The following article is based on story and picture materials provided by the Embassy of Bangladesh in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
Bangladesh celebrates the 51th anniversary of the Independence and National Day on 26 March. After centuries of colonial rules, the nation finally achieved its independence in 1971 through a protracted struggle and a 9-month long blood-spattered Liberation War under the great leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The people responded to the clarion call of the Father of the Nation to accomplish their long-cherished dreams and aspirations. Unity and firm determination of the people enabled the nation to triumph over the occupation forces. On this momentous day, the nation pays deep tribute to the Father of the Nation and recalls with profound reverence the valiant freedom fights including 3 million martyrs of the Liberation War.
The Day remains an eternal source of pride and inspiration for the nation. The assiduous people of Bangladesh have been striving hard under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to materialize the spirit and aspirations of the Liberation War.
In 2021, Bangladesh was in twin celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of the country and the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu. While celebrating these landmark events, the nation drew inspiration from the past achievements and take a fresh vow to make even bigger stride in fulfilling the dream of a ‘Sonar Bangla’ (golden Bangla)-a prosperous country free from discrimination and injustice.
The country was seriously ravaged by the Liberation War. The infrastructure and economic base suffered massive devastation during the war. Bangladesh had to start its development journey from scratches. After the birth of the new nation, many international leaders and experts were highly doubtful about the viability of the highly populated and resource-constraint country. However, the diligent people of Bangladesh have transformed a highly impoverished country into one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Bangladesh has made tremendous socio-economic progress over the time and continues to maintain its development trajectories. The experts now consider Bangladesh as a role model for development because of the country’s astounding achievements in the improvement of people’s overall living standard, particularly in poverty reduction, human resource development, modernization of public health system, women empowerment, upgradation of infrastructure and public services, and introduction of new technologies and digitalization up to grass root level.
Bangladesh has earned recognition as one of the frontline nations to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by achieving most of the targets ahead of time. It has integrated global goals and targets into its national plans and policies such as the 8th Five Year Plan, the Delta Plan 2100 and the Perspective Plan 2041 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Bangladesh attained an average GDP growth rate of over 6% during the past decade and emerged as a lower-middle-income country in 2015. The accelerated growth continued in a persistent manner. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh posted 8.l5% GDP growth, the highest among the Asia-Pacific countries. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh achieves a GDP growth of 5.24%, which is the highest in Asia.
The economy already started rebounding and is projected to grow by 6.9% in FY 2022-23. According to international experts, the country is poised to maintain high economic growth in the coming years to emerge as the 26th largest economy in the world by 2030.
During the last 50 years, Bangladesh’s economy experienced a significant transformation from an agriculture-dependent economy to industry and service sector-led economy. Despite persistent growth in agriculture, the sector’s share to GDP decreased from 60% in 1972 to 13% in 2020 due rapid expansions of manufacturing and service sectors. The share of the manufacturing sector in GDP accounted for 29.5% in 2020. Services sector dominates the Bangladeshi economy which contributes about 56% of the GDP.
In the recent years, the local industries witnessed a significant growth and upgradation to cater burgeoning domestic demands and high-end international market. As a result, Bangladesh’s export basket experienced progressive diversification resulting in a significant increase in export earnings. Bangladesh is now considered to be a lucrative destination for foreign investments owing to its pro-investment policies, investment-friendly environment, upgraded infrastructure, ever expanding domestic market, strategically important geopolitical location, political stability and competitive labour force. The government is in the midst of setting up 100 special economic zones throughout the country to facilitate investments.
Although textile & apparel products still remain a predominant contribution to country’s export earnings, other sectors such as pharmaceuticals, plastic and ceramic articles, leather products, cement, ship, agro-products, jute and jute products, software & IT solutions, home appliances, electrical gadgets, ships & vessels, light engineering products are emerging progressively and contributing significantly to the export portfolio.
In spite of rapid expansion of industry and service sectors, agriculture continues to enjoy priority to ensure food security for 170 million people. In the preceding years, all sub-sectors have experienced significant growth. The country’s food grain production has nearly quadrupled since independence and fish and livestock production has registered a substantial growth in the last two decades. Bangladesh has already achieved food grain self-sufficiency which is a significant accomplishment in the context of growing population, shrinking arable land and adverse effects of climate change.
Bangladesh has witnessed a strong headway in the infrastructure sector. A country, with completely fragile and wrecked infrastructure in the 1970s, has made substantial development in housing, communication, power generation, education and health facilities, and rural infrastructure leading to an accelerated socio-economic growth and notable improvements in people’s living standard. The access to electricity has reached 99.5% from 3% in the 1970s. The government has undertaken a number of power projects to further revitalize the sector and meet the growing future demand for heightened economic activities. The government has also prioritized renewable energy eying to get 40% of the energy-mix from renewable sources by 2050. The ongoing infrastructure projects in various sectors are expected to raise the country’s GDP by 4%.
Bangladesh's healthcare success includes notable decrease of maternal and infant mortality rates, increased vaccination coverage, and increased life expectancy at birth. As recognition for commendable initiatives in improving public healthcare, Bangladesh received a number of international awards including UN award for reducing child mortality rate, UN “Digital Health for Digital Development” award for use of ICT for health and nutrition and Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) Award for routine immunization programme.
Bangladesh has made noticeable progress in the human development front through implementing well-laid plans and channeling resources to enhance access to education. Bangladesh’s major successes in the education sector includes universal enrolment at the primary level, decrease in school dropout rate and gender parity at primary and secondary education.
