May 17 is the 42nd Homecoming Day of Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. On this day in 1981, after six years in exile, she returned to the country. After the brutal assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members on 15 August 1975, she along with her sister could not return to the country for six long years.
Amid adversity, the leaders and workers of the Awami League, who were scattered all over the country, at one time became strong; they became strong in the belief in building a new country. Then in the absence of Sheikh Hasina, the leaders and workers elected her president of the Bangladesh Awami League through the council. In 1996, under her leadership, the Awami League came to power after winning the parliamentary elections. Sheikh Hasina took charge as the Prime Minister for the first time. She became the prime minister for the second time in 2008, the third time in 2014 and the fourth time in 2018. Sheikh Hasina has led the Awami League as a symbol of party unity in the most difficult times.
After the assassination of Bangabandhu at the hands of the anti-independence domestic and foreign groups, darkness engulfed the country. She removed that darkness. She started working as a pioneer for the overall welfare, development and liberation of the people of Bangladesh. She has proved that she has no alternative for the development of democracy in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina's honesty, devotion, rationality, strong morale, wisdom and extraordinary leadership quality have established Bangladesh at a different height in the world arena and she is known as a world-famous leader.
The Awami League has been playing a politically vocal, defensive role against all forms of exploitation, deprivation, injustice and oppression. Since its inception, the party has been working for the economic, social, political and cultural emancipation of the people. If this party is in power, the fate of the people will improve. The 73-year history from the founding of this group testifies to that fact.
The Awami League has been in power for the last 14 years under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the brave daughter of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu and she has been working dedicatedly for the welfare of the people. The world is amazed by her indomitable strength, courage, morale and strong leadership. By 2030 Bangladesh will be the 29th largest economy in the world and by 2040 it will be the 23rd largest economy. Bangladesh has already been declared a 'middle-income country' with effect from 2026 and will emerge as a 'developed country' in 2041. The big proof of Bangladesh moving forward is that the per-capita income of the people of the country has increased significantly in the last few years. The current per-capita income is 2,824. Bangladesh today is one of the few countries in the world in terms of economic progress.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has four major targets. The first one is Digital Bangladesh, which has already reached a stage; the second one is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030; the third one is to build a developed Bangladesh by 2041 and the last one is to implement the Delta Plan of 2100.
Sheikh Hasina has been serving as the president of the Awami League for forty years. This is a unique achievement. In these 40 years, not only has she been the president of the Awami League, her popularity has increased manifold and not a single leader or activist of the party thinks that Sheikh Hasina has any alternative. This is a remarkable achievement of a political leader.
When the crisis in Bangladesh is intense, everything revolves around uncertainty, black clouds are gathering in the sky of Bengal, then Sheikh Hasina is our last hope. We can take a look at our economy and overall development. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008-09 was only 103.5 billion. In 2019-20, it has increased to 330.2 billion US dollars. Export earning was 15.56 billion in 2008-09 and increases to 40.54 billion in 2018-19. Foreign exchange reserves increased from 8.46 billion in FY 2008-09 to 44.03 billion. In 2001, the poverty rate in the country was 47.9 per cent and the extreme poverty rate was 34.3 per cent. In 2020, the poverty rate has come down to 20.5 per cent and the extreme poverty rate to 10.5 per cent. Expatriate income, which was nominal 50 years ago, has reached 25 billion a year. Export and remittance revenue exceeded 48 billion foreign exchange reserves. Various development partners, especially the World Bank, IMF, ADB, JICA, Goldman Sachs, Wall Street Journal, HSBC, Citibank NA and PWC, are calling Bangladesh by different names, including Diamond, and Emerging Tiger.
Bangladesh is the third-largest producer of rice in the world and is self-sufficient in fish, meat, egg and vegetable production. Bangladesh ranks second among the countries in terms of the growth rate of inland freshwater fish production and ranks first among 11 Hilsa-producing countries. Today the benefits of 'Digital Bangladesh' have spread from cities to villages.
The Eighth Five Year Plan has been adopted. Several mega projects, including Metrorail, Elevated Expressway, Karnaphuli Tunnel, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and Maheshkhali-Matarbari integrated development project, are being implemented. 100 special economic zones, 39 high-tech parks and IT villages are being built.
To make a wonderful combination of agriculture, industry, trade and commerce and modern technology, we have to come up with new plans and ideas. Bangladesh is undergoing a radical change. This country has set a shining example of sustainable development. Bangladesh's economy has gone from a weak, underdeveloped, shaky state to a strong one. Every day new facets of modern transformation of conventional infrastructure are unfolding. A renaissance has taken place in the sectors or businesses, which were previously neglected. Those potential sectors are gradually waking up.
Relevant government departments and ministries are performing more important responsibilities from time to time. As a result, new sectors of potential are developing. Prospective new sectors are playing a very strong role in achieving prosperity and irresistible progress in Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh are not weak or incompetent in any way. They can work hard. Men and women of different classes and professions who used to be trapped in unemployment, poverty and helplessness are now setting new examples of possibilities by utilising their talents, intelligence, strength, courage and hard work. Economists say Bangladesh's achievements in 50 years are incredible. Bangladesh is currently ranked 41st in the world economy.
Improving education, communication infrastructure, women's education, healthcare, free book distribution to students, providing social safety net support for socially disadvantaged, helpless, elderly, widows, persons with disabilities, support for divorced women and autism are playing a major role. Her government recognised freedom fighters as national heroes. We have to build a modern Bangladesh in the spirit of the Liberation War. This is the expectation of the present and future generations. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is our last expectation and destination.
The writer is a researcher and can be reached at [email protected]