Significance of ‘Bangladesh’s Development Progress and Challenges discussions’ in Brussels Conference

A seminar titled ‘Cooperation between the European Union and Bangladesh and opportunities for Bangladesh’s economy’ was held in Brussels, the capital of Belgium on July 02, 2023.

In this seminar, organized by Study Circle London and European Institute of Asian Studies, Syed Majammil Ali, Chairperson of Study Circle London, presented the main article ‘Bangladesh: Inexorable Development Journey’ on the progress of Bangladesh’s economy. The main article was discussed by John Cornet Ilgius, Acting Director for Asia and the Pacific of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tarana Halim, former Member of Parliament of Bangladesh, Renji Tirink, Head of South Asia at European External Action, Nahim Razzak, MP of Bangladesh, Milan Jover, Member of Parliament of Belgium, President of BGMEA. Farooq Hossain, Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium, Luxembourg and European Union Mahbub Hasan Saleh.

The president of the seminar, director of the European Institute of Asian Studies, Lil Goethals, gave a welcome speech at the seminar.

Speakers in the seminar said that Bangladesh’s progress over hundreds of obstacles can be emulated by the developed countries of the world. Under the efficient leadership of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has kept the wheels of the economy moving along with the social, democratic, and development indicators of the country. The economic progress of Bangladesh is unstoppable leaving behind the impact of Covid, Ukraine war.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once described Bangladesh as a bottomless basket. This bottomless basket has become the fastest growing economy in the world compared to other neighboring countries including India.

Speakers said that under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina for a decade, the whole world has witnessed the unprecedented progress of Bangladesh’s economy. In addition to economic growth, the country has made significant progress in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals. Our country has surpassed even its neighbor India in achieving the targets of most of the social indicators under the MDGs.

Renowned journalist Gary Cartwright delivered a thought-provoking speech at the Brussels Press Club, shedding light on Bangladesh’s remarkable development progress and the challenges the country still faces. The conference, focused on Bangladesh’s journey since the partition of India in 1947, emphasized the need for continued engagement and support from the European Union (EU). Mr. Cartwright highlighted the significant strides made by Bangladesh, once considered a least developed nation but now recognized as a middle-income country with a flourishing relationship with the EU. Despite its impressive economic growth, the country grapples with several challenges, including the denial of history, political violence, intolerance fueled by opposition political parties. The exceptional socio-economic development in Bangladesh, encompassing poverty alleviation, education, and women’s empowerment, has been possible. With a remarkable GDP growth rate of 7%, Bangladesh has emerged as a role model of development, outpacing the EU’s growth rate of 5.39% in 2021. Rohingya issue, Bangladesh’s contribution to world peacekeeping missions, economic prosperity were also discussed. However, Mr. Cartwright expressed concern about the propaganda campaign launched by the vested opposition parties in Bangladesh. He urged the EU Institutions to remain engaged with Bangladesh’s government, diligently scrutinizing and refuting false information disseminated by these groups. The conference concluded with a call for continued cooperation between the EU and Bangladesh, recognizing the progress achieved while acknowledging the challenges that demand attention and support.

Bangladesh economic prosperity

Bangladesh has undergone unprecedented economic growth, transitioning from a least developed country to a middle-income nation. Over the past 50 years, the country has maintained a strong and fruitful friendship with the European Union since gaining independence. The success achieved in poverty alleviation, education, women’s empowerment, and the establishment of an export-oriented economy, particularly in the readymade garment sector, can be attributed to the effective governance Bangladesh’s development model has received recognition from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, international organizations, and the global community at large.

Self-reliant nation

With an impressive 7% GDP growth rate and a per capita income of US$2,824, Bangladesh has made significant strides in the past 14 years. The nation has undertaken ambitious projects, such as the construction of the nearly 4 billion-USD Padma Bridge, entirely funded through domestic resources. The government’s visionary leadership, coupled with its commitment to building a developed country by 2041, has transformed Bangladesh into a role model of development. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a country that was once labeled an international basket case.

Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh has demonstrated its commitment to humanitarian causes by providing temporary shelter to nearly 1.2 million Rohingya refugees, forcibly displaced from Myanmar since August 2017. Despite the support received from the international community, this massive influx has placed an enormous burden on Bangladesh. The European Union has been a consistent supporter of Bangladesh’s socio-economic development, particularly in areas such as women’s empowerment and education. The EU has also acknowledged the generosity of the Bangladesh government in providing temporary shelter to the Rohingya refugees. 

Interests of Bangladesh

Bangladesh takes pride in its growing economy and sustainable peace and development. As a significant contributor to UN Peacekeeping Operations, the country plays a crucial role in maintaining international peace and security. The 12th Parliamentary Elections are scheduled to take place in Bangladesh by the end of this year or early next year. The independent Election Commission will oversee the elections in a free and fair manner, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, as observed in democratic countries worldwide. The government is committed to providing the Election Commission with all necessary support, and all responsible political parties are expected to participate in the electoral process. However, some vested groups in Bangladesh, have launched a propaganda campaign against the interests of Bangladesh. They have been consistently making false allegations against the government to foreign missions in Bangladesh, as well as foreign governments and lawmakers in North America and Europe. It is important to note that the government and the Election Commission have already announced their willingness to welcome foreign election observers to ensure transparency and fairness in the parliamentary elections. The EU Delegation in Bangladesh has already been invited to send election observers.

Free, fair and participatory electoral process

In his powerful speech at the conference, Journalist Andy Vermaut commended the resilience, strength, and immense potential of the people of Bangladesh. He recognized the remarkable transformation the country has undergone over the past five decades, transitioning from a least developed nation to a middle-income country. Vermaut praised the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and highlighted her unwavering resolve in guiding Bangladesh towards socio-economic development.He acknowledged the historical legacy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation, whose vision and inspiration continue to shape Bangladesh’s journey. Vermaut applauded Bangladesh’s humanitarian efforts in providing shelter to Rohingya refugees despite economic constraints, emphasizing the country’s courage and compassion. Regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections, Vermaut urged all political parties to ensure a free, fair, and participatory electoral process under the Independent Election Commission. He encouraged the opposition parties to engage with the people and respect the democratic principles that form the foundation of Bangladesh’s progress.

Support for Bangladesh

Vermaut assured the European Union, the United States, and other friendly countries’ support for Bangladesh in conducting peaceful elections and continuing its path of sustainable development. He emphasized that the sovereign people of Bangladesh will shape their own future, and international support should align with their decisions. Highlighting the challenges faced by Bangladesh, including political unrest, religious fundamentalism, and extremism, Vermaut commended the country’s resilience and determination in pursuing socio-economic development. He called for unity, dialogue, and a focus on putting the needs of the people first to ensure a brighter future for Bangladesh. Vermaut concluded by stressing the importance of solidarity with Bangladesh, upholding democratic values, and respecting human rights and dignity. He expressed confidence that with strong leadership, the partnership between Bangladesh, the European Union, and the United States, the country will continue to prosper, foster democracy, and maintain peace amidst geopolitical and internal challenges.

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