Bangladesh is now 35th largest economy in the world: PM
Chhbed Sathee, from Washington DC: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said we are now the 35th largest economy in the world with a GDP of US$ 460 billion. We are the second largest economy in South Asia and an emerging growth engine. By qualifying on all three criteria, we have moved from the United Nations Least Developed Country (LDC) status to the developed country list. He urged global development partners, including the World Bank, to continue investing in digital and physical infrastructure to transform Bangladesh into a smart Bangladesh by 2041. He said these things while attending the event organized on the occasion of 50 years of partnership between Bangladesh and the World Bank in Washington DC on Monday (May 1) morning.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the informal interaction with board of executive directors at the World Bank. World Bank Executive Director Paramesewaran War, Anna Bjerde of World Bank’s Managing Director and Alternate Executive Director Dr Ahmad Kaikaus also spoke at the function.
Prime miister said, It is a pleasure to have this meeting with the World Bank Board of Governors. I am here to join an event to mark 50 years of partnership between Bangladesh and the World Bank. We are witnessing some major shifts in geo-economics this year. These have implications for Bangladesh as an economy in transition. I believe the World Bank is also making itself ready for the future.
Distinguished Directors, Bangladesh is the world’s largest active delta situated on the world’s largest Bay – the Bay of Bengal. This is a location at the heart of what is termed as Indo-Pacific. We are now the world’s 35th largest economy with a GDP of USD 460 billion. In South Asia, we are the second biggest economy and an emerging growth engine. We are graduating from the UN Least Developed Country (LDC) status, having qualified in all three criteria. In 2022, our headcount poverty came down to 18.7%, with a sharp decline in extreme poverty to 5.6%. All this has happened despite the multi-dimensional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Europe, and the deepening climate crisis.
The biggest asset of Bangladesh is its resilience. In 1971, we achieved our independence following a genocide, and with an economy in ruins. Our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called upon the international community to stand by our people. The World Bank also responded and thus started our partnership.
Our development journey has been far from smooth. Bangladesh experienced repeated military takeovers, extremist threats, and deadly natural disasters. In the last one and a half decade, the nation finally started turning around by tackling these challenges, and ensuring political and economic stability.
During this time, we remained true to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s call for people’s emancipation. Our state policy embraces democracy, human rights and nationalism as a basis of unity, and envisions a just society defined by socialism and secularism. These ensure equal treatment without discrimination based on religion, race or gender. The people’s representatives responsible for governance are subject to different layers of accountability.
Distinguished Governors, The World Bank is now committed to 53 different projects in Bangladesh, involving USD 15 billion. This is part of the grants and loans of USD 39 billion so far offered by the Bank. The present situation gives an indication of our economy’s growth opportunities and absorptive capacity. Bangladesh has never defaulted on its debt repayment, or fallen into a so-called ‘debt trap’.
Our strong performance in human capital formation is matched by our investment in infrastructure mega-projects. The construction of the 6.1 km Padma Multi-purpose Bridge with our own financial and technical resources is a sign of our economic maturity. I regret that the World Bank moved away from financing this most important project owing to external pressure.
We now wish to look into the future of our partnership. The World Bank must remain focused on its core purpose of poverty alleviation and development financing.
In Bangladesh, we have made impressive gains in food security, free and affordable housing, community healthcare, compulsory primary education, women’s empowerment, financial inclusion, access to electricity, and disaster preparedness. We wish to achieve our targets on universal health coverage, quality education, child welfare, skills promotion, urban development, sustainable industrialization, environmental protection and effective institution building.
We need the World Bank to scale up its concessional financing for developing countries to allow us to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I look forward to the World Bank sharing its concrete ideas on this at the UN SDG Summit in New York in September. The World Bank must invest further in building state capabilities and knowledge for sustainable development.
It is encouraging that the World Bank is giving added emphasis on climate financing. For a climate vulnerable country like Bangladesh, we need adequate financing for both mitigation and adaptation. Since 2009, we have financed 800 projects from our own Trust Fund. We are launching a Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan to fast-forward our green transition in key sectors. We shall need USD 230 billion by 2050 only for adaptation. The Climate Financing Summit in Paris in June will be an opportunity for the World Bank to give us some meaningful assurance on these.
The World Bank is actively engaged in our digital transformation. Our government has kept its words to our people by building together a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by 2021. We have set our next target to become a knowledge-based ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041.
I call upon our development partners like the World Bank to continue investing in our digital and physical infrastructure. We also seek international support for trade diversification, investment promotion and domestic resource generation.
The World Bank has extended grant support for the 1.2 million forcibly displaced Rohingya from Myanmar in Bangladesh. Their prolonged presence is becoming a huge challenge for us. We have created excellent facilities for one hundred thousand of them in the Bhashan Char island. Pending their return to Myanmar, we hope the World Bank will continue to support their humanitarian needs. The world must not forget these hapless people yet again.
Bangladesh has shown that it can deliver on its commitments. I am confident that our young people will take our nation forward in the right political environment. We wish to further expand our role as a responsible and contributing member of the comity of nations. We shall continue to pursue our economic diplomacy based on our foreign policy principle of “Friendship to All, Malice towards None”. I hope that our international partners will stay focused on the positive aspects of our march forward and join us in a promising development journey ahead.