Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday put emphasis on establishing cooperation in harnessing the power and potential of the youth.
She said it could be done through skill development, utilising the full potential of ICT, creating necessary legal, institutional and infrastructural framework; and improving connectivity to facilitate trade and investment among the D-8 member states.
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“The D-8, which was established 24 years ago, is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through creating synergies,” she said.
The Prime Minister highlighted the areas of cooperation in her welcome statement while presiding over the 10th D-8 Summit that began in a virtual platform with participation of leaders of Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.
At the outset of the summit hosted by Bangladesh, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered opening remarks as the current Chair of D-8 and handed over the D-8 Chairmanship to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The theme of the D-8 Summit is “Partnership for a Transformative World: Harnessing the Power of Youth and Technology” and the Summit will adopt two documents “D-8 Decennial Roadmap 2020-2030” and “Dhaka Declaration 2021”.
Hasina said the power and potential of the youths who have made breakthroughs in business ideas, models, innovations and technologies is very important.
“The youth in 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,” she said.
The Prime Minister said youths are well conversant with digital technology and have kept Bangladesh’s economy vibrant during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said 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.”
She mentioned that Bangladesh has put emphasis on the use of transformative technology for the last one decade, turning the country into a “Digital Bangladesh”.
With more than six hundred thousand IT professionals, 28 high-tech parks and technology friendly initiatives, she said that Bangladesh is moving forward optimally using the power of the youth and technology.
The Prime Minister said another key area of cooperation where the D-8 member states need to give their focus on is trade.
She mentioned that the 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,” she said.
Hasina also mentioned that 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."
She said for effective and sustainable development within D-8, it is now imperative that the member countries cooperate with and assist each other on climate change issues.
“As the Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum-CVF, we’ll be happy to work with the D-8 member states on the issue of implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
Talking about the Rohingya issue, Hasina said this problem is causing severe impact on the country’s environment, society and the economy. Bangladesh gave shelter to 1.1 million Rohingyas of Myanmar on humanitarian ground, she said.
“We’ve 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,” she said.
Unfortunately, the PM mentioned, it has been more than three years after their influx into Bangladesh, and the repatriation process is yet to be started.
“We’re also concerned that if the crisis is not resolved, this may create security concerns in the region and beyond,” she warned.
Expressing her gratitude to the D-8 member states for their support on the issue, she urged them to put pressure on Myanmar for taking back the Rohingyas.
Talking about the natural disaster, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh has achieved phenomenal socio-economic growth even after the increasing frequency of natural disasters.
Last year, she said, 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’s estimated that close to 1 percent 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.”
On the issue of Covid-19 pandemic, she said that just before the outbreak of the pandemic, Bangladesh had achieved an enviable GDP growth rate of 8.15 percent. Even during the pandemic, it achieved a 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.”
She said that the government is also providing various social protection supports to more than 9.5 million people.
“We’ve taken an initiative to provide a house to country’s every homeless person marking the birth centenary of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.”
She mentioned that Women's empowerment and their equal involvement at all levels is also an important factor of economic stability.
She said Bangladesh is one of the top readymade garment exporters in the world. More than 85 percent 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, she added.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh places utmost importance to education at all levels.
“We’re 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, she said 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.