# Between 2011 and 2019, Bangladesh’s export grew at 6.8pc
# World average export grew at 0.4pc
# Botswana booms sitting on diamond mine
# Bangladesh booms out of repression, exploitation
Britmonkey, a British YouTuber, has hailed Bangladesh’s incredible socioeconomic strides within a short span of time after independence.
Michael, also known by his YouTube channel name, "BritMonkey," is a British educational YouTuber.
Marking the 51st Victory Day of Bangladesh on December 16, it released a video titled "Bangladesh: How to Make a Country Rich (from scratch). The video includes an introduction, the history of independence, Bangladesh today, labour issues and solutions, and the road ahead.
Despite overpopulation, the report said that Bangladesh has made record economic growth and GDP increase within a short time after independence in 1971. Making an analogy with Botswana, it said Bangladesh made progress without having a diamond mine in the African country.
"In proportion to its population, Bangladesh is one of the least reported-on countries in the western world. They have more people than all of these countries combined, but when was last time you heard anything about Bangladesh other than some chemical spill or sweatshop fire that kills a thousand people. Like Botswana, Bangladesh is a rapidly developing nation and living standards have increased dramatically since its independence in 1971. But this time, Bangladesh did so without relying on natural resources."
Bangladesh had nothing going for it and arguably started life as a country worse off than Botswana. How did we get here? Indian intervention ended the liberation war, and about three million people were killed by Pakistani forces. People had to starve, and the life expectancy was 45 years. Literacy, or the ability to read and write, was only found in one in every five people. The per capita income was $84 a year.
In the time of the British Raj, the whole region was governed as India, but split into many regions along religious lines; some had Muslim majorities, and others had Hindu majorities. The territory that would become Bangladesh was called the Bengal Presidency and had a Muslim majority. Hindus outnumbered Muslims by a significant margin and held all of the top jobs in the government. In the run-up to India's independence in 1947, many Muslims were worried that in the new Indian state they would be marginalised by the Hindu majority because there was no neutral third party to settle religious disputes.
Indian Muslims lobbied the existing British to set up a separate state for the Muslim-majority provinces, which they agreed with. Pakistan on the left, India in the middle, and... Pakistan again on the right. Two were lumped together on account of religion, notwithstanding different languages and thousand-mile miles away. As expected, this was immediately a disaster for the people of East Pakistan. The borders of these new countries were not even drawn up until six weeks before they were supposed to be in effect and were extremely complicated. There were over 190 enclaves across the border, cutting off entire communities from police, schools, hospitals, banks, or post offices. And the borders with India were not open, effectively trapping these residents inside their city blocks with no way to receive help. India was officially the successor state of the Raj and therefore got all the institutions, armed forces, courts and financial systems.
At the outset, Michael, also known by his YouTube channel name as BritMonkey, said “Two years ago I made a video about Botswana and how they managed to go from one of the poorest countries of the world to be wealthiest in Africa in just a few years while also not being a dictatorship or repressive or anything. I think it was a cool story whatever. But a lot of people pointed out that Botswana was able to get where it was because it was sitting on a literal diamond mine. And I would argue that should not disqualify Botswana’s success. Many African countries are rich in natural resources but are still dirt poor. I figured it was time to follow up the story of Botswana with a similar story, the story of Bangladesh.”
The East Pakistan government was initially run out of All Girls’ Boarding School because there were not any other buildings in the entire province with enough rooms. Despite having more people than West Pakistan (44/78m), East Pakistan received far less attention and funding from the central government in Karachi.
West Pakistan’s language Urdu was selected as official language despite 3 percent Pakistanis’ understanding of the language. East Pakistan generally voted for the left wing, secular and reformist Awami League. West Pakistan voted for the religious and right wing Muslim League. Whenever an East Pakistani became Prime Minister, their government was dismantled by the West Pakistani political class at the earliest opportunity. And when two West Pakistanis executed a coup of the country in 1958, no region was more repressed than the East. But the trigger point did not come from any of this. The straw that really broke the camel’s back was the weather. The Bhola Cyclone was one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history, killing up to half a million people in mainly Bangladesh. The military government in West Pakistan did barely anything to help East recover the disaster.
