‘From bottomless basket to vibrant economy’: Bangladesh’s growth story

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Economic boom has given the country the confidence to surge ahead

DHAKA, Jan 8 (AGENCIES): Bangladesh, once dubbed a “bottomless basket”, has now transformed into one of the most vibrant economies in the world, according to Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen, who has invited foreign investors to tap the vast opportunities available in the country for businesses.

Bangladesh’s steady growth has caught the attention of the world and with the forecast that it will grow at over 8 per cent this year as well, Momen’s promise to investors seems on the mark.

Robust economic reforms, remittances received from the Bangladeshi expatriate community and boost in exports, have enabled Bangladesh’s economic turnaround, according to several top officials and leaders here.

Addressing a group of foreign delegates, including journalists, at the closing ceremony of ‘Visit Bangladesh Programme’ hosted by the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry here last month, Momen recalled that immediately after independence in 1971, his country had to import everything from abroad.

“It was a big headache for us because we did not have any reserves and our credibility was also low. Some countries said they will not export anything to Bangladesh without any third party guarantee. The only country that helped us out in those difficult days was our next door neighbour India,” he said.

India gave the guarantee that if the Bangladesh government fails to meet the demands then it will take the responsibility, he recalled.

“But now things have changed, we are among the most vibrant economies in the world with great prospects. Within a short span of time, the ‘bottomless basket’ with no hope of survival has become a vibrant economy with tonnes of opportunities,” he said in an apparent reference to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dubbing Bangladesh a “bottomless basket”.

Urging investors to turn towards his country, Momen said, “If you want to make money, come to Bangladesh because the return on investments is highest compared with our neighbours.”

He, however, also underlined the challenges being faced by the country such as climate change and issue of Rohingya refugees. Momen said friendly countries must help Bangladesh on the issue of Rohingya refugees and pressure Myanmar to take them back and ensure their safety.

Other serious challenges facing the South Asian country is its large population and the lack of infrastructure.

However, the economic boom has given the country the confidence to surge ahead with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina focusing on  making Bangladesh a middle income country as part of her “Vision 2021” and a developed country as part of her “Vision 2041”.

Information Minister Hasan Mahmud, at an interaction with the foreign delegates, said Bangladesh had the fastest GDP growth rate in the world last year at 8.15 per cent and was projected to grow at 8.20 per cent this year.

“After independence there were doubts among many countries, especially the country from which we had been liberated, whether Bangladesh would sustain as an independent country. But today, on all human, social and economic indices we are well ahead of Pakistan,” he said, addressing the group of 30 delegates from countries such as India, Nepal, the Maldives, the UK, Portugal and Germany.

A cheap work force, its diversifying of farm and industrial output and even exporting surplus, make it set for a giant leap on all counts of development indices. Bangladesh is also pitching itself as an attractive tourist destination with the Cox’s Bazar beach and the beautiful Sundarbans being its key selling points. However, much needs to be done to develop its tourism infrastructure.

Bangladesh, seen as a bridge between the South and south-east Asia, may not be making a big splash with its development story, but is certainly proving to be the proverbial “tortoise” that may eventually overtake many “hares” with its perseverance.

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