Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday invited the business community in Singapore to be Bangladesh's partners in its journey towards economic development as the country is now transforming.
‘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.
The prime minister was speaking at the opening programme of the Bangladesh-Singapore Business Forum 2018, which was jointly organised by International Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Business Federation and Bangladesh Business Chamber of Singapore at Shangri-La Hotel here.
Describing Bangladesh's success in the ready-made garment sector, Sheikh Hasina said the volume of textile export was almost US$ 30 billion in 2017, the second after China, and the country wants to increase the amount to US$ 50 billion by 2021.
Similarly, she said, pharmaceutical items of Bangladesh are now being exported to 120 countries, including the USA and the EU, after meeting 97 per cent of 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' in different parts of the country as part of its initiative to accelerate industrialisation.
‘We're also developing several hi-tech parks in Bangladesh for IT industries with foreign investment. We've a target to export US$ 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, adding, ‘The manufacturing sectors now occupy four-fifth of our GDP.’
She cited the prediction of Price Waterhouse Cooper in 2017 of Bangladesh as one of the three fastest growing economies globally over the next three decades with two other countries being India and Vietnam.
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 urbanised 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 per cent last year while the foreign currency reserve jumped to over US$ 33 billion in 2017 from a mere US$ 3.5 billion in 2005.
‘Our export volume increased to US$ 34.67 billion in 2016-17 fiscal year from US$ 10.52 billion in 2005-06. The poverty rate has been slashed to 22 per cent now from 41.5 per cent in 2005 while the life expectancy has increased to 72.4 years from 65 years in 2006,’ she added.
At present, the prime minister said, the per capita income rose to US$ 1,610 from US$ 543 in 2005.
‘Bangladesh has now ranked the 33rd largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). We're expecting the United Nations to announce Bangladesh's graduation from the LDC very soon as recognition of our recent economic performances,’ she said.
‘We're now transforming the nation into a knowledge-based society, driven by our 'Digital Bangladesh' Vision-2021. We've set a clear goal to become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041.’