Governmental industrial policy has identified several industrial sectors for augmenting rapid industrial growth and economic development, such as the ready-made garment, pharmaceutical, leather, shipbuilding, jute, furniture, and the ceramic industries, while five special economic zones will be set up under the Bangladesh Economic Zones Development Fund
Speaking about Bangladesh in 1972, Henry Kissinger predicted that the country was doomed to become a “basket case”. However, looking at the country in 2015, this statement could not be further from the truth. Strong progress towards the United Nations Millennium Goals and massive improvements in the living standards of millions of Bangladeshis have been made possible by unprecedented advances in national economic policy, most specifically in certain technologically innovative and sustainable sectors such as textiles, which now produces high-quality goods.
These adjectives, which it would have been unthinkable to associate with Bangladeshi industries in the past, now accurately describe an economy that, over the past 40 years, has grown massively, and is predicted to grow even faster in the coming years.
Key to the economic development of Bangladesh’s industrial sector is a policy known as ‘Vision 2021’, a road which – according to Minister of Industries Amir Hossain Amu – will lead to Bangladesh emerging as a “modern, industrialized and middle-income country by the year 2021 and a developed country by 2041”.
The prime objective of this industrial policy is to ensure that there is a 40% contribution of the industrial sector to the country’s national income and 25% employment generation, as well as boosting investment in infrastructure from the current 2% to 6% of GDP by 2021. The government is sincerely working alongside numerous stakeholders on both a local, national, and international level to ensure the necessary economic stimulus packages, infrastructure facilities, and policy support for achieving this objective, and the results are already apparent.
Exports, which at the time of Kissinger’s remark (1972-1973), were a mere $300 million, this year stand at $33.2 billion, an increase of more than 1,000-fold. Government estimates put the figure at $70 billion by 2021, according to the Minister of Commerce Tofail Ahmed – which will make Bangladesh one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
In terms of specific industries, governmental industrial policy has identified a total of 32 thrust sectors and 31 industrial service sectors for augmenting rapid industrial growth and economic development, and five special economic zones will be set up under the Bangladesh Economic Zones Development Fund. Key to these developments are the ready-made garment, pharmaceutical, leather, shipbuilding, jute, furniture, and the ceramic industries.
Pharmaceuticals typify the cutting-edge technological focus and high quality now associated with Bangladeshi manufacturing. Mr. Ahmed explains, “Our number one priority is the pharmaceutical industry. If you look at the industry, at companies like Square Group and Beximco Group, which are fantastic and modern, you will be truly impressed by Bangladesh’s achievements. We export pharmaceuticals to 95 countries all over the world.”
Another sector which exemplifies Bangladesh’s industrial development is the ready-made garment industry. The country has a reputation for low-cost textiles produced in huge factories. However, ready-made garments – with the assistance of numerous technological innovations – are not only increasing in quantity, but also in quality. This increase in quality has led to an explosion in ready-made garments exports, which are predicted to reach $50 billion by 2021.
Ultimately, as Mr. Hossain Amu says, the drive of the present government is to “build a knowledge-based society through hi-tech and sustainable green industrialization and digitalization”. And it is a goal that the country is well on its way to achieving. A key factor in this vibrant transformation is the reform of the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing in Bangladesh no longer stands for cheap labor or low quality; the “Made in Bangladesh” brand is now founded in compliance, improved safety, and high-tech innovation.