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 2017, is captured in the tables below.

Bangladesh's top import source, ranking 2nd worldwide, is India, with imported goods valued at nearly $7.3 billion.

Bangladesh's top export destination in South Asia, and its 15th worldwide, is India, with exports valued at $558 million.

Bangladesh Trade in SASEC Subregion

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of May 2018

Bangladesh Trade - Import

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of May 2018

Bangladesh Trade - Export

Source: IMF Direction of Trade Statistics, as of May 2018

Ease of Doing Business

Bangladesh moved to 176 among 190 countries in the Doing Business Report, up a notch from the previous year. The country continues to invest in its electricity grid over the past year and has been increasing the network capacity in Chattogram and Dhaka since 2015.

Source: Doing Business, accessed December 2018

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

Growth exceeded expectations despite slower export expansion and declining remittances in Bangladesh. Inflation eased, but the current account fell into deficit. Growth is expected to moderate in fiscal year 2018 as growth slows in agriculture and services. Inflation will edge up. Sustained high growth demands an expanded industrial base and a diversified export basket.

Source: Asian Development Outlook 2018 (ADB)
South Asia Regional Update

Outlook in Bangladesh is broadly positive. Real GDP grew by 7.3% in FY2017. Inflation appears to be stabilizing in line with official targets at 6%, following an increase in food supply. Headline inflation is projected to stay at current levels. Maintaining growth will become more challenging, and will require increased investment and upgrading of policy-making institutions.

Source: South Asia Regional Update, January 2018 (IMF)