Chowdhury was born in 1945. He passed Secondary School Certificate exam from Barisal Zilla School in 1959 and ISC exam from Dhaka College in 1961. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics from Dhaka University in 1964 and MA from Panjab University in 1965. Chowdhury complete post graduate diploma from Leeds University, UK in 1975. He went to Harvard University to obtain his PhD and earned the degree in 1983. He joined the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) in 1968 after a two-year stint as lecturer in economics in the University of Dhaka.
In 1971, as the sub-divisional officer of Meherpur, Kushtia, he joined the liberation war and was commissioned in the Bangladesh Armed Forces. He was decorated for gallantry as Bir Bikrom and was one of the chief organizers of the swearing in ceremony of the first Government of Bangladesh in Mujibnagar, Meherpur on 17 April 1971.
Later he reverted to civil service and after several assignments, went for higher studies in United Kingdom in 1974. He was CEO and managing director of the Industrial Bank of Bangladesh (BSB). He served as Secretary to the Govt. of Bangladesh for nearly a decade in the Ministries of Food, Statistics, Power Energy & Mineral Resources and Planning. He also served as a visiting fellow at the Economic Growth Centre of the Yale University.
Since his retirement from public service in 2002, Chowdhury has served as a consultant to, among others, UN agencies and multilateral organizations.
Chowdhury was appointed Advisor to the Prime Minister of the Government of Bangladesh in January 2009 with the rank and status of a Minister. He advises on energy, power and mineral resources.