The Country and its People

Basic Facts

A unitary and sovereign republic known as the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Become an independent nation on 26 March 1971 . The nine-month long war of liberation inspired by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujihur Rahman culminated in victory of Bangladesh forces over the Pakistani occupiers on 16 December 1971. The region was under Muslim rule for five and a half centuries since the thirteenth century, since 1757 A D under British rule for two centuries and become a province of Pakistan between 1947 and 1971. The head of state is President Shahahuddin Ahmed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the head of government.

Bangla, is the state language.

The national anthem of Bangladesh comprises the firs ten lines of the song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla‘ by Rahindranath Tagore.

The national flag of the Republic consists of a circle coloured red resting on a rectangular background. The emblem of the Republic is the flower Shapla (nympoea nouchiali ) resting on water having on each side sheaf of paddy surmounted by three connected leaves of jute with two stars on each side of the leaves.


Bangladesh is situated in the eastern part of South Asian sub-continent. Lying between 20 degrees 34’ Latitudes and 26 degrees 38′ North. And Longitudes 88 degrees 0I’ and 92 degrees 41′ East. Bordered by India on the east, west and north and by the Bay of Bengal and a small border strip with Myanmar on the south.

It has a land area of about I ,47,570 square kilometres. It’s alluvial plains provide fertile agricultural lands.

The delta landmass comprise mainly of three mighty rivers the-Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna, with a network of numerous rivers and canals. Vast green fields are hounded by low hills in the northeast and the southeast with an average elevation of 244 and 610 metres respectively. The highest point is located in the south-eastern extremity of Chittagong Hill Tracts.


The population of the country currently stands at around 126 million. 80 percent of the people live in rural areas and 60 percent of the people depend on agriculture for their livelihood.

Rice and fish are common diet. Lungis and vests are the usual attire for men in the rural areas as opposed to shirts and trousers in the urban areas. Sarees are the common dress for womenfolk.

There are about one million tribal people, the majority of whom live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The tribes have distinct cultures of their own.

Decades-old tribal unrest was now settled with the signing of a peace treaty between the PCJSS (representing the tribal community) and the government in December, 1997 in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region .

Flora and Fauna

The tropical climate has made the country rich in vegetation. The villages are usually full of groves of Mango, Banana, Jack-fruit, Coconut, Palm, Bamboo, and other useful trees. About 17 percent of the land area are forests. Herbs and shrubs grow abudantly. Most of the hilly regions are mostly forested. The largest forest is the Sundarban which stretches across the south-western seaboard and provides sanctuary to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger.

Variety of wild animals are found in the forests. Of the 200 species of mammals, the best goes to the Royal Bengal Tiger found in the Sundarbans. Elephants are mostly found in the forests of Chittagong Hill tracts. Six species of Deer are seen in the Hill Tracts and the Sundarban. Among the bovine animals Buffalo, Ox and Bison are commonly seen. There are about 150 species of reptiles. Common amphibians include the Sea Turtle, River Tortoise, Mud Turtle, Crocodile. There are hundreds of species of birds, and fresh water fishes are abundant in both quantity and category. Of the 525 recorded species of birds, 350 are resident. There are 200 number of species of marine and fresh water fish.



Bangladesh has an agrarian economy with 32% of GDP coming from the Agriculture Sector. Major agricultural products are rice, jute, wheat, potato, pulses, tobacco, tea, sugarcane, etc. The country is the largest exporter of jute and jute goods in the world. Readymade garments are among the most exportable items. Tea, frozen shrimps, fish, leather goods and handicrafts are also major exportable commodities.

The country has under gone a major shift in its economic philosophy and management in recent years. On its birth, it embraced socialism as the economic ideology with a dominant role for the public sector. But since the mid-seventies, it undertook a major restructuring towards establishing a market economy with emphasis on private sector-led economic growth.

