niche at the cutting edge of IT. “Forty years ago, the garment industry started with a few companies. Now Bangladesh is exporting $30 billion-plus worth and is second only to China. We want to do the same thing in the IT industry,” he said.
Bangladesh is hoping to challenge India in pharmaceuticals, too. With its “least developed country” status, the country has enjoyed a waiver on drug patents. This has fueled intensifying competition between India and Bangladesh in the field of generic and bulk drugs. Among local star performers is Incepta Pharmaceuticals, Bangladesh’s second-largest generics maker, which exports to about 60 countries, and Popular Pharmaceuticals, which is eyeing an eventual listing.
“When you look at U.S. and Europe … their manufacturing plants are closing and they are coming to Asia. Why? Because of quality, affordable drugs,” said Syed Billah, senior general manager at Incepta. “We have the quality and recognition from international regulatory bodies, and are very good at finished products. But in [bulk drugs], we are far behind, and seeking technology for that from China.”
One of Bangladesh’s competitive disadvantages is its poor infrastructure, and the country has turned to China for help. Under its Belt and Road Initiative, China has financed various megaprojects in Bangladesh, including most of the nearly $4 billion Padma Bridge rail link, which will connect the country’s southwest with the northern and eastern regions. In all, China has committed $38 billion in loans, aid and other assistance for Bangladesh.
China’s heavy infrastructure investment has drawn criticism of its “debt diplomacy” in other countries, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But local economists dismiss such concerns.
“I don’t think Bangladesh is being pulled too far into China’s orbit like Pakistan or even Sri Lanka,” said Faiz Sobhan, senior director of research at the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, an independent think tank, noting that the country is also reliant on Japanese infrastructure investment.
Hasina said the government is taking a more proactive role in the financing alongside international partners such as China, Japan and international financial institutions. “We have undertaken to establish our own sovereign wealth fund, worth $10 billion, to bankroll long-term physical infrastructure development. This is possible because our foreign exchange reserves stand at more than $32 billion now, from $7.5 billion 10 years ago.”
Chinese investors also bought 25% of the Dhaka Stock Exchange in 2018, and Bangladesh is now the second-largest importer of Chinese military hardware after Pakistan.
While some may question so much investment from Beijing, Hasina said it is simply a fact that China is set to play a bigger role in the region.
“Our foreign policy is very clear: friendly relations with everyone,” she said. “What China and U.S. are doing, it is between them.”
Bangladesh is among the three fastest growing economies in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — in yet another thumping endorsement of the country’s extraordinary growth momentum.
The economy will grow at 7.3 percent this year, which will be second highest in the world, as per the IMF report ‘World Economic Outlook, April 2019: Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery’ revealed on Tuesday.
Neighbouring India will also grow at the same pace as Bangladesh but Rwanda will grow the fastest at 7.8 percent.
The three countries would be the only ones in the world to log in more than 7 percent growth this year.
The IMF’s projection comes on the heels of the World Bank’s and the Asian Development Bank’s.
The World Bank, which does not use calendar year in its projections like its counterpart IMF, said Bangladesh would be among the five fastest growing economies in the world this fiscal year with its 7.3 percent growth.
The Asian Development Bank tipped Bangladesh to log in the fastest economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region in fiscal 2019-20. This fiscal year, the economy will grow at 8 percent.
The two multilateral lenders’ projections for this fiscal year, however, are lower than the prediction of the government: 8.13 percent.
The IMF projected that Bangladesh will see less inflationary pressure and an improvement in its external position this year.
Inflation will be 5.4 percent this year, which was 5.6 percent last year.
Current account deficit was rising in the last two consecutive years. The negative balance was 2.1 percent of GDP in 2017 and 2.8 percent in 2018. In 2019, the negative balance will narrow to 1.9 percent of the GDP, the IMF report said.
Among other South Asian economies, Bhutan will grow at 4.8 percent, the Maldives 6.3 percent, Nepal 6.5 percent, Sri Lanka 3.5 percent and Pakistan 2.9 percent this year.
The world economy will slow down to 3.3 percent from 3.6 percent last year thanks to a slump in the major economies of China, the US, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Rising trade tension between China and the US is another reason for the slow down in global economy.