Bangladesh isn't in trouble because it's poor. It's in trouble because people are wealthy enough to take advantage of that poverty, whether multinationals, government officials or merchants illegally storing supplies to meet corporate demand.
Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and its public sector is no exception. In an interview published today, the architect Mubasshar Hussain said Dhaka is the only capital in the world surrounded by four rivers, yet firefighters struggled to put out last week's fire because Old Dhaka has no water hydrants. Meanwhile, he added, the money spent on building one flyover could be used to supply the entire area with hydrants, yet even though these flyovers reportedly serve only 8% of the city's residents, they continue to be built "because those involved get commission from these projects."
Officials aren't the only ones cashing in at the public's expense. Dhaka is one of the poorest, densest and most populous cities in the world. The country imports 12% of all raw cotton for its textiles industry, which represents over 90% of its exports, making it the second-largest clothing exporter after China. It's a $29 billion industry, but for years, garment workers have only made about $0.35 an hour while multinationals like H&M, Walmart and Aldi take advantage of the country's dismally low minimum wage.
This flood of foreign business has overwhelmed the country, which lacks the infrastructure to meet demand. Working conditions have suffered as a result, and Bangladesh is now one of the worst countries in the world for worker rights. Poor infrastructure, including shoddy electrical work, and stores of fabric and chemical dyes, have also led to disasters such as the 2010 Dhaka fire, which killed 126 people, and the 2012 Dhaka fire, which killed up to 124 people. Then there was the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse, in which workers who evacuated a crumbling building in Dhaka were told to return to work the next day only to have it collapse, taking 1,134 lives. It was the deadliest building collapse in modern history.