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Assignment on Economic history of Bangladesh

East Bengal—the eastern segment of Bengal, a region that is today Bangladesh—was a prosperous region of South Asia until modern times. It had the advantages of a mild, almost tropical climate, fertile soil, ample water, and an abundance of fish, wildlife, and fruit. The standard of living compared favorably with other parts of South Asia. As early as the thirteenth century, the region was developing as an agrarian economy. It was not entirely without commercial centers, and Dhaka in particular grew into an important entrepôt during the Mughal Empire. The British, however, on their arrival in the late eighteenth (18th) century, chose to develop Calcutta, now the capital city of West Bengal, as their commercial and administrative center in South Asia.
The development of East Bengal was thereafter limited to agriculture. The administrative infrastructure of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reinforced East Bengal's function as the primary agricultural producer—chiefly of rice, tea, teak, cotton, cane and jute—for processors and traders from around Asia and beyond. After its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh followed a socialist economy by nationalizing all industries, proving to be a critical blunder undertaken by Bangladesh's leaders. Education policies of the British dating back from colonial era deprived education to millions of Bangla peoples setting them back by decades. Some of the same factors that had made East Bengal a prosperous region became disadvantages during the nineteenth and twentieth century’s. As life expectancy increased, the limitations of land and the annual floods increasingly became constraints on economic growth. Preponderance on traditional agricultural methods became obstacles to the modernization of agriculture. Geography severely limited the development and maintenance of a modern transportation and communications system.
The partition of British India and the emergence of India and Pakistan in 1947 severely disrupted the former colonial economic system that had preserved East Bengal (now Bangladesh) as a producer of jute, rice and other agro commodities for the rest of British India. East Pakistan had to build a new industrial base and modernize agriculture in the midst of a population explosion. The united government of Pakistan expanded the cultivated area and some irrigation facilities, but the rural population generally became poorer between 1947 and 1971 because improvements did not keep pace with rural population increase. Pakistan's five-year plans opted for a development strategy based on industrialization, but the major share of the development budget went to West Pakistan, that is, contemporary Pakistan. The lack of natural resources meant that East Pakistan was heavily dependent on imports, creating a balance of payments problem. Without a substantial industrialization program or adequate agrarian expansion, the economy of East Pakistan steadily declined. Blame was placed by various observers, but especially those in East Pakistan, on the West Pakistani leaders who not only dominated the government but also most of the fledgling industries in East Pakistan.
Since Bangladesh followed a socialist economy by nationalizing all industries after its independence, a slow growth of experienced entrepreneurs, managers, administrators, engineers, or technicians underwent. There were critical shortages of essential food grains and other staples because of wartime disruptions. External markets for jute had been lost because of the instability of supply and the increasing popularity of synthetic substitutes. Foreign exchange resources were minuscule, and the banking and monetary system was unreliable.
Although Bangladesh had a large work force, the vast reserves of under trained and underpaid workers were largely illiterate, unskilled, and underemployed. Commercially exploitable industrial resources, except for natural gas, were lacking. Inflation, especially for essential consumer goods, ran between 300 and 400 percent. The war of independence had crippled the transportation system. Hundreds of road and railroad bridges had been destroyed or damaged, and rolling stock was inadequate and in poor repair. The new country was still recovering from a severe cyclone that hit the area in 1970 and causes 250,000 deaths. India, by no means a wealthy country and without a tradition of giving aid to other nations, came forward immediately with massive economic assistance in the first months after the fighting ended. Between December 1971 and January 1972, India committed US$232 million in aid to Bangladesh, almost all of it for immediate disbursement.
Bangladeshi leaders slowly began to turn their attention to developing new industrial capacity and rehabilitating its economy. The static economic model adopted by these early leaders, however—including the nationalization of much of the industrial sector—resulted in inefficiency and economic stagnation. Beginning in late 1975, the government gradually gave greater scope to private sector participation in the economy, a pattern that has continued. Many state-owned enterprises have been privatized, with banking, telecommunication, aviation, media, jute including a range of other vital sectors have been privatized. Inefficiency in the public sector have been improving however at a gradual pace, external resistance to developing the country's richest natural resources, and power sectors including infrastructure have all contributed to slowing economic growth. In the mid-1980s, there were encouraging signs of progress. Economic policies aimed at encouraging private enterprise and investment, privatizing public industries, reinstating budgetary discipline, and liberalizing the import regime were accelerated. From 1991 to 1993, the government successfully followed an enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but failed to follow through on reforms in large part because of preoccupation with the government's domestic political troubles. In the late 1990s the government's economic policies became more entrenched, and some of the early gains were lost, which was highlighted by a precipitous drop in foreign direct investment in 2000 and 2001. In June 2003 the IMF approved 3-year, $490-million plan as part of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) for Bangladesh that aimed to support the government's economic reform program up to 2006. Seventy million dollars was made available immediately. In the same vein the World Bank approved $536 million in interest-free loans.
Bangladesh historically has run a large trade deficit, financed largely through aid receipts and remittances from workers overseas. Foreign reserves dropped markedly in 2001 but stabilized in the USD3 to USD4 billion ranges (or about 3 months' import cover). In January 2007, reserves stood at $3.74 billion, and they increased to $5.8 billion by January 2008, in Nov 2009 it surpassed $10.0 billion according to the Bank of Bangladesh, the central bank. In addition imports and aid-dependence of the country has systematically been reduced since the beginning of 1990s.1