Only one military aircraft and three cropduster planes were requisitioned to airdrop supplies to survivors. Aid from India and United Kingdom arrived before any from the central government of Pakistan. This was it for East Pakistan leadership. With all other options exhausted, Bangladesh declared their independence on the 26th of March 1971. In response, the Pakistan military commenced Operation Searchlight, a pointless and unproductive military campaign designed to crush Bengali nationalism through fear.
Slums were indiscriminately burned, bullet sprayed and thousands of people were killed. Awami League president Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested and imprisoned. Estimates for the number of people killed ranged from 3,00,000 by most western academic sources but upto 3 million by the government of Bangladesh. In Pakistan, the figure is 26,000. Eventually, in December, the superior Indian military intervened on the side of Bangladesh and within two weeks, Pakistan had surrendered. And so, on the 16th of December, 1971, Bangladesh became an independent country. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was sworn as the first President and the conflict was over.
To recap, the poorest region of British India became the poorest part of Pakistan, then was hit by the deadliest typhoon, famine, four coups and war. Henry Kissinger, who is alive yet, notoriously called it a “basket case” nation that is “doomed to fail.” Today Bangladesh is unrecognisable from the poverty-stricken wasteland of the 1970s. Around 98 percent people finish primary school, 95 percent are vaccinated against deadly diseases like diphtheria, and tetanus, life expectancy is now 72 up from 46. Poverty is down, infant mortality down, malnutrition down, and maternal death down.
Speaking of mothers, nobody has benefited more from development than Bengali women; the percent of women who can read has quadrupled since the 70s, women make up the majority of students. Better education means women are having fewer children and can take care of them properly. And the economy is doing pretty well. Between 2011 and 2019, Bangladesh’s export grew at 6.8 percent compared to the world average of 0.4 percent. Their economy is now growing faster than Pakistan, India and China.
How did they do it?
Fifty years is a short period of time to make that much progress. Well, Bangladesh began a tried and tested method of getting rich quick. They make clothes. That’s the secret. Seriously. The secret is that there is no secret. They make clothes. After food and shelter, the most important thing humans need is clothes. But unlike food and shelter, clothing is one of the easiest materials of wealth, fashion and personal identity. It is also very easily broken and needs replacing often. This puts fabric in high demand world over, forever. When you realises this, a lot of history after the industrial revolution just clicks into place. Why did British take over India? For cotton to make clothes. How did Ottoman Empire modernise? Growing cotton in Egypt. Why did confederacy need slaves? To pick cotton to make clothes. The USA’s largest export at the time? You got it. Textile. In 1862, only 2 percent of everyone in the entire world worked in the garment industry. Throughout history, the developing nations make clothing as a get rich quick scheme and the same worked for Bangladesh. In 2020, top exports from Bangladesh were 45 percent knitted clothing, 42 percent non-knitted clothing, 2.4 percent shoes, 2.2 miscellaneous clothes, 1.3 woven fabrics, and 1.2 fish. Half of the Bangladesh’s workforces are employed in the garment industry. These garments are, of course, sold to the west. Check your jacket, shirt and jeans pants. All of them are probably made in Bangladesh or Myanmar or Vietnam. I really can’t overstate how easy it is for countries to get rich through making clothes. And the money these factories make from Bangladesh stays in Bangladesh; 95 percent of garment factories are owned by Bengalis. People will always need clothes, the demand is always there, and Bengalis will always have a stable income.
Dr Rubana Huq, a Bangladeshi corporate leader featured in BBC 100 Women in 2013 and 2014 and was elected the first female president of BGMEA, said “Bangladesh’s booming garment industry has helped improve women’s welfare. Their work earns them economic freedom and dignity at home and outside.”
About 93 percent factories in Accord now meet the requirement, allowing people to live in safety.
The average Bengali citizens are richer than average Indian citizens.
In 1971, Pakistan was 70 percent richer than Bangladesh and now Bangladesh is 45 percent richer than Bangladesh.
Pakistani economist Abid Hasan said “it is in the realm of possibility that we could be seeking financial aid from Bangladesh in 2030.”
However, the future of Bangladesh may be rocky as graduation to higher medium status will put an end to trade facilities for RMG exports requiring the country to focus on other industries like electronics.
“Their reliance on clothing has also stolen the limelight from other industries that could be used to fill the void, like electronics.”