PM’s Speech on Socio-Economic Achievements of Bangladesh in Recent Years and Partnership with China at China Institute of International Studies (CIIS)
“Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Assalamu Alaikum and good morning to you all.
I am delighted to be in the magnificent city of Beijing again, with the last one being on March 2010. All these visits were memorable with the warm hospitality, the exquisite courtesies and the sincere gestures of friendship which I and my delegation received every time.
I am extremely happy to be here today at the esteemed China Institute of International Studies as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh having been elected three times, the last one being held on 05 January 2014.
The people’s verdict is a testimony to the commendable socio-economic progress that had been achieved under our government during the period between 2009 and 2013.
It is, therefore, a great pleasure to speak to you about these achievements, and about the ever growing Bangladesh and China partnership.
The relationship between China and Bengal of the South Asian sub-continent is ancient. It began with travelers and trade on the southern Silk Route and exchange of goods, knowledge and cultures between our peoples and regions.
The relationship rests on the solid foundation of our mutual respect for each other’s state sovereignty, territorial integrity, friendly regional and international relations, and cooperation and assistance over economic, socio-political and cultural development, particularly in the areas of building infrastructure, agriculture, science and technology, defense, human resources development, amongst others.
Bangladesh is thus committed to “One China Policy” supporting China on the issues of Taiwan and Tibet.
The people of Bangladesh are progressive and are committed to democracy, freedom, secularism, human rights and justice. Our 160 million people are determined to protect these ethos and values that are deeply ingrained in our culture and way of life.
Our people of all religions are committed to living in peace and harmony and to building a democratic, modern and prosperous nation with respectable global standing through sustained economic development.
To ensure these, a committed leadership is needed and the people found it in our political party, the Awami League. It had led the struggle for liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 under the leadership of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In 2008, it won the elections and was reelected again for a second consecutive term in January 2014 during which period I had the privilege of heading the party.
During our 2009 -2013 term, our government strengthened democratic institutions like the Commissions on Election, Human Rights, Information, Anti-Corruption; separated the judiciary from the executive; adopted the National Integrity Strategy, among others, to ensure good governance, human rights, rule of law, transparency as well as nurture a vibrant civil society and media.
We framed a perspective plan called the “Vision 2021” to realize a middle income “Digital Bangladesh” by the 50th Anniversary of our country’s independence.
Our economy is founded on strong macroeconomic fundamentals. In the last five years, our GDP growth rate was over 6 % with 50 million people joining the middle income group with the poverty level reduced from 41% in 2005 to 26 % in 2013.
Our per capita income was raised by 67 %; export earning by 107%; remittances by 62%; foreign currency reserve by 217%; and power capacity by 109%. Our 64 districts and all the upazillas have been connected with internet and e-governance services, including health, agriculture, banking, education etc. 3-G technology has been introduced with 4-G in the offing. 48 million people are today using internet facility and 110 million SIM cards are in use.
Bangladesh is recognized as an investment friendly country. It offers the most liberal investment opportunities in South Asia, featuring 100% foreign equity with unrestricted exit policy; easy remittance of royalty; repatriation of profits; and protection of foreign investments.
Bangladesh also offers export-oriented Export Processing Zones for foreign investors. Seven new Exclusive Economic Zones are being established in selected areas of the country for foreign direct investment.
Investment is also being made by many of our own expatriate professionals and workers whose number currently stands at 8.2 million spread over 155 countries.
In the last five years, 2.04 million workers went abroad for employment and in 2013, their remittance home was US $ 14 billion.
Our energy prices are steady and we are hoping to generate soon 11,000 MW electricity compared to our current demand of 7,000 MW. New coal mines and gas fields have been discovered and gas production increased from 1,750 million cubic feet in 2009 to 2,250 million cubic feet in 2012 per day.
Our power crisis before we took office was overcome with short term rental power plants, followed by coal-fired power plants. A nuclear power plant is also being established with the help of the Russian Federation. Solar power generation has also been enhanced to a significant level.
Moreover, our workforce of young and industrious people and their availability to work at very competitive and affordable wages are an attraction.
We have also duty free and quota free access of products of Bangladesh origin to the markets of the European Union, Canada, Australia and other developed countries.
Goldman Sachs have included Bangladesh in its list of “Next Eleven” after BRIC; J.P Morgan in its “Frontier Five”; Standard and Poor have rated us a BB; Moody as Ba3 is also listing Bangladesh ahead of all South Asian countries except India.
We have “zero tolerance” for terrorism and extremism and have succeeded in containing this malaise. We have also established the “rule of law”. The trial of 6,041 personnel involved in the BDR mutiny of February 2009 has been completed and the culprits punished.
The killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 18 members of the family have received due justice. The trial of the assassins involved in the grenade attack on the public rally I was addressing on 21 August 2004 that killed 24 people and wounded over 500, with me escaping with damaged hearing, is continuing.
So is the trial of the “10 trucks arms haul”. The trial of the war criminals for their role in crimes against humanity is also taking place under international law. We have also attained food security and are on track to meet all the MDGs by the stipulated deadline of 2015.
We are diversifying and expanding the reach of all the social safety nets to the low income and distressed people. We achieved singular success with the “Ashrayan” or housing for the homeless; food and nutrition security to 1.04 million rural people through “One House, One Farm” schemes; “Shantinibash” for old people; monthly pensions for senior citizens, widows, destitute women, insolvent freedom fighters, the disabled, and maternity allowance for a total of 4.3 million people. We have also been successful in creating 10 million jobs.
I have always believed that education and good schooling is critical to empower the children and the youth to face all challenges, especially poverty and deprivation. That is why our government has been allocating 2.3 % of our GDP and 14 % of our revenue expenditure in our annual budgets to ensure “Education for All”.
