H.E. Sheikh Hasina
Hon’ble Prime Minister
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
25 Chaitra 1427
8 April 2021
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Your Excellencies the Honourable Heads of State and Government,
Excellencies the Foreign Ministers,
The Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Assalamu Alaikum and a very good day.
It is a historic moment for Bangladesh to hold the Chairmanship of the D-8 again after completing a full cycle. I would like to congratulate Your Excellency Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (wi‡Rc ZvBwqc Gi‡`vqvb), President of the Republic of Turkey, for your successful tenure as D-8 Chair. I also thank the Secretary General of the D-8 for his contributions.
I will always have a soft corner for this organisation as I am one of the founding members of D-8. When D-8 was established in 1997, I attended the first Summit in Istanbul as Prime Minister. I was also the Chair when we hosted the 2nd D-8 Summit in Dhaka in 1999.
Bangladesh is chairing the 10th D-8 Summit at a unique time of the history of Bangladesh as well as the world. We are celebrating the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. We are also celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our independence. This year we got final recommendation to graduate to a Developing Nation from Least Developed Country.
On the other hand, the world is going through the COVID 19 pandemic which has caused huge loss of lives and livelihood. This reminds us the requirement of global platforms and global actions. With so many historic events taking place at this moment, our Chairmanship will provide us an opportunity to contribute greatly for taking D-8 to newer heights.
The theme “Partnership for Transformative World: Harnessing the Power of Youth and Technology” is very appropriate under the current circumstances. It is also very relevant for Bangladesh as a significant portion of our population is young. The youths well conversant with digital technology have kept our economy vibrant during the Covid-19 pandemic. The UN has estimated that the global economy is expected to lose nearly 8.5 trillion dollars in output over the next two years because of pandemic. To overcome the challenges, we need effective partnership and greater cooperation in the fields of technology and innovation.
Just before the outbreak of the pandemic, Bangladesh had achieved an enviable GDP growth rate of 8.15 percent. Even during the pandemic, we achieved GDP growth rate of 5.4 percent, one of the highest in the world, by putting equal emphasis on lives and livelihood.
Apart from rolling out a stimulus package worth 1.24 trillion taka, which is around 4.4% of our GDP, our investment in food security, agriculture and adequate social safety nets contributed in overriding the fallouts of COVID 19.
We are also providing various social protection supports to more than 9.5 million people. We have taken an initiative to provide house to country’s every homeless person marking the birth centenary of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Women’s empowerment and their equal involvement at all levels is also an important factor of our economic stability. Bangladesh is one of the top readymade garment exporters in the world. More than 85 per cent of the workers in this sector are women. They are significantly contributing to the society and the economy. The percentage of enrolment in schools is higher for girls than boys. Women are active in all professions as well as in politics. They are also serving in the UN peacekeeping missions abroad.
Bangladesh places utmost importance to education at all levels. We are providing free education up to secondary level. Bangladesh has become a popular destination for foreign students who want to pursue higher studies. In this regard, I believe that the SEACO University Network will provide a good platform for new and trendier subjects, including the 4IR and also a stable online education platform for our students.
Bangladesh has achieved phenomenal socio-economic growth even after the increasing frequency of natural disasters. Last year, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh had to bear the brunt of cyclone Amphan, and prolonged flood in large parts of the country. It is estimated that close to 1 per cent of our GDP is lost due to climate change, which is likely to increase in the coming decades if the current phenomenon is not reversed. This calls for an urgent and a meaningful cooperation among us for adaptation and mitigation measures.
For effective and sustainable development within D-8, it is now imperative that we cooperate and assist each other in climate change issues. As the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum-CVF, we will be happy to work with the D-8 member states on the issue of implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Another urgent issue that is causing severe impact on our environment, society and the economy is the Rohingya crisis. Bangladesh gave shelter to 1.1 million Rohingyas of Myanmar on humanitarian ground. We have insisted from the beginning that the Rohingyas have to go back to the Rakhine State in Myanmar in a safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable manner. Unfortunately, it has been more than three years after their influx into Bangladesh, and the repatriation process is yet to be started.
We are also concerned that if the crisis is not resolved, this may create security concerns in the region and beyond. We are grateful to the D-8 member states for their support. I would like urge you to put pressure on Myanmar for taking back the Rohingyas.
I would like to briefly touch upon one very important issue for D-8: the power and potential of the youths who have made breakthroughs in business ideas, models, innovations and technologies. The youths of our countries can be encouraged to come together through the business initiatives at private and even government to private level. The D-8 Business Forum together with the 1st D-8 Youth Summit has created this rare opportunity.
Bangladesh has put emphasis on the use of transformative technology for the last one decade, turning our country into a “Digital Bangladesh”. With more than six hundred thousand IT professionals, 28 high-tech parks and technology friendly initiatives, Bangladesh is moving forward optimally using the power of youth and technology.
Another key area of cooperation where we need to give focus is trade. D-8 Secretariat can provide information of potentials within the Group and explore scope for “Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreements”. Such information could help increase trade and investment dialogue, and more trade and investment among the member states. Trade is ultimately driven by the private sector. It is important to facilitate the travel of business people for which Bangladesh has joined six D-8 members in ratifying “Simplification of Visa Procedures for the Businessmen of the D-8 Member States.”
Before concluding, let me highlight few points for our cooperation:
- Harnessing the power of our youths through skill development;
- Utilizing the full potential of ICT;
- Creating necessary legal, institutional and infrastructural framework; and
- Improving connectivity to facilitate tarde and investment.
The D-8, which was established twenty-four years ago, is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through creating synergies. Dhaka Declaration and the Decennial Roadmap that would be adopted today would provide us with the necessary impetus for harnessing our combined potentials, and realising our shared goal of a prosperous future.
I thank you.