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BANGLADESH

Country profile

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Area of country: 144,000 square kilometers

Information at a Glance

People

Population: 128 .1 million
Dhaka (the capital) is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. There are many homeless people.
Many of the people of Bangladesh are ethnically similar because of many centuries of integration. Small Urdu & Indian minorities
Religions: Islamic: 83%; Hindu: 16%

Economy

Currency: Taka
GDP per capita: $360
Main exports: clothing, jute, tea, carpets, china; recently, also data processing & software development.
External debt per capita: $140

Health

Life expectancy: 58 years
Infant mortality: 79 per 1000
Average calories consumed: 87% of calories needed
Safe water: 97% of population has access

Self-reliance

Bangladesh has a very large external debt of $15 billion and is dependent on foreign aid.
It is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world.

Literacy

Literacy rate: 38%. This is poor, but the literacy rate has gone up by 9% in the last 10 years.
Languages: The official language is Bengali.

Income Distribution

The gap between rich and poor is very wide. Some rich people are incredibly wealthy (it is said that one Bangladeshi wears diamonds worth $3 million in his shoes); labourers earn less than $1 per day.

The majority of the land in Bangladesh is owned by a few rich landowners.

 

Environment

Bangladesh is on a river delta. It is made up of a fertile plain, with large rain forest and swamps.
Farming: rice, tea and jute are grown.
Problems: The monsoon climate - with heavy rain from June to September - often brings hurricanes and floods which cause disaster.
The rising sea-level is a threat.
There is serious pollution in the coastal area, caused by sewage & industrial waste: the pollution and over-fishing may destroy the coastal ecosystem.
In Dhaka 15,000 children per year die from lead poisoning.

Politics

Bangladesh was part of Bengal under British rule and then became part of Pakistan - East Pakistan. The country became independent, as Bangladesh, in 1971.
For much of the time since then, it was under military rule.
In 1991, General Ershad was deposed, elections were held and there was political reform. There is still believed to be a lot of corruption, and all parties use armed supporters.

Freedom & human rights

The Press has more freedom than before, but the broadcast media is owned by the State.

Workers in the "export processing zones" cannot join trade unions or take part in industrial action.

Position of women: The leaders of both main political parties are women but, in general the position of women is weak. There is a lot of violence against women. Girls are often married around the age of 13.
In the cities, there are more career women, but women work mostly in the home and the fields.

Sources: UNESCO; UNICEF, World Bank, Transparency International, UNDP, US Department of Commerce, World Guide 1997-98, NI issue 324


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Last modified 18 June 2000



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