Our progress in education has been significant with almost 100% school enrollment at primary school. School attendance is encouraged by providing free text books up to secondary level to all students every year. In January this year, 317 million text books were distributed among 37 million students.
School attendance is also encouraged by the provision of free lunch which we are gradually introducing to students, stipends to the poor and meritorious students at all levels, and even cash incentives to the parents to promote sending their children to schools.
These have helped achieve gender parity up to higher secondary level and it continues until graduation with free tuition for girls.
A Trust Fund has been established to support poor students pursuing education up to graduation level. We have also made good progress with children challenged by autism and other development disorders.
Our technical and vocational education is also being developed to suit the needs of the modern sector as well as that of our youths and underprivileged groups.
Our government has been actively trying to fulfill its election pledges to eradicate all endemic diseases, raising life expectancy at birth to 70.08 years and reducing maternal mortality rate from 3.8 % to 1.5 %.
Maternal mortality rate is now 1.94 per thousand of live births and child mortality rate is 36 per thousand. The annual population growth has been reduced to 1.37 %.
We have also constructed 13,500 health clinics in the rural areas reaching medical treatment to the needy people all across the country. These clinics are manned with doctors, nurses, medical workers and essential equipment.
One of our biggest successes was the verdict of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea on 14 March 2012 that settled the three decade old dispute with Myanmar on maritime boundary.
It ensured Bangladesh’s claim to 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and territorial rights in the Bay of Bengal.
Our intensive diplomatic efforts also drew attention of the world to Bangladesh’s predicament with climate change. Our efforts also spread Bangla language and culture worldwide leading to the adoption of a UN resolution on “International Mother Language Day”
Our contribution to international peace and stability is proven by our role as a top troop contributor to UN peacekeeping and occupying the Vice Chairmanship of the UN Peace Building Commission.
Last year, we were the first in South Asia to sign the Arms Trade Treaty. In 2011, at the 66th UNGA in 2011, the UN resolution on “People’s Empowerment and Development Model” that I introduced was adopted and so were our resolutions on “Autism” and the “Culture of Peace”.
Bangladesh, in our tenure, earned an UN MDG Award; two South -South Awards; the Global Diversity Award; and the FAO Food Award 2013.
Bangladesh was also elected to different important bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council and the Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Bangladesh is thus often mentioned in the UN and around the world as a “Model of Economic Development”, and “the Standard Bearer of South Asia.”
To become a middle income country, we have to do more to increase our GDP growth rate to 8 % by 2015, 10 % by 2017 and sustain it till 2021; provide food, shelter, clothing, education and health to all citizens; ensure employment to 85% of the 105 million workforce expected by 2021; reduce poverty from 26 % to 15 % and ultimately to eradication; meet nutritional needs of 85 % of the population by 2021; provide minimum daily intake of 2,122 kilo calories of food to all; eliminate contagious diseases; provide primary health care and sanitation; raise average longevity to 70 years; reduce child and maternal mortality to a minimum; 100 % literacy rate; create a generation educated in science and technology.
Our “Vision 2021” would then be on the road to “Vision 2041” when Bangladesh would become a peaceful, prosperous and a developed nation.
Bangladesh and China enjoy excellent relations based on mutual respect, shared values and peopleto people links from ancient times through trade and travel. In recent times, our countries have been drawn closer.
China considers Bangladesh as its partner of cooperation; our bilateral relations being forged without any ideological or regional bias; our total support on any issue affecting the interests of developing and least developed countries; China’s Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and commitment to create a harmonious society on the basis of a just and fair international political and economic order and Bangladesh’s endorsement to it; and importantly, both our keenness to advance our international relations for a better life of our peoples.
Our two countries are cooperating in many areas, including culture, industries, agriculture, water resources development, flood forecasting, earthquake warning, science and technology, space research and application and public security.
In the last five years, we have signed 17 agreements and MOUs. China is our largest trading partner and source of import since 2007. Our trade reflects Bangladesh’s import of goods of over US $ 6 billion from China and exports of less than half a billion dollars to China.
This trade gap needs to be balanced. However, Chinese investment to Bangladesh is on the rise from US$ 21.34 million in 2009 to US$ 181.94 million in 2012. In 2013, some 49 Chinese companies invested US$ 310 million in our export processing zones.
Chinese aids and grants to Bangladesh till December 2013 was US$ 266.2 million and concessional and other loans were US$ 1731.9 million.
Chinese grants, aids, and loans have helped implement in 17 projects in Bangladesh with 6 more in the process. A list of our 14 priority projects was handed to the Chinese government for consideration of concessional loan.
Bangladesh is also happy with Chinese proactive role in BCIM-EC whose first Joint Study Group Meeting identified physical connectivity; trade in goods, services and investment, including finance; environmentally sustainable development; and people to people contact, as areas of cooperation. The Group’s second meeting would be held in Dhaka later this year.
At the time of our independence forty-three years ago, Bangladesh was a war ravaged, devastated country. Today, it is on the verge of a take off from a least developed country to a middle income one and will soon be on the way to being a fully developed country.
The UN Secretary General’s comment in 2011 that Bangladesh is a model for the developing world has encouraged our government to pursue with vigor its “Vision 2021” strategy.
I believe our government with its total commitment and dedication would succeed in achieving our goal and go beyond to make Bangladesh a country of prosperity, progress and peace. I know that we shall succeed with the help and support of our friends, especially the government and the people of the Republic of China.
I thank you.
Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu.
May Bangladesh Live Forever
Long live Bangladesh-China Friendship.”