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A comparative discussion on foreign trade and development of Bangladesh

At some point in the past, it was thought that Bangladesh is a developing country with several times more potential than Singapore. However, today in the 20th century, our honorable young brothers have to go to work in Singapore, even though they have sold their land in order to earn a living. Back in the 90s, Malaysia was considered a very promising and emerging economic powerhouse. However, after 2010, the country could no longer maintain the continuity or progress of its economic development.

These are the thorn in the neck of Malaysia today, especially as a result of spending billions of dollars on relatively less important infrastructure and development sectors. Because even though the implemented expensive projects do not directly contribute to the economic development of Malaysia, the country still has to spend a huge amount of money on its management. For example, in 1999, Malaysia unveiled the magnificent 1,483-foot-high 88-story Petronas Twin Towers at a cost of about $2.00 billion. Today, $2 billion may not seem like a lot of money at the state level, but in terms of purchasing power, $2 billion in the 1990s was quite a lot of money.

Although it initially garnered much praise around the world, today it has become a white elephant for Malaysia. In this way, spending billions of dollars to build a modern international airport and seaport in a much less important or less populated area has not seen much financial benefit for the country. However, they are bound to spend money as operating cost for this throughout the year. It also includes the repayment of principal and interest on foreign loans.

Meanwhile, Singapore has taken its rightful place as a modern country in the developed world long ago from being a poor country in the third world. When Singapore was largely forced out of the Federation of Malaysia in 1965, the country's infrastructure and economic activity were at rock bottom. And with that Singapore's per capita income was only US$500 or so. But today, after almost 60 years, at the end of 2021, the GDP of the country is 340 billion dollars (2020) and the per capita income has increased 145 times to about 60 thousand dollars. Meanwhile, our total foreign export earnings are more than 1.5 times more than imports. There, Singapore exported $600 billion worth of goods to the world in 2021 (calculation may be slightly lower or higher).

Meanwhile, the national economy of our beloved Bangladesh still depends on the remittances sent by our respected expatriate workers brothers and sisters. In 2021, Bangladesh's total exports were $44.22 billion and imports were $66.00 billion. Where in July-December of the last fiscal year 2020-21, 27.27 billion dollars were spent in the foreign import sector in 6 months. But in the first 6 months of the current fiscal year 2021-22, goods worth 42.12 billion dollars have been imported from abroad. Compared to the last financial year, the expenditure in the first 6 months of the financial year 2021-22 has increased by 14.85 billion dollars and the expenditure in the import sector has increased by 1,27,710 crores.

According to the data provided by Bangladesh Bank, in the financial year 2021-22, Bangladesh exported goods worth 24.70 billion dollars to the world in the first 6 months of the financial year 2021-22. 17.42 billion dollars were consumed in the import sector more than the money received in exports. And while meeting the country's import expenditure, the import expenditure has been met with an additional amount of 17.42 billion dollars from the reverse remittance income or our foreign exchange reserves. However, in the entire year 2021, our esteemed expatriate workers sent maximum remittances of $22.07 billion to the country. Which is equal to 1,89,316 crore 46 lakhs in terms of money.

In our media, Bangladesh is often compared to Vietnam, an emerging country in South East Asia, when it comes to foreign trade. In fact, in the whole year of Vietnam 2021, Vietnam exported a total of 336.31 billion dollars worth of goods to the world and at the same time, the country imported 332.23 billion dollars worth of goods. In this case, the country's import and export trade had a positive balance of 4.08 billion dollars. However, during the same period, Vietnam imported 26.50% more goods from the whole world. Meanwhile, the ratio of export trade between Vietnam and Bangladesh is 8:1. In other words, the foreign export income of Vietnam is about 8 times more than the export income of Bangladesh.

If import expenditure is higher than the total export income of a country in the long term, it remains a big risk for the country. Therefore, in order to increase our foreign export income, new products based on domestic raw materials and technology should be created to enter the world market. Moreover, for the sake of continuing the trend of future economic development, we must reduce our dependence on foreign loans and also refrain from investing money in large projects with foreign loans on complicated terms in economically less important and unnecessary sectors.

Sherazur Rahman, Assistant Teacher and Writer, Village: Chhota Chowgram, Singra, Natore, Bangladesh.

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