Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday called for greater multilateral cooperation and global solidarity to bravely deal with the “looming humanitarian crisis caused by Russia-Ukraine war and subsequent sanctions and counter-sanctions.”
“As the world is passing through a difficult time due to Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts, food and energy crisis, climate change and natural disasters, the need for strengthened multilateral cooperation and global solidarity deserves more attention than ever,” she said.
The prime minister said this while inaugurating the 20th session of D-8 Council of Ministers at Hotel InterContinental in Dhaka. She joined the programme virtually from her official residence Ganabhaban.
D-8, also known as Developing-8, is an organization for development cooperation among Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkiye. It was officially launched in Istanbul in1997.
PM Hasina said that a humanitarian crisis is looming due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and, the subsequent sanctions and counter-sanctions that have disrupted the production and supply of food, fertiliser, energy and power and other commodities.
“We should all come forward to bravely address this looming humanitarian crisis,” she said.
She said that while the world was reeling from the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has pushed the world to a fresh danger.
She mentioned that countries like Bangladesh have been bearing the brunt of the impacts of the war most.
“Prices of the essentials have gone beyond the purchasing capacities of the most of people,” she said.
The premier said that the government in Bangladesh has taken comprehensive measures to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus pandemic on the economy and revive it to desired growth trajectory.
So far, she said, the government has announced 28 stimulus packages equivalent to USD 23 billion which is 6.3 per cent of the country’s GDP.
She mentioned that a total of 67.4 million people and 118,000 business entities have been benefited from these packages.
“Bangladesh is one of the very few countries which have successfully vaccinated its targeted population against COVID-19,” she told the conference.
She said that Bangladesh has been ranked fifth out of 121 countries and the first among the South Asian counties in COVID-19 recovery index.
Talking about the advancement of the country, Hasina said that Bangladesh has made impressive progress in all social-economic sectors over the last one decade.
She mentioned that poverty rate has gone down to 20 per cent with per capita income increased to USD 2,824.
She pointed out that robust agricultural growth has made the county self-sufficient in food production. There is gender equality in all sectors. Enrolment at primary level has gone up to 97.81 per cent, child mortality rate significantly decreased to 28 per 1000 live-births and life expectancy increased to 72.8 years.
She said that more than 98 per cent population have been brought under safe water and sanitation network. Access to government services has been made digital and easy, and 5.8 per cent of the national budget has been earmarked for social security and welfare programmes.
“Our sustained efforts in all areas of socio-economic advancement have paved the way to graduating from the LDCs,” she said.
The prime minister said that last month, she opened the longest bridge in Bangladesh, the Padma Bridge, which is an engineering marvel built entirely with the country’s own funds.
She said that the bridge is expected to contribute 1.23 per cent to the annual GDP.
She mentioned that mega projects, including Metro rail, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Payra Seaport, Karnafuli tunnel, Elevated Expressway, 100 Special Economic Zones and High-Tech IT parks, are being implemented.
“These will be crucial to realize our vision to build a developed and prosperous Bangladesh by 2041,” the PM said.
However, she said, there are many challenges for Bangladesh in its endeavours to be a developed country.
In this regard she said that global warming and climate change has posed tremendous threat to the country’s existence.
“Having located in a unique hydro-morphological system in the largest delta of the world and with a densely populated coastline, the impact of climate change is extreme for Bangladesh,” she said.
The prime minister said that the D-8 countries with more than one billion population have enormous potentials for economic cooperation.
She mentioned that Bangladesh has been attracting investment through its liberal, friendly investment policies and arrangement of linkages between foreign and local businesses.
She said that the export earning has increased from USD 18 billion in 2010 to over 52 billion in the last fiscal year.
In this regard, she said Bangladesh, currently the 41st largest economy in the world, is set to become the 25th by 2035.
“We look forward towards new partnerships to attain our shared vision of prosperity for the people keeping in mind the guiding focus in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”
She called upon the D-9 countries to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the grouping with new focus on some specific areas for the next decade.
The areas are: Preferential Trade Agreement or PTA, D-8 Economic Zone, ICT, diversified agriculture to ensure food security and alternative energy sources.
Regarding the finalisation of the D-8 Preferential Trade Agreement, she said, it will help harmonise the intra-country trade, liberalize the barriers, and stimulate trade and economic cooperation among the member states.
The premier said that the 25-year-old D-8 is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through creating synergies.
“This is possible through political commitment and meaningful cooperation of our public and private sectors. The immense possibility that we have, if realized properly, will heighten our power as an economic bloc,” she told the meeting.
She urged the member countries to “work together to provide the impetus for harnessing our potentials towards a prosperous future.”
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, D-8 secretary general Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ministry Md Shahriar Alam, President of D-8 Chamber of Commerce and Industries (D8CCI) Sheikh Fazle Fahim and Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen also spoke at the programme.
A documentary on the D-8 and its 25 years journey was screened at the programme.