Thursday, 1 December, 2022

Sheikh Hasina's Diplomacy in Tackling Global Recession

Pranab Kumar Panday

By 2021, all nations had been devastated by the Corona pandemic that started spreading in early 2020. In that period, national economies and healthcare systems worldwide crumbled. The governments of all countries put economic growth and citizen safety first. Due to the high mortality rate during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became the top priority of all world leaders to find a solution to stop the spread of the disease. Due to the fact that the lockdown, in which people were forced to stay indoors, was the most effective strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19, the issue of people's livelihoods had to be addressed with greater importance along with the issue of coronavirus vaccination or treatment needed to save lives. During that period, living conditions became difficult for those who earned a living through daily labour. So, the monthly lockdown made the livelihood issue more pressing, although the government did everything it could for these destitute folks.

Later, the coronavirus vaccine was discovered due to the efforts of various organisations worldwide. Sheikh Hasina was unrivalled in vaccine diplomacy at the time. She has played an instrumental role in saving lives by procuring and providing the required number of vaccines to most of the people in the country in the fastest possible time. Bangladesh has been more successful in providing vaccines than many developed countries. The Hon'ble Prime Minister has been a role model for many countries in dealing with Corona. As countries deal with the effects of the coronavirus and try to resume economic development, the war between Russia and Ukraine has made the world unstable again. At first, people thought the war wouldn't last long. However, it went on longer than expected, and there was a global economic depression.

As a result of this recession, different countries are on the verge of collapse. In addition, inflation has run rampant in many major economies, including the UK, and prices of every commodity have risen in the domestic market. The biggest issue is that due to the increase in the price of fuel and edible oil in the international market, the governments of almost all countries are forced to increase the price of oil in the domestic market. Due to fuel shortages, European countries are unable to generate enough electricity, so governments have urged citizens to reduce their electrical consumption. Since Bangladesh is not located on another planet, it stands to reason that it has already felt (or will continue to feel) the effects of the worldwide economic downturn. However, how Bangladesh has handled this impact remains a critical issue of discussion. Alternatively, what is the government's long-term strategy for dealing with this issue?

Reviewing the worldwide economic downturn of 2022, the government of Bangladesh stands out for its competent handling of the situation. However, several organisations have cautioned the government to be on the alert in light of the challenges that may lie ahead. However, Bangladesh's economy is in a good shape so far because it is not on the list of countries whose economies may collapse in the global economic recession based on the assumption of numerous international organisations. There were some uncertainties at different levels since recent months saw a minor decline in Bangladesh's reserves. The leading cause was the increased demand for dollars to offset rising import costs associated with increased commodity prices. Nonetheless, the Bangladesh Bank and Ministry of Finance's efforts to discourage the import of luxury items have substantially improved the situation over the past several months. Thus, we are not very concerned about any potential threats. Our esteemed Prime Minister is keeping a careful eye on all developments.

Different European countries and the United States imposed embargoes on Russia, which stopped Russia from exporting oil, gas and other goods to other countries. Consequently, commodity prices across the board have risen. The prime minister of Bangladesh has rightly criticised the United States for endangering other countries with its sanctions against Russia. She has said on several occasions that sanctions won't stop the war. Discussion is the key to finding a solution to this issue. The Honourable Prime Minister led by example during this war, advancing the country without dragging it into controversy. Bangladesh has been speculated to take a side in the battle between the United States and Russia since it began. It would have an impact on Bangladesh if they did that. Therefore, she is making strides toward adopting the proper procedure for dealing with war circumstances without jeopardising the country's image.

When it comes to the geopolitics of Asia during this war, the Hon'ble Prime Minister is proceeding with extreme caution. The relationship between Bangladesh and India is one example. But there's also the matter of Bangladesh's trading ties to China. And then there's the issue of China and Russia's relationship. Therefore, she has to consider several issues while administering the country. The route that the honourable Prime Minister walks on, prioritising all issues, is what I think has kept Bangladesh safe up to this point. We all know that the main feature of Bangladesh's foreign policy is not to be inimical  to anyone but to maintain friendly relations with all. Following this precedent, Bangladesh has kept open diplomatic ties with the rest of the world since its independence.

But sometimes, along with bilateral relations, there is a need to establish trade or economic relations, which is why the investments of other countries have increased in Bangladesh at different times, which is a reflection of the credible leadership of Sheikh Hasina. Many have tried to say that Bangladesh's relations with India have deteriorated. Even they want to establish that Bangladesh's relationship with China has strengthened. But I think every country is our neighbour, and judging from that aspect, Bangladesh is rightly maintaining relations with every country. Just as we have economic relations with China, India is Bangladesh's friendliest neighbour. Therefore, Bangladesh has historically had a good relationship with India. I believe Bangladesh's relationship with India is in the same state it has been for a decade. However, many would propagate misleading information and use the "India-bashing" card to mislead the people of Bangladesh to maximise their interests.

People in Bangladesh believe that the current global economic recession caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine has been appropriately handled by the Sheikh Hasina government, just as she successfully dealt with a two-year-long COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives and keeping the economy strong. The Honorable Prime Minister has expanded her influence far beyond Bangladesh in the past fourteen years. Her leadership maturity and diplomatic skills in maintaining good relations with all countries will help Bangladesh deal with the impact of the economic recession. We believe that the development process of Bangladesh will continue, and the recession will soon be overcome, bringing happiness to the people under Sheikh Hasina.

The author is a professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi