Updated: Sep 13, 2021
On June 2, Bloomberg Opinion broadcasted Bangladesh’s newest achievement to its 840,000 followers. As seen to the right, Bangladesh is now more wealthy than its older South Asian counterparts. Many Bengali Instagram users reposted this post on their stories, exclaiming their pride in our country that was born amid famine and war in 1971. How exactly did Bangladesh achieve this rapid economic progress?
To understand this, one must know how economic progress is measured. Thus, it is significant to introduce the following term: “gross domestic product” (GDP). According to Investopedia, GDP is “the total monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country...in a specific time period.” Generally, GDP is used to gauge the
economic health of a nation. An increase in GDP demonstrates a wealthy economy, and a decrease in GDP signifies that the economy is deteriorating, putting the nation at risk.
During this month, Bangladesh’s Cabinet Secretary, Khandker Anwarul Islam, stated that GDP per capita had grown by 9% within the past year, jumping to $2,227. Pakistan’s GDP per capita for the past year is $1,543, and India’s 2020-2021 GDP per capita is $1,947. Clearly, Bangladesh has outdone the two nations.
Bloomberg Opinion’s Mihir S. Sharma stated that this dramatic growth is due to three pillars that Bangladesh’s economy focuses on: exports, social progress, and fiscal prudence. The author supports this point by mentioning how Bangladesh’s fiscal prudence has allowed for its private sector to borrow and invest money. They also pointed out that Bangladesh’s exports increased by 8.6% every year, which is vastly greater than the world average of 0.4%.
This increase in exports can be attributed to how most clothes that we buy from our local stores and malls seem to be “Made in Bangladesh.” At least 84% of Bangladesh’s export revenue has been due to Bangladesh’s garment industry, which includes 4.1 million workers, most being women. Fast fashion companies, such as SHEIN and Fashion Nova, often receive clothes from Bangladesh because the country has been a hub of relatively low-wage garment manufacturing for decades. To signify how poorly garment workers tend to be paid, NPR’s Lauren Frayer wrote about Sampa Akter’s work experience at a garment factory in Dhaka. Akter worked twelve hours a day and only earned $95 a month, meaning she earned about $4 or 339 taka per hour. Because Bangladesh has a highly inflated economy, 339 taka does not have significant monetary value. One can buy one burger from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and that would be at the expense of most of the money made.
While one may be understandably proud of Bangladesh’s newly proclaimed title as the ‘South Asian economic superstar’, one must also recognize that this dramatic growth comes at the expense of garment workers working at very low rates for many hours of their day simply to make ends meet. As Bangladesh’s GDP continues to increase in this manner, the wealth inequality gap will only increase between Bangladesh’s richest and the poor laborers, signifying the need for greater social welfare provisions in our country.
Fernando, Jason. “Gross Domestic Product (GDP).” Investopedia, Investopedia, 29 May 2021, www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gdp.asp.
Sharma , Mihir S. “Bangladesh Rises to Be South Asia's Standout Star as India, Pak Fall Behind.” Business Standard, Business-Standard, 1 June 2021, www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/bangladesh-rises-to-be-south-asia-s-standout-star-as-india-pak-fall-behind-121060100237_1.html#:~:text=Pakistan%27s%20per%20capita%20income%2C%20meanwhile,is%2045%25%20richer%20than%20Pakistan.&text=India%27s%20per%20capita%20income%20in%202020%2D21%20was%20a%20mere%20%241%2C947.
Huq, Rubana. “2019 In Review: Bangladesh Textile and Apparel Industry.” Textile Today Bangladesh, Textile Today, 6 Jan. 2020, www.textiletoday.com.bd/2019-garment-sector-experiences-peaceful-environment-export-slows/.
Frayer, Lauren. “For Bangladesh's Struggling Garment Workers, Hunger Is A Bigger Worry Than Pandemic.” NPR, 5 June 2020, www.npr.org/2020/06/05/869486297/for-bangladeshs-struggling-garment-workers-hunger-is-a-bigger-worry-than-pandemi.
Press Briefings , Monitoring of the National Economy. “Bangladesh Experienced Highest Rate of Inflation among South Asian Countries: Revealed CPD's State of the Economy Report: CPD.” Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), 20 Mar. 2018, cpd.org.bd/bangladesh-experienced-highest-rate-of-inflation-among-south-asian-countries-revealed-cpds-state-of-the-economy-report/.