What ‘Economic Downturn’ Means In Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a very poor country, as you probably know. There are 154,000,000 people here and a population density of 1045/km2. Almost half the population lives on less than $1 a day. The literacy rate is 43% for the general population, and for women is 32%. What happens here when the world economy goes down the toilet (or the latrine as would be the case here, for those who even have one of those)?

The economy of Bangladesh has been increasing steadily over the last decade and as a result the country has managed to decrease poverty levels and increase access to health and education. There is not enough employment in the country to keep everyone in a job, so migrant labour is common. People travel to neighbouring countries and to the Middle East (Dubai, Saudi Arabia) to work and send money home. So what happens when economies in the countries employing migrant labour also go down the toilet? Migrant workers are returning home to find no work here either. Airlines have decreased the number of flights per week from some of these countries because fewer people are travelling back and forth.

There is also a major industry in manufacturing exports (e.g. garments) to the developed world. So what happens when developed countries stop buying? The textile industry is being hit pretty hard here. Already tight margins (so tight that factories don’t want to increase the cost of the product to build a wastewater treatment plant) can’t get any tighter. Yet orders are falling and importers are putting pressure on the garment companies for lower prices. Where do you cut costs? In people, just like in any other industry.

People who are living below the poverty line will be further impoverished as a result of this ‘slowdown’, not just in Bangladesh, but around the world. If they could feed all of their family before, with the loss of even one day’s wages per week they may not be able to any more. How do you choose who won’t eat that day? If they could buy rehydration salts for their sick child, those may now be out of reach, keeping the mother from potentially earning because she has to stay home with the sick child. For some reason I don’t think the bankers (or whomever you want to blame for the current state of the economy) are quite feeling the loss to the same extent.

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Posted in travel | work Submitted by Meg on Tue, 2009-03-10 11:22

the down turn

Submitted by mom (not verified) on Sun, 2009-03-15 15:32.

Hi Meg,
Just back from a Trinity Jubilee Foundation meeting where we are trying to raise $10 000 for Cause Canada for a school in Sierra Leon. When times are bad here it is even more important to keep on giving to the Developing World where eduction of the young will hopefully help them in the future.
MOM

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disheartening

Submitted by kevin@haggaret.com on Tue, 2009-03-10 14:25.

Meg - that definitely puts things into perspective, thanks for sharing that.

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