PM stresses harnessing D-8 potential to be powerful economic block

27 July 2022, 1:25:24

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today stressed the need for working together to harness D-8 countries’ potential to become a powerful economic block.

She also placed a five-point proposal that included implementing preferential trade agreement (PTA) among the member states to maximise use of business prospects and opportunities to double the intra-D-8 trade from 129 billion dollars in the next decade.

The premier was virtually addressing the 20th D-8 Council of Ministers at a city hotel commemorating the 25th anniversary of its establishment, joining from her official residence Ganabhaban here.

She said, “Therefore, let us work together to provide the impetus for harnessing our potentials towards a prosperous future.”

She expressed her happiness because Bangladesh is celebrating this historic moment as the Chair of the Organization.

The prime minister said the D-8, established twenty-five years ago, is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through creating synergies.

This is possible through political commitment and meaningful cooperation of the group’s public and private sectors, she said.

She added:”The immense possibility that we have, if realized properly, will heighten our power as an economic bloc.”

The premier said she is happy to hear that the D-8 countries that included Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Turkey, are finalizing the D-8 Preferential Trade Agreement.

“It will help harmonize the intra-country trade, liberalize the barriers, and stimulate trade and economic cooperation among the member states,” she continued.

She expressed her satisfaction as chamber representatives, business people, entrepreneurs from different member states have participated in the 2nd D-8 CCI General Assembly and in the Business Expo on the sidelines of the Ministerial Session.

“While we were all reeling from the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has pushed the world in a fresh danger,” she said.

The conflict and, the subsequent sanctions and counter-sanctions have disrupted the production and supply of food, fertilizer, energy and power, and other commodities, she added.

The premier said countries like Bangladesh have been bearing the brunt of the impacts of the war the most and prices of essentials have gone beyond the purchasing capacities of the most of people.

“We should all come forward to bravely address this looming humanitarian crisis,” she added.

The prime minister said the world is passing through a difficult time due to Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts, food and energy crisis, climate change and natural disasters.

“So, need for strengthened multilateral cooperation and global solidarity deserves more attention than ever to this end,” she opined.

Sheikh Hasina said the D-8 countries have been collaborating in the six thrust areas.

She said she placed five proposals to take into consideration by the D-8 leaders as the D-8 is celebrating the 25th anniversary, adding, “It should formulate some specific focus areas for the next decade.”

In her first proposal, she said implementation of the PTA is an important element for a successful D-8 as the states have large domestic markets and a combined market which is also considerable.

“Intra-D-8 trade will help accelerate our business prospects and opportunities. It should be our goal to double the intra-D-8 trade from 129 billion dollars in the next decade,” she said.

Secondly she said, “Bangladesh is ready to provide space at our Special Economic Zones for investment of the member states. If we begin the process now, within the next decade, we will have a robust D-8 Economic Zone.”

In the third proposal, the premier said ICT is an area that has immense prospects. The youths of the D-8 countries can be turned into formidable workforce, she continued.

About 70% of Bangladesh’s population is under 40 years and we have 650,000 registered IT freelancers, she said.

“We can use this huge manpower to create IT based industry and involve the youth in various economic activities,” she added.

In her fourth proposal she said, the D-8 should concentrate on diversified agriculture production to ensure food security and steady food supply.

“Bangladesh is ready to share her best practices and experience with other D-8 member states. We should focus on agriculture production to become self-sufficient in food production within the next decade,” she added.

In the last proposal, the prime minister said that all the D-8 member states should be careful about energy usage and the necessity of alternate energy sources.

“I propose that the D-8 focuses on developing capacity by involving other countries who have expertise in alternate energy,” she continued.

The establishment of D-8 was announced officially through the Istanbul Declaration of Summit of Heads of State/Government on June 15, 1997.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, D-8 Secretary General Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, and President of D-8 Chamber of Commerce and Industries (D8CCI) Sheikh Fazle Fahim spoke on the occasion.

Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Masud Bin Momen gave the address of welcome.

A documentary on the D-8 was screened at the function.

Sheikh Hasina said the Greatest Bangalee of all times, Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman envisioned a global world order based on multilateralism, solidarity and cooperation.

Fifty years after the independence, Bangladesh continues to believe in the same ideals and remains steadfast to harness the benefit of multilateral cooperation, she said.

The premier said Bangladesh took comprehensive measures to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus pandemic on the economy and revive it to desired growth trajectory.

“So far, we have announced 28 stimulus packages equivalent to USD 23 billion which is 6.3 percent of our GDP,” she said.

A total of 67.4 million people and 118 thousand business entities have been benefited from these packages, she added.

The premier said that Bangladesh is one of the very few countries which has successfully vaccinated its targeted population against COVID-19.

“Bangladesh has been ranked fifth out of 121 countries and the first among the South Asian counties in COVID-19 recovery index,” she said.

She also said Bangladesh has made impressive advancement in all social-economic sectors over the last one decade.

Poverty rate has gone down to 20 percent with per capita income increased to USD 2,824 and robust agricultural growth has made the county self-sufficient in food production, she informed.

There is gender equality in all sectors and enrolment at primary level has gone up to 97.81%, child mortality rate significantly decreased to 28 per 1000 live-births and life expectancy increased to 72.8 years, the prime minister said.

“More than 98 percent population has been brought under safe water and sanitation network,” she said.

The prime minister said that access to government services has been made digital and easy, and 5.8% of the national budget 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 opined.

Last month, she said they opened the longest bridge in Bangladesh, the Padma Bridge, which is an engineering marvel built entirely with our own finance.

“This bridge is expected to contribute 1.23% to our GDP,” she said.

Various 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, she stated.

These will be crucial to realize Bangladesh’s vision to build a developed and prosperous Bangladesh by 2041, Sheikh Hasina said.

However, there are many challenges in Bangladesh’s endeavors for a developed Bangladesh, she said.

Global warming and climate change has posed tremendous threat to our existence, she added.

The premier said 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.

“As we are approaching COP-27 in Sharm-el Sheikh, sustained partnership can only get us through,” she said.

The D-8 countries with more than one billion people have enormous potentials for economic cooperation, she went on saying.

“Bangladesh has been attracting investment through our liberal, friendly investment policies and arrangement of linkages between foreign and local businesses,” she added.

The premier said that Bangladesh’s export earning has increased from USD 18 billion in 2010 to over 52 billion in the last fiscal year.

Bangladesh, currently the 41st largest economy in the world, is set to become the 25th by 2035, she said.

“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 said.

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