Last week, the United Nations’ Committee for Development Policy recommended Bangladesh graduation from least-developed-country category that it has held for most of the 50 years since it became independent. The UN Committee said, Bangladesh’s exports have risen by around 80 per cent in dollar terms in the past decade, driven by its booming garment industry. It has a young demographic structure, a continued competitive edge in terms of wage levels, strong and rising female labor-force participation especially relative to the rest of South Asia.
However, the growth in Bangladesh’s exports is below Vietnam’s and Cambodia. Hence, Bangladesh needs to move towards exporting higher-value items. Its export industry is still overwhelmingly focused on garment manufacturing. The country’s economic complexity, ranked by Harvard University’s Growth Lab, is 108 out of the 133 countries measured. That is actually lower than it was in 1995.
Bangladesh also isn’t a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Diversifying its manufacturing exports would require greater participation in intra-Asian supply chains—and probably a closer economic relationship with its neighbors to the east.