Nation at a Glance - Bangladesh

History

Muslim conversions and settlement in the region now referred to as Bangladesh began in the 10th century, primarily from Arab and Persian traders and preachers. Europeans established trading posts in the area in the 16th century. Eventually the area known as Bengal, primarily Hindu in the western section and mostly Muslim in the eastern half, became part of British India. Partition in 1947 resulted in an eastern wing of Pakistan in the Muslim-majority area, which became East Pakistan. Calls for greater autonomy and animosity between the eastern and western wings of Pakistan led to a Bengali independence movement. That movement, led by the Awami League (AL) and supported by India, won the independence war for Bangladesh in 1971, during which at least 300,000 civilians died.The post-independence AL government faced daunting challenges and in 1975 was overthrown by the military, triggering a series of military coups that resulted in a military-backed government and subsequent creation of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in 1978. That government also ended in a coup in 1981, followed by military-backed rule until democratic elections occurred in 1991. The BNP and AL alternated in power between 1991 and 2013, with the exception of a military-backed, emergency caretaker regime that suspended parliamentary elections planned for January 2007 in an effort to reform the political system and root out corruption. That government returned the country to fully democratic rule in December 2008 with the election of the AL and Prime Minister Sheikh HASINA. In January 2014, the incumbent AL won the national election by an overwhelming majority after the BNP boycotted, extending HASINA's term as prime minister. With the help of international development assistance, Bangladesh has reduced the poverty rate from over half of the population to less than a third, achieved Millennium Development Goals for maternal and child health, and made great progress in food security since independence. The economy has grown at an annual average of about 6% over the last two decades and the country reached World Bank lower-middle income status in 2015.

Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India

Border Countries: Burma 271 km, India 4,142 km

Total Area: 148,460 sq km Land: 130,170 sq km Water: 18,290 sq km

Climate: Tropical; mild winter (October to March); hot, humid summer (March to June); humid, warm rainy monsoon (June to October)

Terrain: Mostly flat alluvial plain; hilly in southeast

Natural resources: Natural gas, arable land, timber, coal

Land use: Agricultural land: 70.1%arable land 59%; permanent crops 6.5%; permanent pasture 4.6% Forest: 11.1% Other: 18.8% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Bengali at least 98%, ethnic groups 1.1%

Languages: Bangla 98.8% (official, also known as Bengali), Other 1.2% (2011 est.)

Religions: Muslim 89.1%, Hindu 10%, Other 0.9% (includes Buddhist, Christian) (2013 est.)

Population: 156,186,882 (July 2016 est.)

Literacy: 61.5%; Male: 64.6%; Female: 58.5% (2015 est.)

Administrative divisions: 8 divisions; Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Sylhet

Economy: Bangladesh's economy has grown roughly 6% per year since 2005 despite prolonged periods of political instability, poor infrastructure, endemic corruption, insufficient power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms. Although more than half of GDP is generated through the services sector, almost half of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector, with rice as the single-most-important product. Garment exports, the backbone of Bangladesh's industrial sector, accounted for more than 80% of total exports and surpassed $28 billion in FY 2016-17. The sector continues to grow despite the need for improvements in factory safety conditions and workers’ rights to avert further high-profile accidents that killed more than 1,000 workers in 2012 and 2013. In FY 2016-17, steady export growth in the garment sector, combined with $13 billion in remittances from overseas Bangladeshis, contributed to Bangladesh's rising foreign exchange reserves. The recent influx of over 700,000 additional refugees from Burma will place pressure on the Bangladeshi government’s budget and the country’s rice supplies, which declined in 2017 in part because of record flooding. Recent improvements to energy infrastructure, including the start of liquefied natural gas imports in 2018, represent a major step forward in resolving a key growth bottleneck.

Agriculture - products: Rice, jute, tea, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, tobacco, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruit; beef, milk, poultry

Industries: Jute, cotton, garments, paper, leather, fertilizer, iron and steel, cement, petroleum products, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, tea, salt, sugar, edible oils, soap and detergent, fabricated metal products, electricity, natural gas

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