Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today put forward five ideas to make a better Asia and said Bangladesh wants to resolve the Rohingya crisis through dialogues which is a lesson for the world to overcome chaos in a peaceful manner.
The prime minster proposed the ideas while delivering a keynote speech at the Nikkei Inc’s International Conference titled “The Future of Asia” at a hotel here.
The theme of the conference is “Seeking a New Global order – Overcoming the Chaos.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad, Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte also joined the conference.
While placing the ideas in front of the Asian leaders to make a better Asia, Sheikh Hasina said, “As governments, we have played our part in helping make this possible. Let me share some ideas with you for your reflection.”
In the first idea, Sheikh Hasina said today’s world is confronted with challenges and conflicts in many ways.
“So, we need to pledge to strengthen the world with greater openness, jointly address global challenges, safeguard fairness and justice and inject new impetus to cooperate using innovative ideas and measures,” she said.
The premier, in her second idea, stressed the need for partnership for economic development, saying, “Economies should take innovative practices surpassing alliances. Partnerships need to build on mutual trust and respect, common development and prosperity for a win-win strategy and to the benefit of people.”
In her third idea, she also said the Asian countries need to cooperate with each other in the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, equality, sharing benefits and joint contribution.
In the fourth idea, Sheikh Hasina said Asia’s future will depend on a sustainable and balanced development, improving international order and establishing win-win international relations.
“We have to face development challenges collectively. We may pool together as a group to boost world peace and stability, promote a multi-polar world and protect legitimate rights and interests of developing countries,” she said.
Putting emphasis on connectivity, the premier said it is the dynamism of connectivity that forms the cornerstone for peace and prosperity around the world. Infrastructure, free trade and liberal investment give foundation to Asian development, she said.
“We have seen unprecedented levels of wealth and opportunity, rising life expectancy, greater access to education, falling infant mortality and reductions in absolute poverty on a scale which would once have been hard to imagine,” she continued.
On the Rohingya issue, Sheikh Hasina said despite severe limitations, Bangladesh offered shelter to over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas as a responsible nation.
“We’re not only responding to a humanitarian call, but we are conscious about not allowing that crisis to escalate into chaos and regional instability,” she said.
The premier said Bangladesh has sought dialogue and consensus over discord, even in the face of extreme provocation and crisis. “In that, it is a lesson for other situations of crises in our region and globally to overcome chaos and discord with the power of peace, humanity and development,” she added.
Calling upon the Asian leaders to lead the world towards peace, the premier said the power of humanity and positive forces is bound to prevail.
“The global community is looking at us, the rising Asia, to innovate,aspire, and lead the world towards continued peace and prosperity,” she said.
“And standing here at the advent of Reiwa, the era of Beautiful Harmony, I can only be optimistic about the future. Harmony, peace and friendship will prevail over chaos, disruption and discord,” she continued.
In this context, Sheikh Hasina also said, “Our emphasis has always been to promote peace and progress that would directly benefit the people. In a multi-polar world, we would strive to strengthen the UN system and multilateralism for all countries.”
The premier hoped that this Nikkei Forum will suggest how to strengthen the cooperation of Asian countries and how to deal with protectionism within multilateral trading regime,” she said.
Mentioning that the future of the world lies in convergence of interests common to humanity, Sheikh Hasina said as a member of the global community, Bangladesh will continue to work with all friends and partners to ensure a stable and sustainable world order for the future generations.
“It gives me hope to see that despite many challenges and hardships confronting us globally, we have kept expanding the frontiers of knowledge, opening new horizons to step beyond the realms of mother earth and move towards a true space age,” she continued.
She came up with the opinion that the artificial intelligence and other technological marvels are complementing abilities of all manifold to reach greater heights of human civilization.
The prime minister said human civilizations have suffered the horrors of war, and the scourges of nature, and yet flourished.
“I’m confident that the daunting challenges that confront us now, will ultimately produce positive outcome through strong, rational and responsible leadership and through partnership among nations.”
Recalling Japan’s recognition after independence, she said, “Bangladesh shares a special relationship with Japan that goes back to the days of our struggle for independence and Japan’s recognition of Bangladesh as an independent country on 10 February 1972.”
In a question-answer session upon completion of her keynote speech, the premier said that Bangladesh will welcome any ideas of investment in any sector proposed by the Japanese.
Spelling out various initiatives for the overall development of the country in the last 10 years, the premier said now Bangladesh is recognized as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
“We have had a growth rate averaging 6.6 percent in last one decade, and over 7 percent during the last three years. An 8.13 percent GDP growth is projected for this year,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has already attained all criteria to graduate from a least developed country to a developing one, and has a vision to become a middle income country by 2021 and developed one by 2041.
“As Bangladesh is now well set on its growth trajectory, I am confident that the economy will achieve double digit growth soon,” she mentioned.
Speaking about the implementation of the seventh five year plan 2016-2020 as a long term one to meet targets under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the premier said, “We are committed to ensuring that every citizen has a share in the benefits of our economic growth. Moreover, extensive social safety-net programmes ensure distribution of wealth.”
In this context, she also said that we are aware of the imperative to ensure food security and, therefore, prioritized on modernizing the agriculture sector. As a result, we are now self-sufficient in food production despite the population grew more than double since our independence in 1971.
“In our small landmass, we produce enough food grain to feed our 162 million people. We are 4th in the world in rice production, and 3rd in fish and vegetable production,” she added.
Regarding women empowerment, Sheikh Hasina said women’s empowerment and participation have been a major factor in Bangladesh’s transformative development.
“Our women have wide range of opportunities not only to become entrepreneurs but also to break grounds in non-traditional sectors such as defense, diplomacy and politics.”
“We have invested heavily in women’s and girls’ education resulting in a remarkable march in women’s advancement in every sector of the society, overcoming age-old customary discriminatory practices. Women make up close to 40 percent of the workforce,” she continued.
The premier said that because of that shift as well as policy support by the government, manufacturing sector, particularly readymade garments, leather, pharmaceuticals and ceramics industries, have witnessed significant growth which encouraged entrepreneurs to plan and start new ventures to support expansion of the industrial base of the country.
Terming private sector as the main engine of country’s economy, Sheikh Hasina said that the government attaches utmost priority to private entrepreneurship and investments, both domestic and foreign.
“To cater to the needs of investors, we are establishing 100 Special Economic Zones throughout the country, including one exclusively for Japanese investors. We have also set up several industrial parks to promote priority sectors such as ICT.”
She said that Bangladesh has one of the most liberal foreign investment regimes in South Asia. It includes, among others, legal protection of foreign investment, generous tax policy schemes and concessionary duty on import of machinery, she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh offers 100 percent foreign equity, unrestricted and full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit.
“We enjoy preferential access to most of the leading world markets, including EU, Canada, and Japan. All these generate significant incentive for global investors, and we are witnessing growing interest from foreign investors,” she said.