During the nineties, the country has completed a major stabilization program which has reduced inflation as well as fiscal and current account deficits and established a healthy foreign exchange reserve position with low and sustainable debt-service liabilities. With a modest economic growth, the basic indicators related to health, education and poverty have all shown sustained improvement

Basic Socio-Economic Indicators (1997-98)

Population (January. 1998) 126

Million Value of exports (million US $) 5020

Population growth rate (%) 173

Value of imports (million US $) 7525

GDP (at current price. billion taka) 154092

Exports (as % GDP) 14.7

GDP(1984-85 constant price, billion taka) 718.12

Imports (as % 0f GDP) 22.0

GDP growth rate (% at constant price) 56

Urban poverty (%) 49.9

Foreign exchange reserves (Millions USS) 1903

Rural poverty (%) 47.1

Domestic savings (% of GDP) 7.5

Urban population (as % of total population) 24

National savings (% of GDP) 148

Income ratio of highest 20% to lowest 20% 8.8

Gross investment (% of GDP) 173

Life expectancy at birth 59.6

Government expenditure (% 1 74 of GDP)

Crude Birth rate (per 249 1000 population) 24.9

Government income (% of GDP) 122

Crude Death rate (per 76 1000 population) 7.6

Adult Literacy rate (I 5+.%) 5 I 2

Infant mortality rate (per 1000 live births) 67

Total Labour Force (million, 1995-96)

Total fertility rate (per woman) 3.41

Male Labour Force (million, 1995-96)

Contraceptive prevalence (%) 509

Agricultural Labour Force (as % of total) 632

Persons per physician 4955

Industrial Labour Force (as % of total) 77

Access to safe drinking water (% household) 966

Female and Male ratio 100:106

Access to hygienic toilet (% household) 358

Source Bangladesh Economic Review 1998: Bangtadesh Bureau of statistics.

According to a World Bank estimate, Bangladesh has the 36th largest economy in the world in terms of GNP based on purchasing power parity method of valuation, and 55th largest in terms of nominal GNP in U.S. Dollars. However, because of the population size, per capita income was US$ 280 in 1998(1 US$=Taka 48.50).

Bangladesh is primarily an agrarian economy. Agriculture is the single largest producing sector of economy since it comprises about 30% of the country’s GDP and employing around 60% of the total labour force. The performance of this sector has an overwhelming impact on major macroeconomic objectives like employment generation, poverty alleviation, human resources development and food security. Meeting the nation’s food requirements remain the key-objective of the government and in recent years there has been substantial increase in grain production. However, due to calamities like flood, loss of food and cash crops is a recurring phenomenon which disrupts the continuing progress of the entire economy.

Agricultural holdings in Bangladesh are generally small. Through Cooperatives the use of modern machinery is gradually gaining popularity. Rice, Jute, Sugarcane, Potato, Pulses, Wheat, Tea and Tobacco are the principal crops. The crop sub-sector dominates the agriculture sector contributing about 72% of total production. Fisheries, livestock and forestry sub-sectors are 10.33%, 10.11% and 7.33% respectively.

Bangladesh is the largest producer of Jute. Rice being the staple food, its production is of major importance. Rice production stood at 20.3 million tons in 1996-97 fiscal year. Crop diversification program, credit, extension and research, and input distribution policies pursued by the government are yielding positive results. The country is now on the threshold of attaining self-sufficiency in foodgrain production.


In 1972-73, the export earnings of the country totalled US$348.33 million, of which 90% came from the jute export sector. The other major export producing items were tea and leather. Since then, the country has been widening its export base. The situation has now vastly improved with addition of non-traditional items like readymade garments, shrimps, fish, finished, leather, newsprint chemical fertilizer, handicrafts, naphtha, ceramic products, fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables, etc. As a result, the export earnings increased, estimated to be US $ 5020 million during 1997-98.

The major importable items include raw cotton, textile fabrics and accessories cotton yarn, petroleum products, capital machinery, automobiles including spares and accessories, industrial chemicals and dyes, pharmaceutical raw materials, milk food, edible-oil, coal, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, cement, etc. The value of imports during 1997-98 has been estimated to be US$ 7525 million.

In line with the global trend, the government has steadily liberalized its trade barriers and significant progress has been achieved in recent years in reducing or eliminating non-tariff restrictions, rationalizing tariff rates and raising export incentives.


The county was one of the major exporters of textiles, silk and sugar till the eighteenth century but the industrialization process was subsequently halted during the 200 years of colonial exploitation. As a result, Bangladesh inherited a narrow industrial base when it became independent in 1971.

