The major objectives of planned development have been increased national income, rural development, self-sufficiency in food, and increased industrial production. However, progress in achieving development goals has been slow. Political turmoil and untamed natural hazards of cyclone and flooding have combined with external economic shocks to persistently derail economic plans. Bangladesh's first five-year plan (1973–78) aimed to increase economic growth by 5.5% annually, but actual growth averaged only 4% per year. A special two-year plan (1978–80), stressing rural development, also fell short of its projected growth target, as did the second five-year plan (1980–85), which targeted 7.2% annual growth. The third five-year plan (1985–90) had a5.4% annual growth target though only 3.8% was actually achieved.
In 1991, with the reinstitution of elected government, a new economic program was initiated that included financial sector reform and liberalization measures to encourage investment, government revenue improvement efforts (realized largely through implementation of a value-added-tax), and tight monetary policy. Income transfer measures, Food-for-Work, and other programs were also implemented to help protect the poorest segments of the population from the transitional effects of structural reform. Political turmoil from 1994 to 1996 helped reduce the final average annual growth rate under the Fourth Five Year Plan (1990–1995) to 4.15% (short of the 5% target), albeit the best performance so far under an economic plan. The 1996 elections brought renewed economic stability. Exports grew 14% 1996, and GDP growth for 1996/97 rose to 5.5% as the economy rebounded. Floods during 1998 and 1999 caused some economic slowdown but this was balanced by unprecedented growth in gas production and electricity production sectors. Average annual GDP growth under the Fourth Five-Year Plan rose to 5.3%.
Fiscal year 2000 was marked by a sharp increase in monetary expansion due to unprecedented borrowing from the banking sector (though the sale of treasury bills) to cover budget shortfalls due. Domestic borrowing increased primarily due to the reduced availability of external concessional financing. Historically, Bangladesh has received foreign aid disbursements equivalent to about 6% of GDP, have lately declined to amount equaling 3–4% GDP. Moreover, according to the IMF, much of the domestic borrowing was being used to cover recurrent expenses such as wage and salary increases. The revenue to GDP ratio rose in 2001 from 8.5% to 9.4%, but this improvement was more than offset by expenditure to GDP ratios of 14.4% and 14.1%, creating budget deficits amounting to 5.9% and 5%, in 2000 and 2001 respectively. The drain on foreign reserves from domestic borrowing contributed to reducing the foreign exchange cover for imports to imprudent levels of two months in 2000 and one-anda-half months in 2001.
For 2001/02, however, the IMF predicted a sharp decline to around 3.5% due to the global economic slowdown and the contractions after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on the United States.