Bangladesh is a founding member of the SASEC Program, joining with Bhutan, India, and Nepal in 2001 to form this project-based partnership. Maldives and Sri Lanka became full members of SASEC in May 2014, following several years as active observers.

The Seventh Five Year Plan FY2016-F2020 of the Government of Bangladesh begins with the country's entry into the ranks of middle income countries. Placing emphasis on accelerating growth and empowering citizens, core targets of the Seventh Plan include reduction of extreme poverty, improvement of exports, investment in infrastructure in peri-urban growth centers around Special Economic Zones, increasing installed electricity generation capacity, and improvement of the country's multimodal transport network. Regional cooperation will be pursued to harness hydropower, to contribute to the goal of providing reliable electricity to all. To achieve the target growth of 8% by 2020, the transport sector aims to fast-track a number of transformational infrastructure investments, promote regional connectivity, and support the Trans-Asian Highway Project.

SASEC Projects in Bangladesh

Since 2005, the Government of Bangladesh has signed 15 ADB-financed SASEC investment projects worth around $4.32 billion.

Bangladesh: SASEC Projects
Source: SASEC Project Portfolio, as of October 2019

Bangladesh: SASEC Project Portfolio, as of October 2019

In addition to the projects, ADB-financed technical assistance has supported SASEC investment projects in Bangladesh, regional cooperation forums, and knowledge-sharing initiatives, and pilot projects since 2001. A total of 11 national technical assistance projects (cumulative worth of around $10.34 million) have assisted Bangladesh in project preparation, strategic planning, and capacity building.

Trade Snapshot

Direction of Intra-regional Trade

The value of Bangladesh's merchandise exports and imports trade with other SASEC member countries, using International Monetary Fund data from 2020, is captured in the tables below.

Bangladesh's top import source, ranking 2nd worldwide, is India, with imported goods valued at over $6.9 billion.

Bangladesh's top export destination in South Asia, and its 8th worldwide, is India, with exports valued at $980 million.

Bangladesh Trade in SASEC Subregion

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of October 2020

Bangladesh Trade - Import

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of October 2020

Bangladesh Trade - Export

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of October 2020

Ease of Doing Business

Bangladesh moved to rank 168 in the Doing Business Report, up from 176 the previous year. The country carried out reforms that lowered registration and name clearance fees for setting up new businesses, and expanded coverage by the credit information bureau. Dhaka also invested in digitization and human capital that made it faster for people to get an electrical connection.

Source: Doing Business, accessed June 2020

Note: The World Bank/International Finance Corporation's annual flagship Doing Business Report measures the ease of doing business by ranking economies from 1 to 190, based on quantitative indicator sets that can be compared across economies and over time, with first place being the best and indicating a regulatory environment is conducive to business operation. Of immediate relevance to SASEC aims and goals are indicator sets on Starting a Business, and Trading across Borders.

Logistics Performance Index (LPI)

The overall LPI score of 2.58 for Bangladesh in 2018 ranks it at 100 out of 168 economies. Bangladesh posted its best scores in timeliness (2.92), tracking and tracing (2.79), and international shipments (2.56). The country’s 2018 LPI score roughly reflects the South Asia regional average of 2.51.

Bangladesh LPI 2018

Source: World Bank LPI (accessed December 2018)

Note: The LPI overall score reflects perceptions of a country's logistics based on six core dimensions: (i) efficiency of customs clearance process, (ii) quality of trade- and transport-related infrastructure, (iii) ease of arranging competitively priced shipments, (iv) quality of logistics services, (v) ability to track and trace consignments, and (vi) frequency with which shipments reach the consignee within the scheduled time. The scores for the six areas are averaged across all respondents and aggregated to a single score using principal components analysis. A higher score indicates better performance.

Economic Outlook

Asian Development Outlook

Bangladesh's gross domestic product grew by 8.2% in fiscal year (FY) 2019 due to strong growth in industry and services. Inflation slowed supported by a good crop harvest. The trade deficit shrank and remittances continued to grow. The Bangladesh economy will remain strong in 2020. Growth is projected at 7.8% in 2020 and 8.0% in FY2021 with the slowdown in global demand. Inflation is expected to remain stable.

Source: Asian Development Outlook 2020 (ADB)
South Asia Regional Update

The economic outlook in Bangladesh is favorable. Growth in has been led by private consumption and investment. Output growth accelerated to 8.0% in FY2018 and remains strong in FY2019. Inflation has stayed within 5%–6% and has been relatively stable. Maintaining positive growth will become more challenging and will require further increasing investment and updating institutions and policymaking practices.

Source: South Asia Regional Update, August 2019 (IMF)