Bangladesh

 Surface Area (km sq) 147570
 Population (million) 156.594
 GDP ($ billion) 161
 Life Expectancy (years) 70
 Poverty headcount ratio (%) 43.3
 HDI 0.558
 Capital City Dhaka
 Main Language Bangali

Geography

The geography of Bangladesh is divided between three regions. Most of the country is dominated by the fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The northwest and central parts of the country are formed by the Madhupur and the Barind plateaus. The northeast and southeast are home to evergreen hill ranges. The Ganges delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma or Pôdda), Brahmaputra (Jamuna or Jomuna), and Meghna rivers and their respective tributaries. The Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna, finally flowing into the Bay of Bengal. The alluvial soil deposited by the rivers when they overflow their banks has created some of the most fertile plains in the world. Bangladesh has 57 trans-boundary rivers, making water issues politically complicated to resolve – in most cases as the lower riparian state to India.

The country is predominated by rich fertile flat land. Most parts of Bangladesh are less than 12 m (39.4 ft) above sea level, and it is estimated that about 10% of the land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 m (3.28 ft). 17% of the country is covered by forests and 12% is covered by hill systems. The country’s haor wetlands are of significant importance to global environmental science.

In southeastern Bangladesh, experiments have been done since the 1960s to ‘build with nature’. Construction of cross dams has induced a natural accretion of silt, creating new land. With Dutch funding, the Bangladeshi government began promoting the development of this new land in the late 1970s. The effort has become a multiagency endeavor, building roads, culverts, embankments, cyclone shelters, toilets and ponds, as well as distributing land to settlers. By fall 2010, the program will have allotted some 27,000 acres (10,927 ha) to 21,000 families. With an elevation of 1,280 m (4,200 ft), the highest peak of Bangladesh is Tahjindong, also known as Bijoy located in Bandarban district.

History

After independence in 1971, the Constitution of Bangladesh established a unitary secular multiparty parliamentary democratic system. The Awami League won the first general elections in 1973 with a massive mandate, gaining an absolute parliamentary majority. A nationwide famine occurred during 1973 and 1974, and in early 1975, Mujib initiated a one-party socialist rule with his newly formed BAKSAL. On 15 August 1975, Mujib and most of his family members were assassinated by mid-level military officers. Vice President Khandaker Mushtaq Ahmed was sworn in as President with most of Mujib’s cabinet intact. Two Army uprisings on 3 November and 7 November 1975 led to a reorganised structure of power. A state of emergency was declared to restore order and calm. Mushtaq resigned, and the country was placed under temporary martial law, with three service chiefs serving as deputies to the new president, Justice Abu Sayem, who also became the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Lieutenant General Ziaur Rahman took over the presidency in 1977 when Justice Sayem resigned. President Zia reinstated multi-party politics, introduced free markets, and founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Zia’s rule ended when he was assassinated by elements of the military in 1981. Bangladesh’s next major ruler was Lieutenant General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, who gained power in a coup on 24 March 1982, and ruled until 6 December 1990, when he was forced to resign after a revolt of all major political parties and the public, along with pressure from Western donors (which was a major shift in international policy after the fall of the Soviet Union).

Lt General Ziaur Rahman served as President (1977–1981) and CMLA (1977–1979). Since then, Bangladesh has reverted to a parliamentary democracy. Zia’s widow, Khaleda Zia, led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to parliamentary victory at the general election in 1991 and became the first female Prime Minister in Bangladeshi history. However, the Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, one of Mujib’s surviving daughters, won the next election in 1996. The Awami League lost again to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 2001. Widespread political unrest followed the resignation of the BNP in late October 2006, but the caretaker government worked to bring the parties to election within the required ninety days. At the last minute in early January, the Awami League withdrew from the election scheduled for later that month. On 11 January 2007, the military intervened to support both a state of emergency and a continuing but neutral caretaker government under a newly appointed Chief Advisor, who was not a politician. The country had suffered for decades from extensive corruption,[55] disorder, and political violence. The caretaker government worked to root out corruption from all levels of government. It arrested on corruption charges more than 160 people, including politicians, civil servants, and businessmen, among whom were both major party leaders, some of their senior staff, and two sons of Khaleda Zia.

After working to clean up the system, the caretaker government held what was described by observers as a largely free and fair election on 29 December 2008. The Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina won with a two-thirds landslide in the elections; she took the oath of Prime Minister on 6 January 2009.

Economy

Bangladesh is a Next Eleven developing nation with a US$175 billion economy and a per capita income of US$1,190. The Taka is the currency of Bangladesh. The central bank is the Bangladesh Bank. The service sector accounts for 51% of GDP, the industrial sector 30% and agriculture 18%. Bangladesh is a major agricultural producer, particularly in the global production of rice (4th), fisheries (5th), jute (2nd), tea (10th) and tropical fruits (5th). Major industries include textiles, pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, steel, electronics, telecommunications, energy, fertilizer, cement, leather, food processing and ceramics. The country is the seventh-largest natural gas producer in Asia. Its exports amounted to US$30 billion in the fiscal year 2013–14. 70% of export earnings came from the textile industry, which is the world’s fourth largest textile exporter (after China, India, Germany and Italy). Remittances from the Bangladeshi diaspora and overseas workers provide vital foreign exchange earnings, accounting for US$14 billion in FY2013-14.

