Saturday, 3 June, 2023

Quest Means Business: CNN with FM Momen and PM’s Advisor Salman F Rahman

Waliur Rahman

CNN’s Richard Quest’s face-to-face with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Prime Minister’s Advisor Salman F Rahman was their first interaction with one of the most influential media in the world – CNN.

Momen clarified in no uncertain terms about the resilience of Bangladesh economy. There was a question of getting into Chinese debt trap. In reply he said, “We are taking loan from all sources on a very prudent basis and in a calculated way.” Furthermore, he elucidated that of the $72.3 billion foreign loan, the World Bank accounts for $18.2 billion, followed by the Asian Development Bank $13.3 billion, Japan $9.2 billion, Russia $5.1 billion, China $4.8 billion and India $1.02 billion.

As a matter of fact, Bangladesh Development miracle is being challenged not by any outsider: it is being challenged by the opposition party, and its putative leaders. This is a new gauge; new democratic culture has gone berserk, the nadir of the barometer in the opposition assault on the phenomenal growth and development story of Bangladesh. The World Bank, the Asian development Bank, IMF, Bloomberg Foundation and all other bodies keep tab of global growth, developed and developing, think otherwise.

Bangladesh is positioned among the quintet of nations exhibiting an upward trajectory in terms of growth. The World Bank has appraised our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, and acclaimed our GDP per capita which surpasses that of any South Asian nation, including India, Pakistan and Nepal.

With regard to Richard Quest’s query on debt situation, Foreign Minister Momen blithely trotted out the statistics: statistics do not lie. The opposition leaders, if they have a modicum of patriotism, should look up the statistics and recalibrate their diatribes against the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Jamat-BNP supporters should carefully listen to the interview given to Al Jazeera by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on a wide range of issues including governance, democratic norms and national election. What the Prime Minister has said can be challenged only with facts and figures which the opposition doesn’t have.

Like in the past, they got some distinguished world citizens including a few Nobel Laureates to advocate on behalf of Professor Mohammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus, is a distinguished citizen of Bangladesh. Above all he is a Nobel Laureate for Peace. We are proud of him. Why should he seek moral support from those “also have been?”

But history remains incomplete if the entire account is not presented. Opposing the construction of the Padma Bridge is something which cannot be called a patriotic act. Now, the Padma Bridge is a reality. Former World Bank Chief Economist Dr. Kausik Basu has said as much. World Bank President himself realised the egregious mistake made. A Canadian court told them so. Reportedly a justice in the Queens Court Canada dismissed the trumped-up corruption charge by saying that the World Bank does not have any case!

As a Patriotic citizen and those who took part in the War of Liberation, those who try to adhere to the spirit of the War of Liberation, I find it exceedingly uncomfortable to accept what has been done by an individual against the idea of the Padma Bridge, to stultify the process of economic growth and democratic idea in Bangladesh.

Foreign Minister’s interview to Richard Quest assumes special significance, particularly regarding the query concerning the stance of Bangladesh towards Russian incursion into Ukraine. Foreign Minister affirmed, “Of course we denounce the war.” We are a peace-loving country. Bangladesh wants a peaceful solution to the war. It has repercussions globally.

Responding to the question, whether the government has turned into authoritarian and anti-democratic, the Foreign Minister said, “Unfortunately in our society people falsify many things, in the long run if you behave smartly and when they vote, they vote for us.” Every class of the population is happy with the performance of the present government.

In a separate session, Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman said, “We want a real export-based Bangladesh from where software, as well as hardware, will be exported. Already a number of companies are producing hardware.” In order to support the fast-growing economy, the government is building a deep-sea port in Matarbari. It will go into operation in 2026. Everybody is surprised that Bangladesh has made tremendous progress despite not having a deep seaport, Rahman said. “We are increasing the capacity of Chattogram port, Mongla port and Payra port.” “It will be a real game-changer for us when the deep seaport becomes operational.” Speaking about the sources of finances, the adviser said, Japan is bankrolling the Matarbari port project. “We are talking to companies in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE for the management of the port.”

The government is going to hand over the Chattogram port to private operators for its management. “In fact, today we are going to sign a MoU with Saudi Arabia,” Rahman said. He ruled out the chance of Bangladesh facing a Sri Lanka-like situation. The Island nation plunged into a serious crisis last year after its foreign currency reserves dried up. “We are in a growing stage. Our infrastructure development is taking place. The metro rail is already operational and the elevated express way is going to be operational. If you come back after five years, you will see a new Bangladesh,” Rahman observed.

Bangladesh has already started its journey in depicting footprints by the development model it has undertaken under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The colossal ventures like Padma Bridge and Metro rail start to contribute to national GDP propelling the country towards unprecedented level of achievement in the days ahead.


The writer is a former Diplomat and Researcher