The people of Bangladesh are truly indebted to Sheikh Hasina for demonstrating a focused leadership to take the country to the Highways of Inclusive Development. Despite immediate impact of the pandemic, the Bangladesh development story remains impressive mainly due to her prudent leadership. No doubt, she has been rightly recognised by the global bodies including the latest ‘SDGs Progress Award’. Well-known for her pro-people, pro-nature, tech-savvy and pro-gender commitment, she has already let the world know how to remain focused on the people-first strategy of inclusive development defying all challenges including the latest pandemic. Her record of navigating Bangladesh out of the global financial crisis of 2009 by prioritising investment in the real sector including agriculture, export industries and small and medium enterprises leading to unprecedented macroeconomic stability has been simply matchless. She showed similar courage in infusing nearly five percent of GDP for stimulating the economy which was badly affected by the pandemic. A fantastic coordination between the monetary and fiscal policies under the PM’s smart leadership right from the early days of ongoing health crisis has indeed been exemplary.
Thanks to her compassionate leadership the poverty level has already been halved from 41 percent to about 20 percent. The economy has been recovering fast due to her farsighted blended policy mix which can be termed as both innovative and cautious. As a result, the rural economy has become more vibrant with higher productivity of agriculture and enhanced non-farm income. The latter accounts for about 60 percent of the total rural income. Thanks to her ‘Digital Bangladesh’ campaign, digitisation of administrative and financial services including mobile financial services and agent banking, e& f commerce the people have started getting seamless services at their doorsteps, despite some ethical challenges. The steady growth of freelancers and greater flow of remittances in addition to continued increase in export earnings have helped the foreign exchange reserve hit the new height of 46 billion US dollars plus in the recent time. The growth and employment multiplying megaprojects including the Padma bridge, Metro-rail, Materbari energy hub and deep seaport, Bangabandhu industrial park and other special economic zones, High-Tech parks and communication infrastructures including multi-lane highways and well-dredged waterways leading to faster national and regional connectivity have turned out to be ‘game-changers’ under her planned approach to development. Her commitment for medium and long-term planning covering five-year, perspective and delta plans speaks volumes about the dream she has about achieving ‘Sonar Bangla’ in the foreseeable future.
We are confident that despite many challenges like upgrading the service processes using digital technologies and slow pace of implementation of well-intentioned projects, a vibrant Bangladesh will continue to move on under her dynamic farsighted leadership. Her focus on peace-building in the region defying the challenges of religious radicalism is well appreciated globally. Happy birthday to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – the lighthouse of our hope and prosperity.
The author is Bangabandhu Chair Professor, Dhaka University; Chair, Unnayan Shamannay and former Governor, Bangladesh Bank.