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Bangladesh: Commerce Minister Says Exports to Reach $60B by 2021

Bangladesh upped its goal for global exports by 2021 from $50 billion to $60 billion on positive present growth, but the country may be setting its sights on industries other than garments to get there.

From reports calling out rampant subcontracting to factories banished from doing business with the Accord and Alliance over inadequate remediation efforts and fake inspection reports, to another factory fire in February—the last few months have offset other improvements Bangladesh has made in its ready-made garment sector in recent years.

Speaking at the Chittagong International Trade Fair 2016 this week, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said the country’s current annual exports are upwards of $31 billion and growth has been 12.5% per year, the Financial Express reported.

But because of what Ahmed called “bottlenecks” that are setting back the country’s most prospective sectors, including the garment and leather industries, most of the growth to get to the 2021 goal will come from the information technology (IT) and medicine sectors.

“The sole aim of this is that we want to transform Bangladesh from a labor-reliant economy to a digital one,” the Express reported Ahmed as saying. “Western countries will need 2 million programmers in the next 20 years, our country too will need a few hundred thousand programmers in the next five years. We will create employment opportunities for a million youths in the IT sector.”

If all goes as outlined, Ahmed said Bangladesh would not only become a mid-income country by 2021, but that it would also be able to graduate from least developed country consideration.

“We believe that the high growth rate of 7 percent on average is achievable in the current fiscal,” Ahmed said, calling on entrepreneurs and the private sector to play a more proactive role in driving the country’s economic growth and elevating its position, according to the Express.