Bangladesh needs strategic partnership and specific assistance from the development partners to be graduated to a middle-income country by 2021, with attaining the targets outlined in the 7th Five-Year Plan (FYP), Finance Minister AMA Muhith said on Monday.
"The government told the development partners that it was not asking for money, rather it was asking for strategic partnership and certain other ancillary facilities," the finance minister said while briefing reporters on the outcome of the Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF)-2015 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) here, BSS reports.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the two-day BDF at BICC on Sunday, which ended on Monday, with the government and the development partners pledging greater partnership in areas vital to achieve the targets set in the 7th Five Year Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The finance minister said the government did not directly seek any fund, but gave them an estimate about the investment, required to drive the economic growth to the higher trajectory level.
"We think we need to increase the share of external financing to 9.6 percent to reach investment of 34.4 percent of GDP in 2020," the minister said, adding that the development partners made a commitment of providing Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), but it was not discussed how much it would be in terms of money.
Besides the discussion on assistance, the development partners at the meeting identified the key challenges to development those include meeting high demand for infrastructure investment and increasing allocation in human resource and skills development.
"If we could overcome such challenges, we would be able to achieve 8.0 percent growth by 2020," the minister said, noting that the growth target was not an ambitious one.
He further said the GDP would be close to 7.0 percent this year, so achieving 8.0 percent growth would not be a big challenge should there be no major hindrances.
Muhith, however, admitted that the development partners termed the 7th FYV ambitious, but they endorsed the visions of the plan.
They also suggested making more investment in the energy sector without relying so much on external assistance.
ERD Senior Secretary Mohammad Mejbahuddin and Local Consultative Group co-chair and Head of Mission of USAID Janina Jaruzelski were present at the briefing.
Replying to a question, the finance minister said the investment in infrastructure would not be enhanced in this budget, but it would get a boost mainly through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives.
Regarding financing the mega projects, the minister said the government would get fund for those from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and partners like Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Asked whether the government is expecting funds from the China-led AIIB soon, Muhith said the AIIB would be opened for business next month while their first board meeting would be held in January. "After that, they would be ready to accept projects."
Answering to another question, he said there was no specific discussion on the political issue during the BDF.
Muhith said if the US government allows duty- and quota-free of access of Bangladeshi products to their market, it would be a great service to Bangladesh.
In a prompt response, USAID Head of Mission Janina Jaruzelski said she would pass this message to the US ambassador in Dhaka.
About the possible infrastructure investments in the coming years, Muhith said, "I don't want to speculate, you'll find it in next budget."
USAID Head of Mission and LCG co-chair Janina Jaruzelski said the development partners stand ready to support Bangladesh in its efforts to work on SDGs and the 7th FYP and to strive to achieve "Vision 2021". Terming the Vision 2021 agenda as an ambitious agenda, she said, "It requires work. But, if the right choices are made and hard efforts are made by everyone in partnership and collaboration, then it's a worthy goal."
The LCG co-chair, from the development partners' perspective, also identified four key areas which need greater attention by the government. These are skills development, further efforts in quality education, nutrition and full participation of Bangladeshi women and girls in all aspects of economic activities and society.
ERD Senior Secretary Mohammad Mejbahuddin said all the development partners admitted that Bangladesh requires a lot of investment in the coming days alongside more emphasis on private sector and PPP.