It has a good number of large, medium and small-sized industries in both public and private sectors based on both indigenous and imported raw materials. Among them are jute, cotton, textile, fertilizer, engineering, shipbuilding, steel, oil-refinery, paper, newsprint, sugar, chemicals, cement and leather. Jute Industry has traditionally played an important role in the national economy. But in recent years, Ready Made Garments Industry has replaced Jute as the principal export-earner for the country. Considerable progress has been attained in the past few years in industries such as leather, ceramic, shrimp, fish, pharmaceuticals and frozen food.

With the development of infrastructures, supportive policies for trade and investment and comparative advantage in labour-intensive Industries, excellent prospects for investment exist in Bangladesh today. Industrial growth was recorded at 81% during 1997-98. Foreign investors are pouring into the country in greater numbers everday, especially in the export processing zones special facilties existing at Dhaka and Chittagong.

To attract local and foreign investors, the present government has introduced a number of perks and incentives. These include provision for setting up export processing zones in the private sector, initiatives to set up new EPZs in the public sector, tax holiday for export—oriented industries, scope for 100 percent foreign investments and repatriation of profits. etc.

Due to the present economic necessity and past experiences, privatization of state—owned enterprises are being geared up by the present government.

Fisheries and Livestock

In recent years. the fisheries and livestock sector has been playing an increasingly important role in the economy uplift efforts of Bangladesh. It is a labour-intensive and quick-yielding sector which augments growth and alleviates poverty. Around 1.3 million people are directly employed in the fisheries sector alone.

The country has immense natural potential for developing the fisheries sub-sector. The sector contributes 3.3% of the GDP and 10.33% of the agriculture sector. The sector includes open water bodies such as rivers, canals,lakes, etc. And closed water bodies such as ponds and flood—control polders totalling 4 million hecteres. Almost 80% of the country’s protein requirement, around 70% of exports in the primary commodity category and almost 9% of toral exports come from this sub-sector. The sub-sector marked a continuous annual growth of 8.6% since 1996. This increase is due to both Government and private initiatives. Fish production increased to over 1 .4 million during 1997-98.

The Government is providing various incentives to the sector like offerings infrastructure, credit, research and extension facilities. Different NGOs are also undertaking programs to motivate and train fishermen and thereby raise production. Hatcheries are being set up through private initiatives. Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation is providing marketing and storage facilities to the fishermen and fish traders.

With an annual growth rate of over 8% since 1993, the contribution of the livestock sub-sector to GDP and the agriculture sector as a whole is currently 3.2% and 10.11% respectively. Showing much potential to develop as a commercial sector with employment and income generating opportunities both in the rural and urban areas. A large number of enterprises—cattle, poultry and dairy farms have grown in the private sector in recent years. Livestock population is estimated (1994/95) to he 23 million cattle, 31 million goats and 130 million poultry. Shortage of Livestock products is attributed to the prevalence of diseases, poor quality of animals and feed shortages. Under the public sector, improvement of the genetic quality of existing stock is currently carried out through establishment of breeding stations and cattle raising units and a wide network of artificial insemination services. An extensive program has been undertaken for fodder cultivation under whichmuch improved seeds and seedlings are being distributed to the farmers, the NGOs and the private farms.


Bangladesh has pursued the path of planned development since independence. Short term Annual Development Programs. Medium term Five-year Plans and Long term perspective plans have been used for the purpose. The First-Five year plan (1973—78) was launched in 1973, while the Fourth-Five year plan concluded in June. 995. The Fifth Five Year Plan has been launched by the present government covering the period 1997—002 in order to enable the country to face the challenges of the 21st century. Export—led economic growth through a liberal free market approach, alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor, industrialization, agricultural growth and human resource development have been attached topmost priority in recent Development Plans.

During the l990s, the government policy has focused on strengthening the government’s role in social and infrastructure development, with the private sector playing the leading role in directly productive activities. The roles of the government are mainly confined to regulatory and promotional ones.

Participation of target people at the grassroots level in the planning process has been emphasized by the present government. Grass-roots institutions and individuals are expected to get a prominent role in future in plan formulation and implementation.