Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday proposed categorising 14 sectors into several clusters to make them more synergised ones for achieving an early dividends from Bimstec.
“To achieve an early dividend from the Bimstec, we would like to propose categorising the 14 sectors into several clusters to make them more synergised, focused and implementable,” she said while delivering her statement in the 4th Bimstec Summit here.
She mentioned three clusters which can be called as ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Security and Stability’ and ‘People-to-People Contact’.
Putting emphasis on tapping the potentials of Bimstec, Sheikh Hasina said, "The (Bimstec) region has a huge scope of expanding intra-trade. We’ve to utilise the potential that largely remained untapped."
The two-day summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec), an organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, began at Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza on Thursday with its Chairperson and Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in the chair.
The Bimstec members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
According to the proposal placed by Sheikh Hasina, trade, investment, connectivity, science and technology, energy, poverty alleviation and agriculture sectors that directly add economic and social benefits for people may be categorised under one cluster called ‘Sustainable Development’.
Accordingly, Hasina said, security, anti-terrorism, climate change and disaster management that protect and promote prosperity may be placed under another cluster called ‘Security and Stability’.
Besides, the Prime Minister said, culture and public health that facilitate and influence progress and prosperity may be placed under the 3rd cluster called ‘People to People Contact’.
"In the same light, we may also consider reviewing the scope and structure of Bimstec in view of the evolving political and economic scenario," the Prime Minister said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bimstec is a very dynamic region in the world with 1.5 billion people comprising almost 22 percent of global population, while its combined GDP is USD 2.8 trillion and average growth rate above 6 percent.
Despite very passionate collective commitment, she said, the Bimstec Forum achieved a few modest successes during the past 21 years of its existence.
"A huge task, therefore, remains ahead of us. We need to consolidate fundamental legal frameworks to carry forward the substantive engagements in our cooperation to produce visible results," the Prime Minister said.
She said the Special Bimstec Retreat in Goa, in 2016, hosted by Indian Prime Minister Norendra Modi was an important step forward. “Some of the decisions of the 16-point Agenda of Action adopted in Goa have been executed while many are yet to be realised.”
Hasina said poverty, climate change and terrorism, among others, remain some of the common enemies of the region.
As the lead country in climate change, Bangladesh has initiated adaptation and mitigation programmes, she said adding that Bangladesh has created a Climate Change Trust Fund of USD 400 million in line with its Comprehensive Climate Change Strategy.
About terrorism, Hasina said, "We’ve successfully implemented our 'Zero Tolerance' policy in addressing terrorism in all of its manifestations."
The Prime Minister said Bangladesh hosted early this year the 2nd Bimstec Security Chief’s Meeting in Dhaka. "As the lead country for trade and investment, we’ve been pursuing the promotion of meaningful engagements and cooperation."
Hasina mentioned that the global scenario is changing very fast resulting in new dynamics in every sphere. "We’ve to match the new dynamics and the current reality through three-pronged cooperation– bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally."
She said the cooperation in the Bimstec forum can be expanded through creation of Free Trade Area, investment and energy cooperation, enhancing people-to-people contact and funding mechanism.
The Prime Minister said some Bimstec countries have bilateral arrangements of electricity grid connection. "With the participation of others, this can be turned into a Bimstec Electricity Grid."
Talking about Bangladesh’s progress, Sheikh Hasina said it made significant economic and social progress during the last 10 years as its per capita GDP reached USD 1,752 during the current fiscal year from USD 543 in 2006. The poverty rate has dropped to 21 percent in 2018 from 41.5 percent in 2006 in Bangladesh.
“We’re committed to pursuing all means of domestic, bilateral, regional and international cooperation in transforming Bangladesh to a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041.”