Bangladesh has significantly reduced the gender gap and achieved gender parity in the recent past through encouraging women’s greater involvement in socio-economic and political spheres. Bangladesh ranks 1st among the South Asian countries, for the seven time in a row, in ensuring gender equality closing 73% of its overall gender gap.
The government is relentlessly working and undertaking numerous comprehensive measures to ensure the holistic empowerment of women moving forward. Bangladesh’s remarkable strides in gender parity has received worldwide acclamation.
The Bangladesh government launched ‘Digital Bangladesh’ initiative in 2009 with a view to protecting people's rights, ensuring accountability, and delivering citizen-centric services through technology. ‘Digital Bangladesh’ initiative has spurred remarkable growth in internet connectivity, mobile phone usage, IT export earnings and incorporation of ICT in education and governance. Bangladesh is also building hi-tech parks to boost the IT industry and undertaking different projects and programmes to build ICT workforce and propel the e-commerce industry in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh entered the space era on 12 May 2018 as the 57th nation with the successful launching of its first satellite ‘Bangabandhu-1’, named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh. The Bangabandhu-1 satellite is being used to provide internet facilities, internet and banking services, telemedicine, and remote education in remote areas.
Due to its unique geographical location, Bangladesh is one of the major vulnerable countries of the world to the impact of climate change. As a result, Bangladesh has been undertaking wide-ranging climate change adaptation programmes and formulating relevant national plans and policies to support the climate change related actions with a view to protecting lives and livelihoods. On global plane, Bangladesh has become a leader in global climate dialogue. As the co-chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum-CVF, Bangladesh upholds the interests of the climate vulnerable countries and promotes locally-led adaptation solutions.
- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the United Nations ‘Champion of the Earth’ for her effective leadership in addressing the impacts of climate change.
- Bangladesh is the first LDC to establish a ‘Climate Change Trust Fund’ from its own resources.
- Bangladesh adopted Delta Plan 2100 focusing efficient use and preservation of water.
- Bangladesh is going to implement the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ to achieve low carbon economic growth by 2030.
Pursuant to the country’s unflinching commitment to world peace, Bangladesh remains one of the top troops contributing countries to United Nations Peacekeeping operations across the globe.
Currently, Bangladesh hosts about 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. Bangladesh has been trying to ensure best possible humanitarian assistance for these people with the help of the international community. Bangladesh looks forward to a decisive action on the part of the international community for the earliest repatriation of all these people to their ancestral homeland in Myanmar in safety and dignity.
Bangladesh is endowed with numerous places of unique natural splendor as well as the remnants of amazing ancient culture and civilization of various eras spread all over the country. North-western and central parts of Bangladesh are rich in archeological sites representing different epochs with the oldest site dating back to 2000 BC. North-eastern part of the country is blessed with picturesque landscapes comprising lush green undulating terrain with numerous springs, waterfalls, crystal-clear streams, serpentine hilly roads, enchanting tea gardens, natural reserve forests, and bird sanctuaries in the vast wetlands.
Southeastern part is the place where hills converge with the sea. World's longest unbroken sandy beach Cox's Bazar, and some other magnificent beaches with both sunrise and sunset views from the same place and panoramic lakes are located in this densely forested hilly zone. Southwestern part boasts of the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, with majestic Royal Bengal Tiger, adorable spotted deer, and many other species of wildlife. This part of the country also hosts a few important archaeological sites of the Sultanate period.
Numerous colourful festivals, exotic culinary traditions and intriguing tribal cultures are particularly fascinating. Bangladesh offers ample opportunities to tourists for water skiing, river cruising, hiking, rowing, yachting, sea bathing, and other activities.
Bangladesh-Republic of Korea Bilateral Relationship
Bangladesh enjoys an excellent relationship with the Republic of Korea. Since the established diplomatic relationship in 1973, bilateral relations between the two countries witnessed phenomenal growth in depth and dimension.
In the last five decades, over 50 bilateral instruments were concluded to facilitate deeper collaboration in a wide range of areas including trade and commerce, investment, manpower, development assistance, education and human resource development, ICT, defense, and culture.
The Republic of Korea is also one of the major trading partners of Bangladesh. The volume of the bilateral trade crossed US $ 2 billion mark in 2021, when Bangladesh’s export to Korea increased by 35.8 percent to $498 million and Korea’s export to Bangladesh increased by 61.9 percent to $1.51 billion.
The major export items of Bangladesh to the Republic of Korea include-woven garments, knitwear, home textiles, leather, and leather products including, footwear, frozen food, ceramic items, pharmaceuticals, jute & jute goods, tents, synthetic ropes. A comprehensive partnership with preferential trade arrangements and a deeper collaboration in value and supply chain can contribute towards sustainable growth in bilateral trade between the two nations.
The Republic of Korea is the fifth largest investor in Bangladesh with an exclusive economic zone in Bangladesh-Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ). About 150 Korean companies now have significant investments or presence in Bangladesh. Korean renowned conglomerates are setting up manufacturing plants in Bangladesh in partnership with local companies for production of mobile phones, automobiles, home appliances, and consumer electronics.
The Republic of Korea is a major development partner of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is the third-largest recipient of Korean ODA with a total volume of US$ 790 million during the period of 1987 to 2019. A number of Korean companies are involved in the implementation of infrastructure projects in Bangladesh. Korean entities are set to fund some infrastructure projects in Bangladesh under private-public partnership. A substantial number of Bangladeshi nationals are working and studying in Korea.
Development trajectories of the two countries render huge potential for deeper mutually beneficial collaboration in diverse fields. Two countries will jointly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship in 2023. Both sides seek to avail this momentous occasion to take the bilateral relationship to a new height.