Bangladesh has made impressive socioeconomic gains with a steady rise in its gross domestic product, a decrease in overall rates of poverty, boost in social development, and steady movement towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) made this observation in its special publication titled "Bangladesh-ADB: 40 Years of Development Partnership". The publication marked the ADB's 40th year presence in Bangladesh. On October 5, the development partner celebrated the august occasion in the capital city.
The special report says since independence, high population pressures, a thin resource base, and rising incidence of natural disasters posed major challenges to development, but the country successfully coped with these challenges and as a result, growth rates steadily moved upward.
Economic growth has also been largely inclusive and broad- based, with notable progress in poverty reduction.
Food production kept pace with population growth. Population control programs helped in slowing down population growth, per capita income rose significantly in real terms, and poverty fell sharply coupled with improved life expectancy, higher literacy, and lower mortality.
The ADB says Bangladesh is on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals. Child health and mortality indicators improved with greater access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Gender disparity in primary and secondary education has been removed and fertility rates have sharply declined.
The government's emphasis on female education and gender equity led to women's empowerment, increasing women's economic and political roles. The priority attached to social protection programs, improvements in disaster preparedness and crisis-coping capability, wider access to microfinance, and vibrant civil society organizations also contributed to improving social indicators.
The policies of the government have moved toward fostering greater market orientation, privatization of major industrial enterprises, public enterprise reform, and adoption of a supportive incentive regime. As a result, the private sector progressively emerged as a key player and partner in the development process.
Exports of ready-made garments, which are close to four-fifths of total exports, rose steadily supported by favorable and conducive policy regime, and became a major contributor to growth and job creation, mostly for women. A vibrant entrepreneurial class also developed around the garments sector, which over the time branched into other emerging sectors.
Overseas workers' remittance, which was 11.0% of gross domestic product in 2012, became the other major growth driver, with a surge in the number of people leaving the country for jobs abroad. Remittances boosted domestic demand and have been instrumental in cutting poverty.
A rise in investments, aided by healthy growth in national savings, expanded the economy's productive capacity and supported
higher economic growth and faster decline in poverty. Over recent
years, the country has shown remarkable resilience to external shocks with generally stable macroeconomic management.