Bangladesh has a large, often inefficient, public sector, including state owned utilities, banks and industries. The government provides heavy subsidies for fuel prices and irrigation. Since the British Raj, jute and tea were the backbones of the economy. East Bengal once accounted for 80% of the world jute trade, which peaked during the Second World War. The country’s tea industry includes many of the world’s largest tea plantations.

A Danish ferry built in Chittagong. The country has a rapidly growing shipbuilding industry
After independence, the international community poured substantial foreign aid into Bangladesh to help develop its infrastructure, education, healthcare and demographic prospects. Today, the country has decreased its dependency on foreign aid from 85% (in 1988) to 2% (in 2010), for the annual development budget. Since 2004, the economy has grown at an average rate of 6%. Bangladesh has seen rising foreign direct investment, particularly in energy, telecoms and export processing zones. Bangladesh has one of the largest financial industries in South Asia. Its twin stock markets are the Dhaka Stock Exchange and the Chittagong Stock Exchange.

The telecoms industry in Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with 114 million cellphone subscribers in December 2013. The pharmaceutical industry meets 97% of domestic demand and exports to 52 countries. The shipbuilding industry has seen rapid growth in recent years. The steel industry in Bangladesh is concentrated in the port city of Chittagong. It is buoyed by the boom in shipbuilding, construction and real estate. Bangladesh is increasing its export of ceramics, particularly bone china and porcelain. It is a major exporter of fish, seafood, frozen and processed food. It has a fast growing solar power industry and ranks as the country with the fifth-largest number of green jobs.

Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
A significant contributor to the economy is the microfinance sector. Pioneered by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in the late 1970s, it has grown to include more than thirty million borrowers and has lent billions of dollars in microcredit loans. The industry stimulates a dynamic rural economy, supporting entrepreneurship in agriculture, cottage industries and small businesses. Microcredit organizations such as BRAC and Grameen Bank have diversified into education, housing and renewable energy.

Transport is a major sector in the Bangladesh economy. The country has a 2,706 km rail network operated by the Bangladesh Railway. It has one of the largest inland waterway networks in the world, with 8,046 km of navigable waterways. The Port of Chittagong is its busiest seaport, handling over US$60 billion in annual trade. More than 80% of the country’s export-import trade passes through Chittagong. The second largest seaport is the Port of Mongla. The insufficient power supply is a significant obstacle to growth. According to the World Bank, poor governance, corruption and weak public institutions are major challenges for Bangladesh’s development. In April 2010, Standard & Poor’s awarded Bangladesh a BB- long term credit rating, which is below India and above Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Population and Culture

The population of Bangladesh as of 15 March 2011 is 142.3 million (census 2011 result), much less than recent (2007–2010) estimates of Bangladesh’s population ranging from 150 to 170 million and it is the 8th most populous nation in the world. In 1951, the population was 44 million. It is also the most densely populated large country in the world, and it ranks 11th in population density, when very small countries and city-states are included.

Bangladesh’s population growth rate was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when its population grew from 65 to 110 million. With the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, the growth rate began to slow. The fertility rate now stands at 2.55, lower than India (2.58) and Pakistan (3.07) The population is relatively young, with 34% aged 15 or younger and 5% 65 or older. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 70 years for both males and females in 2012. Despite the rapid economic growth, about 26% of the country still lives below the international poverty line which means living on less than $1.25 per day. Bengalis constitute 98% of the population.

More than 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as their native language, which is also the official language. English is also used as a second language among the middle and upper classes and is also widely used in higher education and the legal system.[149] Historically, laws were written in English and were not translated into Bengali until 1987, when the procedure was reversed. Bangladesh’s Constitution and all laws are now in both English and Bengali.[150] There are also several indigenous minority languages.

The Sari (শাড়ি shaŗi) is by far the most widely worn dress by Bangladeshi women. A guild of weavers in Dhaka is renowned for producing saris from exquisite Jamdani muslin. The salwar kameez (shaloar kamiz) is also quite popular, especially among the younger females, and in urban areas some women wear western attire. Among men, western attire is more widely adopted. Men also wear the kurta-paejama combination, often on special occasions, and the lungi, a kind of long skirt for men.

Bengali has a rich literary heritage, which Bangladesh shares with the Indian state of West Bengal. The earliest literary text in Bengali is the 8th century Charyapada. Medieval Bengali literature was often either religious (for example, Chandidas), or adapted from other languages (for example, Alaol). Bengali literature reached its full expression in the 19th century, with its greatest icons being poets, the national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra, Jasim Uddin, Jibanananda Das, Shamsur Rahman, Al Mahmud, Sukanta Bhattacharya, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutt and present day Humayun Ahmed, Muhammed Zafar Iqbal. Bangladesh also has a long tradition in folk literature, for example Maimansingha Gitika, Thakurmar Jhuli and stories related to Gopal Bhar, Birbal and Molla Nasiruddin.

The one string ektara is often played by Baul folk minstrels. The musical tradition of Bangladesh is lyrics-based (Baniprodhan), with minimal instrumental accompaniment. Numerous musical traditions exist including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya, varying from one region to the next. Folk music is accompanied by the ektara, an instrument with only one string. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bangladesh also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music. Similarly, Bangladeshi dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance tradition. The Baul tradition was included in the list of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO.

The Bangladeshi film industry has been based in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, since 1956. As of 2004, it produced approximately 100 movies a year, with an average movie budget of about 20,000,000 Bangladeshi taka. The film industry is known as Dhallywood, a portmanteau of the words Dhaka and Hollywood. Bangladesh produces about 80 films a year.

(Source: Wikipedia Updated: 2015)