Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has invited the business community in Singapore to be Bangladesh’s partner in its journey towards economic development.
“Bangladesh has a huge young, energetic and easily trainable workforce with competitive wages. It offers opportunities for duty- and quota-free access to the markets of the EU, Australia, Canada, India, Japan and New Zealand,” she said on Tuesday.
She was speaking at the opening program of the Bangladesh-Singapore Business Forum 2018, jointly organized by International Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Business Federation and Bangladesh Business Chamber of Singapore at Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.
Hasina made an offer to provide 500 acres of land or more for Singaporean businessmen.
Describing Bangladesh’s success in the ready-made garment sector, she said the volume of textile export was almost $30 billion in 2017, the second after China, and the country wants to increase the amount to $50 billion by 2021.
Similarly, she said, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical items are now being exported to 120 countries after meeting 97% domestic demands. “Bangladesh is emerging fast as a major global hub for high quality, low-cost generic medicines,” she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh’s knowledge industry, ICT and related industry are also expanding rapidly. “Shipbuilding is yet another promising industry in Bangladesh. Our builders have drawn global attention by making world-class light to medium-sized ocean-going vessels,” she said.
She also informed the Singaporean business leaders that Bangladesh is now establishing 100 “Special Economic Zones (SEZs)” in different areas of the country as part of its initiative to accelerate industrialization.
“We are also developing several hi-tech parks for IT industries with foreign investment. We have a target to export $5 billion worth of IT goods and services by 2021,” she said.
From a humble subsistence agriculture-based economy, Bangladesh is shifting towards a modern, resilient and diversified one, the prime minister said. “The manufacturing sectors now occupy four-fifth of our GDP.”
She cited the prediction of Price Waterhouse Cooper in 2017 that Bangladesh would be one of the three fastest-growing economies globally over the next three decades.
Leading UK daily Financial Times in its August 8, 2017 issue stated that Bangladesh has achieved an economic miracle in the past 20 years, Hasina said. “We expect half of our population to become urbanized consumers by 2030 creating a large market.”
Talking about the rapid growth of the economy, she said Bangladesh’s economy posted a GDP growth rate of 7.28% last year while the foreign currency reserve jumped to over $33 billion in 2017 from a mere $3.5 billion in 2005.
“Our export volume increased to $34.67 billion in 2016-17 fiscal year from $10.52 billion in 2005-06. The poverty rate has been slashed to 22% from 41.5% in 2005 while life expectancy has increased to 72.4 years from 65 years in 2006,” she added.
The per capita income has risen to $1,610 from $543 in 2005, Hasina said.
“Bangladesh has now ranked the 33rd largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. We’re expecting the UN to announce Bangladesh’s graduation from the LDC very soon as recognition of our recent economic performances,” she said.
“We are now transforming the nation into a knowledge-based society, driven by our ‘Digital Bangladesh’ Vision-2021. We have set a clear goal to become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041.”