Bangladesh Is Still a Frontier Market

Fifty years ago, George Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh, a rollicking rock revue that set the mold for many benefits to follow. It also fixed the just-born country’s image as an overpopulated basket case that would starve without massive outside assistance.

Subsequent, sporadic coverage of Bangladesh has focused on looming climate catastrophe—two-thirds of its land mass could be swamped by rising seas—or fatal fires at its low-cost garment factories.

All of which obscures one of the past half century’s more remarkable success stories. Bangladesh’s economy has expanded 270-fold, as far as anyone can figure, since independence from Pakistan. Growth was cruising at about 8% annually before the pandemic, and gross domestic product per capita overtook India’s. Government is stable and democratic, sort of.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the country’s first president, has been in power since 2009. “Bangladesh is a quiet but huge story of a government getting a lot of little things right over a generation,” says Alison Graham, chief investment officer at frontier markets investor Voltan Capital Management.