General

AL’s victory in the upcoming elections would keep up dev spree: Nikkei Asian Review

DHAKA, Japanbased global economic journal Nikkei Asian Review today came up with an extensive study on Bangladesh saying the

South Asian nation continued to witness rise and rise with booming economy

while ruling Awami League's victory in the upcoming elections would keep up

the development spree.

The journal today carried its cover story titled The rise and rise of

Bangladesh with the journal's Editoratlarge Gwen Robinson being its author

who wrote with remarkably little international attention, Bangladesh has

also become one of the world's economic success stories.

The analysis said after two consecutive fiveyear terms for the ruling

party, analysts point to a palpable antiincumbency sentiment among some

voters but from an economic standpoint, many agree that a ruling party

victory would support further development.

If the polling passes without too much strife and the status quo is

maintained, then [Bangladesh] would seem an attractive longterm story, said

Christopher Wood, managing director and chief strategist at Hong Kongbased

brokerage CLSA.

Earlier this year, Bangladesh celebrated a pivotal moment when it met

United Nations criteria for graduating from least developed country status

by 2024. To Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the elevation to developing

economy means a significant boost to the nation's selfimage.

Exiting LDC status gives us some kind of strength and confidence, which is

very important, not only for political leaders but also for the people,

Sheikh Hasina told the Nikkei Asian Review in an exclusive interview in

December.

When you are in a low category, naturally when you discuss terms of

projects and programs, you must depend on others' mercy. But once you have

graduated, you don't have to depend on anyone because you have your own

rights, she said.

Hasina said Bangladesh's strong economic growth will not just continue, but

accelerate. In the next five years, we expect annual growth to exceed 9

percent and, we hope, get us to 10 percent by 2021, she said.

I always shoot for a higher rate, she laughs. Why should I predict

lower?

The analysis said with remarkably little international attention,

Bangladesh has also become one of the world's economic success stories. Aided

by a fastgrowing manufacturing sector � its garment industry is second only

to China's � Bangladesh's economy has averaged above 6 percent annual growth

for nearly a decade, reaching 7.86 percent in the year through June, it

added.

It said the country has achieved near selfsufficiency in food production

for its 166 millionplus population. Per capita income has risen nearly

threefold since 2009, reaching $1,750 this year. And the number of people

living in extreme poverty � classified as under $1.25 per day � has shrunk

from about 19 percent of the population to less than 9 percent over the same

period, according to the World Bank.

On many fronts, the journal said Bangladesh's economic performance has

indeed exceeded even government targets. With a national strategy focused on

manufacturing � dominated by the garment industry � the country has seen

exports soar by an average annual rate of 1517 percent in recent years to

reach a record $36.7 billion in the year through June. They are on track to

meet the government's goal of $39 billion in 2019, and Hasina has urged

industry to hit $50 billion worth by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of

what Bangladeshis call their Liberation War, said the journal.

A vast community of about 2.5 million Bangladeshi overseas workers further

buoys the economy with remittances that jumped an annual 18 percent to top

$15 billion in 2018, it said, adding that but Hasina also knows the country

needs to move up the industrial value chain.

Political and business leaders echo her ambitions to shift from the old

model of operating as a lowcost manufacturing hub partly dependent on

remittances and international aid, it said.

Hasina launched a Digital Bangladesh strategy in 2009 backed by generous

incentives. Now Dhaka, the nation's capital, is home to a small but growing

technology sector led by CEOs who talk boldly about leapfrogging

neighboring India in IT. Pharmaceutical manufacturing � another Indian

staple � is also on the rise.

The government is now implementing an ambitious scheme to build a network

of 100 special economic zones around the country, 11 of which have been

completed while 79 are under construction.

Speaking at her official residence in central Dhaka, the prime minister

rejected local and international criticism of creeping authoritarianism. Her

party, she insisted, is committed to protecting democracy in Bangladesh.

Business seems largely on the ruling party's side � if only for

stability's sake. In recent interviews in Dhaka, executives and political

analysts dismissed suggestions that political turbulence could derail the

country's growth trajectory.

We feel relieved that all political parties are participating in the

elections, said Faruque Hassan, managing director of Giant Group, a leading

garment manufacturer, and senior vice president of the Bangladesh Garment

Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

We feel positive that despite political differences we can continue to

keep economic issues separate � although we know that without political

stability you can't grow, and you could scare international customers,

Faruque Hassan added.

More successful is Hasina's digital push. With her son, a U.S.educated

tech expert, as a key adviser, the program has introduced generous tax breaks

for the information and communications technology sector and a sweeping

scheme to build 12 hightech parks across the country.

Hasina said the government is taking a more proactive role in the financing

alongside international partners such as China, Japan and international

financial institutions.

We have undertaken to establish our own sovereign wealth fund, worth $10

billion, to bankroll longterm physical infrastructure development. This is

possible because our foreign exchange reserves stand at more than $32 billion

now, from $7.5 billion 10 years ago, she said.

Chinese investors also bought 25 percent of the Dhaka Stock Exchange in

2018, and Bangladesh is now the secondlargest importer of Chinese military

hardware after Pakistan.

While some may question so much investment from Beijing, Hasina said it is

simply a fact that China is set to play a bigger role in the region.

Our foreign policy is very clear: friendly relations with everyone, she

said.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)