Saturday, 1 October, 2022
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Sheikh Hasina's Indispensability in Bangladesh's Development

Pranab Kumar Panday

Sheikh Hasina's Indispensability in Bangladesh's Development
Pranab Kumar Panday

In the wake of political upheaval in 2006, Bangladeshis endured an interim government for nearly two years. A caretaker government first promised citizens to hold free and fair elections within a reasonable time frame. However, after seizing control of the country, the ruling elite developed a case of hubris. Detaining the heads of two major political parties was the first step in an attempt to depoliticize the government and extend its reign in power. Due to Sheikh Hasina's unwavering resolve, they were forced to abandon their first strategy. So they called for elections in December 2008, and the Bangladesh Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, won by a considerable margin and took over as the ruling party in January 2009.

Bangladesh, which American Foreign Minister Henry Kitchener had called a ‘bottomless basket’, began to undergo a dramatic transformation in 2009. Since assuming office, Sheikh Hasina's government had launched and expanded the number of initiatives that were in line with the ‘charter of change’, an electrical manifesto of the party. The government considered the implementation of many large-scale projects as crucial to the expansion of the economy and the subsequent exploitation of the project's benefits for boosting the strength of the country's economy. During this period, the government initiated plans for infrastructure developments, including the Padma Bridge, the Dhaka Mass Transit project, the tunnel beneath the Karnaphuli River, and many more. The government of Bangladesh guaranteed a loan of US$120 crore from the World Bank to fund the construction of the Padma Bridge. The World Bank withdrew financing for the project just before it was set to begin in 2012, presumably because it could not persuade the government to accept a fictitious corruption accusation against several key government members.

The bank officials pressured the government and the Anti-Corruption Commission to arrest some persons in the government based on a few pages of a diary, without giving meaningful documentation in support of their accusation. Sheikh Hasina did not cave into their demands. She, instead, requested extensive evidence from the Bank's representatives. There was no hope that the government could still be able to build the bridge despite the Bank's decision not to fund the project. Some influential figures actively opposed the country's interests at the time. Civil society organizations criticized the administration for failing to meet the Bank's demands. Sheikh Hasina, however, refused to bow down to Bank's pressures and instead insisted on using the country's resources to build the bridge. Sheikh Hasina's decision to build the bridge with her funds seemed unrealistic to many during that time. However, due to the Honourable Prime Minister's unwavering and unrelenting leadership, Bangladesh has not only completed the construction of the Padma Bridge but also made remarkable progress in almost every other area of the economy. Due to her unwavering determination, Padma Bridge has become a symbol of Bangladesh's pride and dignity.

Bangladesh's economy grew rapidly between 2009 and 2020 that which was considered an example of successful growth and was dubbed an ‘Asian Tiger’. Meanwhile, our per capita income has surpassed $2500. Bangladesh has been recommended to be included in the list of developing countries from 2024. The foreign currency reserves of the country are now above US$40 billion. The number of people living in poverty decreased dramatically. People's spending power has increased. Notably, Bangladesh has the potential to become a delightful surprise for the rest of the world.

To make matters worse, the Covid-19 Pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020, rendering almost all human endeavours futile. The pandemic severely strained health care systems and the global economy. But under Sheikh Hasina's competent leadership, the nation recovered quickly from the pandemic's devastating effects. The infection and fatality rates remained low, especially compared to those in many other developed countries. Bangladesh's response to the pandemic has been well praised across the globe. More than 75% of the population has been vaccinated, above the 70% threshold, the World Health Organization recommends for achieving herd immunity. Even though many countries have failed to provide their residents with adequate immunizations, there is still a sizable vaccine reserve. Bangladesh is excellently handling rescission despite the global economic slowdown caused by the deadly virus.

While Sri Lanka was experiencing political and economic collapse a few months ago, many speculated that Bangladesh might follow the same path. However, the country is now doing fine. Thanks to the robust economy and the visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina. We, too, should not be concerned about this unsavoury development. Sheikh Hasina foresaw the dire consequences of the worldwide crisis and implemented strategies to prevent a total collapse of the economy.

It is undeniable that the globe is experiencing a wide range of difficulties due to the war in Russia and Ukraine. Oil and other commodities have risen in price on the global market due to the war. The people of Bangladesh, fortunately, have not yet felt the full force of such a price increase in the country. The government is still cushioning the blow of the oil price increase by subsidizing prices. A few months ago, there were problems with cooking oil prices in the internal market, but those problems were caused mainly by the merchants' syndicate's malicious intent. Our Prime Minister has asked the public for help, especially in coping with the load shedding of power. As the cost of the fuel used to generate electricity has increased, we have had to cut down on power generation for a few days. Due to the oil price increase, even individuals in affluent nations have faced significant power outages. With the support of the people, we are confident that the government of Sheikh Hasina will overcome this situation soon.

International acclaim has been showered upon Sheikh Hasina. She has been a leading voice on the global stage in the fight against climate change and a driving force in the movement to empower women. As a result of her government's handling of the country's internal and foreign difficulties, we are confident that we will join the ranks of the world's developed nations by 2041. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on pace to be met by 2030, and the government has been making progress toward that end. As a result, we can say with confidence that the destiny of the people of Bangladesh is secured in her hands. We have achieved economic freedom under Sheikh Hasina's leadership, just as the people of Bangladesh gained political independence under Bangabandhu. There is no one else in Bangladesh who is capable of moving the nation forward like her. With her guidance, Bangladesh has gone from being almost unknown in 2006 to a global powerhouse. Therefore, the people of Bangladesh will vote for her again in the next election with the hope that she will continue to lead the nation in the right direction.

 

The writer is a Professor of

Public Administration at the

University of Rajshahi