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The Financial Express

Industrial slump drags down GDP, agriculture saves economy

| Updated: August 12, 2021 09:54:05


Industrial slump drags down GDP, agriculture saves economy

After more than a decade, Bangladesh's industrial growth collapsed in the fiscal year (FY) 2019-20 in line with the contraction of the country's total economic output during the year, analysts said Friday.

A rebound still stays sluggish, they maintained.

Agriculture, conversely, saved the situation as higher agricultural growth cushioned falling output and absorbed many unemployed people when the pandemic coronavirus upended life and livelihood.

According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS)'s final data, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate driven by the country's main engine-industry-- dipped to 3.25 per cent, nearly a fourth of that in the FY2019.

Similarly, the rate on the second growth driver-the service sector - had also plunged to 4.16 per cent in the FY2020 from its bouncy 6.78 per cent rate in FY2019, the official data show.

Meanwhile, the stirring growth rate in the agriculture sector in the previous FY2020 helped resuscitate the overall economic output rate to 3.51 per cent before falling into negative trajectory.

Most of the global economies, save some 21, were in the negative growth dynamics in the FY2020 under devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the viral invasion in 2020, Bangladesh's economy had expanded at an impressive rate of 8.15 per cent in FY2019.

Analysts observe although the pandemic hit hard the country's industrial and service sectors following anti-corona lockdowns-at home and the world over--agriculture performed just opposite in FY2020, outpacing its rate of growth in the previous fiscal.

In FY2020, the country's agricultural growth rate was recorded at 4.59 per cent, 0.67 percentage points higher than that in the fiscal year immediate before.

Earlier, the agriculture-sector growth had almost maintained a downturn over the last one decade under contraction.

Meanwhile, BBS's provisional GDP estimation in the last FY2021 showed a little bit recovery in industrial growth as this main growth driver of the country expanded 6.12 per cent.

Service-sector growth also bounced a bit to 5.61 per cent in FY2021 from 4.16 per cent in the previous fiscal, BBS data show.

The growth rate in agriculture, however, fell to 3.45 per cent in the last FY2021 from an impressive 4.59 per cent in the previous year (FY2020).

Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem told the FE that higher growth in agriculture had not only cushioned some shocks but also absorbed many workers who lost jobs due to the Covid impact.

As agriculture was still the largest job creator (41 per cent) in Bangladesh, it had provided employment to some newly unemployed people who returned from urban areas to villages in a reverse migration, he noted.

"This is very expected that Bangladesh's economic growth would be on a lower trajectory in the previous FY2020 as most global economies, except only 21, were in the negative trajectory. But Bangladesh is fortunate enough. It had entered into the 21-lucky club with its 3.51 per cent growth," Dr Moazzem said.

It's good news that the country recovered a bit from the shocks in the last FY2021 although the SME (small and Medium Enterprises) and crops and horticulture subsectors of agriculture had maintained the worse state, he added.

The economic researcher said: "Actually, 3Rs-rice, remittance and RMG-helped us recover in the last FY2021 from a massive collapse in the FY2020."

Dr Moazzem said although the service sector had not fallen much in the last FY2021 from that in the pre-Covid level, but many micro-and small SMEs might have out of the list in the GDP calculation.

"So, this growth dynamics has not narrated the real scenario of the employment in the service sector. Many informal-sector people had already fallen into poverty. In that case, the government should have proactive measures for those people who go beyond the growth dynamics of the service sector."

Dr Moazzem said the government had to keep in mind that although the GDP- growth rate recovered a bit in the last FY2021 from that in the previous fiscal, the country's economic scenario was still below the pre-corona level.

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