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Bangladesh’s ‘missing billionaires’: A wealth boom and stark inequality

A newly built residential complex is capital Dhaka’s most expensive building, highlighting the country’s economic disparity.

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Abutting the posh Gulshan Club and overlooking the serene Gulshan Lake in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, a 14-storey building is nearing completion.

Construction workers clad in orange helmets and neon harness belts are detailing the finishing touches as the building’s ornate facade glistens against its monochromatic concrete and glass backbone.

This building, known simply as Three, is being constructed by the elite Bangladeshi real estate developer BTI and is arguably the most expensive residential apartment building ever built in the South Asian nation.

Aside from having the most sought-after zip code, the 12 apartments – each spanning a whole floor of more than 7,000sq-foot (650sq-metre) – are stocked with a range of modern amenities and gadgets, including biometric security systems for locks and elevators and AI-based lighting for efficiency.

All the apartments were sold even before the construction started, even with a whopping base price tag of 200 million taka or $2.5m until 2021 (the taka has since devalued, bringing the price of the apartments down to $1.8m).

Since BTI chairman Faizur Rahman Khan also bought a flat in the building, the company carefully screened the other potential owners from the more than 50 applications it received, predominantly from businessmen in the city.

Bangladesh’s rising disposable income is not unknown. Crowded shopping malls, such as Jamuna Future Park, one of the largest in South Asia, and new billboards advertising everything from packaged foods to cars and smartphones are all evidence of it.

But this BTI building, perhaps more than