I avidly read reports covering Bangladesh, especially if they get published from recognized international sources. While sifting through HSBC’s latest report, “The Flying Dutchman,” on Bangladesh’s economy and the equity market, I came across a few interesting takeaways. The bank is bullish on the growth story of Bangladesh, identifying consumer demand, a young working-age population, favorable government policies, and urbanization as key growth drivers. Inflation, political uncertainty, and climate vulnerability have been mentioned as key bottlenecks for stability and growth. While the paper entailed a detailed top-down analysis of the country’s economy and the stock market, a number of key issues were missed.
- The corporate governance of many listed companies is under contention, which leads to misreporting of financial performance and eventually lower returns for external investors. This discourages international investors from making long-term bets on most of our stocks.
- The banking sector, under massive stress due to non-performing loans, has been perennially struggling with poor corporate governance. Lending decisions by some banks have been made without due consideration of the creditworthiness of the borrower, owing to the unscrupulous behavior of some lenders. Any bank failure might have a contagion effect on the financial system and the broader economy.
- Growth in the middle-class population will be contingent on us creating manufacturing and service-led employment opportunities. Historically, economic growth has not resulted in a proportionate rise in employment opportunities. Jobless growth in the future, partly due to the advent of the 4th industrial revolution, will likely lead to income inequality and slower growth in consumption.
Interestingly, none of the authors of this paper are based in Bangladesh. I hope the co-authors had the opportunity to have elaborate discussions with their local colleagues.