Launch of the Productive Transformation Policy Review of Bangladesh

Statement by Pedro Manuel Moreno, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Launch of the Productive Transformation Policy Review of Bangladesh

Dhakar, Bangladesh
12 September 2023

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join you at the launch of the Productive Transformation Policy Review of Bangladesh.

This study is the result of twenty months of intense collaboration, peer learning, and rich policy dialogue between the Government of Bangladesh, the OECD Development Centre, UNCTAD and various institutions, inside and outside the UN system.

We hope that this study is useful for supporting Bangladesh further in its remarkable transformation.

In 50 years, your country has moved from conflict and freshly obtained independence to meeting all three criteria for graduation from the Least Developed Country category.

Those less familiar with LDC graduation criteria may not know what a big achievement this is: Bangladesh is the first ever country to graduate meeting all three criteria.

To illustrate the remarkable progress, let me give you some numbers.

Since the year 2000:

  • Bangladesh’s Gross National Income per capita has increased fourfold;
  • Poverty rates have been roughly halved;
  • Life expectancy has risen from 66 to 72 years.
  • The economy has gone through an amazing transformation, moving from an agrarian and aid-dependent economy to becoming the world’s third largest manufacturer of ready-made garments.

It is the development vision of the country’s leadership that has enabled these achievements.

Bangladesh’s trajectory is a source of inspiration for other LDCs.

Your country has been very effective in leveraging International Support Measures for LDCs to develop productive capacities. For example, using preferential market access to support the expansion of the ready-made garments industry, or the flexibilities in the intellectual property right regime, which facilitated the emergence of a viable domestic pharmaceutical industry.

But LDC graduation is a milestone, not the goal. Development must go on.

The country needs to be prepared to cope with vulnerabilities looming over the medium term, such as: 

  • Reliance on LDC-specific international support measures;
  • Lack of export diversification;
  • Dependence on external finance; or
  • Exposure to the adverse impacts of climate change.

And this amid a slowing down of the global economy, financial turbulences and geopolitical tensions.

This is why, we are convinced that upgrading the policy framework for further structural transformation is necessary. Most importantly, Bangladesh needs to shift from competitiveness largely hinging on cheap labor costs and preferential market access to competitiveness based on productivity growth, stronger sectoral linkages, and innovation.

This makes renewed partnerships for sustainable development even more critical.

I can assure you that UNCTAD will continue to support the government of Bangladesh to achieve its Vision 2041.

Bangladesh has been a long-standing partner of UNCTAD. We have supported and collaborated on many fronts, such as trade facilitation, custom modernization, digitalization or the Vulnerability Profile.

The study we launch today is another element of our partnership. And a very significant one: It is the first time the Productive Transformation Policy Review is conducted in a Least Developed Country.

Dear friends,

Bangladesh has a vision of what it aspires to be - an economically developed, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable high-income economy.

We stand ready to support the country on this journey and are convinced that Bangladesh has the vision and determination to achieve its goals.

Before concluding, I would like to thank the Government of Bangladesh and the OECD Development Centre for the fruitful collaboration during this study.

I wish you a rich exchange and thank you for your attention.