The market-based economy of Bangladesh is the 43rd largest in the world in nominal terms, and 30nd largest by purchasing power parity; it is classified among the Next Eleven emerging market middle income economies and a Frontier market. According to the IMF, Bangladesh's economy is the second fastest growing major economy of 2016, with a rate of 7.1%. Dhaka and Chittagong are the principal financial centers of the country, being home to the Dhaka Stock Exchange and the Chittagong Stock Exchange. The financial sector of Bangladesh is the second largest in the subcontinent.
In the decade since 2004, Bangladesh averaged a GDP growth of 6.5%, that has been largely driven by its exports of ready made garments, remittances and the domestic agricultural sector. The country has pursued export-oriented industrialisation, with its key export sectors include textiles, shipbuilding, fish and seafood, jute and leather goods. It has also developed self-sufficient industries in pharmaceuticals, steel and food processing. Bangladesh's telecommunication industry has witnessed rapid growth over the years, receiving high investment from foreign companies. Bangladesh also has substantial reserves of natural gas and is Asia's seventh largest gas producer. Offshore exploration activities are increasing in its maritime territory in the Bay of Bengal. It also has large deposits of limestone. The government promotes the Digital Bangladesh scheme as part of its efforts to develop the country's growing information technology sector.
Bangladesh is strategically important for the economies of Northeast India, Nepal and Bhutan, as Bangladeshi seaports provide maritime access for these landlocked regions and countries. China also views Bangladesh as a potential gateway for its landlocked southwest, including Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan.
In 2016, per-capita income was estimated as per IMF data at US$3,840 (PPP) and US$1,466 (Nominal). Bangladesh is a member of the D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The economy faces challenges of infrastructure bottlenecks, insufficient power and gas supplies, bureaucratic corruption, political instability, natural calamities and a lack of skilled workers.
East Bengal—the eastern segment of Bengal—was a historically prosperous region. The Ganges Delta provided advantages of a mild, almost tropical climate, fertile soil, ample water, and an abundance of fish, wildlife, and fruit. The standard of living is believed to have been higher compared with other parts of South Asia. As early as the thirteenth century, the region was developing as an agrarian economy. Bengal was the junction of trade routes on the Southeastern Silk Road.
Under Mughal rule, Bengal operated as a center of the worldwide muslin, silk and pearl trades. Domestically, much of India depended on Bengali products such as rice, silks and cotton textiles. Overseas, Europeans depended on Bengali products such as cotton textiles, silks and opium; Bengal accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia, for example. Bengal shipped saltpeter to Europe, sold opium in Indonesia, exported raw silk to Japan and the Netherlands, and produced cotton and silk textiles for export to Europe, Indonesia and Japan. Real wages and living standards in 18th-century Bengal were comparable to Britain, which in turn had the highest living standards in Europe.