Bangladesh’s economy is expanding beyond apparel production to sectors such as information technology as the country’s rapid economic growth stimulates investment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said at Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference in Tokyo recently. Hasina has been in office since 2009 as head of the ruling Awami League party. In that period, Bangladesh has experienced high economic growth through the success of its ready-made garment sector. The economy grew 7.86 per cent in the fiscal year ended last June, making it one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. This year’s growth will reach 8.13 per cent, Hasina said.

“This [growth] encouraged entrepreneurs to plan and start new ventures to support expansion of the industrial base of the country,” Hasina said. One of the rising industries is digital services. “The rapid expansion of ICT services has contributed to reducing income inequality, decreasing rural-urban disparity, and most notably gender gap in employment and access to opportunities,” she said.

According to Hasina, Bangladesh has established 5,286 “digital centers” across the country where people in remote areas can access internet services. Another emerging sector is medicine, she said, noting that Bangladesh now exports pharmaceuticals to more than 100 countries. Some economists say Bangladesh is benefiting from the ongoing US-China trade tensions as apparel exports from China fall.

But Hasina warned that a rise in tariffs will cause a decline in growth and called for an open trade system. “Infrastructure, free trade and liberal investment give foundation to Asian development,” she said. “We need to pledge to strengthen the world with greater openness, jointly address global challenges, safeguard fairness and justice and inject new impetus to co-operate using innovative ideas and measures.”