Economy: With few mineral resources, overcrowded Bangladesh depends mainly on a subsistence agriculture which is frequently hampered by cyclones and flooding. Tea and jute are the main cash crops - Bangladesh supplies about 90% of the world's raw jute - production of both of which has dipped in recent years, again largely owing to the weather.
There are large reserves of natural gas and some deposits of low-grade coal which meet the bulk of domestic energy requirements. Offshore gas production, which has just begun in the Bay of Bengal, may soon improve the country's overall energy situation. Most of the manufacturing workforce is based in jute-related industries; the remainder works in textiles, chemicals and sugar.
For the foreseeable future, Bangladesh will continue to rely heavily on foreign aid: at present this derives from a variety of sources co-ordinated by the World Bank-led 'Paris Club' of donors. In total, Bangladesh receives disbursements of around US$2 billion annually.
However, throughout the 1990s, Bangladesh's economic stability and steady growth has made improved its status in international financial markets and it is now beginning to attract the level of foreign investment which the government considers essential to its future development.
The USA is substantially the largest export market followed by Italy, Japan, Singapore and the UK. Japan, Canada and Singapore are the country's main suppliers of imports, which are mostly manufactured goods.
Business: Tropical-weight suits or shirt and tie are recommended. Suits are necessary when calling on Bengali officials. Cards are given and usual courtesies are observed. Visitors should not be misled by the high illiteracy rate and low educational level of most of the population. Given the opportunity, Bangladeshis prove to be good business people and tough negotiators. The best time to visit is October to March.
Office hours: 0900-1700 Sunday to Thursday and 0800-1430 (government offices).