Growing bonds that link S’pore and Bangladesh: Sheikh Hasina


 DHAKA, March 12, 2018 (BSS) – The Straits Times, the highest-selling Singapore newspaper, today published an article of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is now in Singapore on a four-day official.

Following is the full text of the article headlined ‘Growing the bonds that link Singapore and Bangladesh’:

Bangladesh and Singapore have been enjoying friendly ties since the establishment of diplomatic relations in early 1972. Our friendship is rooted in common values and shared aspirations.

I personally admire the spectacular socioeconomic development that Singapore achieved during the past few decades. With having almost similar per capita gross domestic product (GDP) with its other Asian neighbours in the 1960s, Singapore is now one of the richest countries in the world.

This happened possibly owing to its prudent and hardworking people, the wisdom of its political leadership and, above all, pro-people socioeconomic policies. Like Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had a similar vision to transform his country into a peaceful and prosperous country. We have been working to make his dream a reality.

Bangladesh and Singapore are closely connected through trade, commerce, education and labour flows. The trade volume between Bangladesh and Singapore stands at over US$2.5 billion (S$3.3 billion) per year. A good number of Bangladeshi workers have been contributing to the development and economy of Singapore.

Bangladesh, born through the bloodbath of three million martyrs, had to undergo many upheavals after its independence. The defeated forces killed my father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 1975 along with most of the family members. My younger sister and I survived the carnage as we were in Germany on the fateful night.

The country was under military and quasi-military rule for a long time. I had to stay in exile till May 1981, when I came back home to lead the Bangladesh Awami League, the political party that led the War of Liberation in 1971.

Returning home, I launched a movement along with other political forces to restore democracy. Finally, our party regained state power in 1996 and implemented a slew of development programmes.

Bangladesh has seen a massive uplift since 2009 when the Awami League assumed office for the second time after the 1975 tragedy. We launched “Vision 2021” to turn Bangladesh into a knowledge-based middle-income country by 2021. We made good progress in achieving the goals.

The poverty rate dropped to 22 per cent last year from 41.5 per cent in 2005, while per capita income rose to US$1,610 from a mere US$543 in 2005. Last year, our GDP growth was 7.28 per cent. Bangladesh is at the 47th position among 144 nations in gender equality and topped the list of South Asian countries for the third consecutive year.

In education, enrolment has been rising. Primary school enrolment was 98 per cent in 2015, and secondary school around 54 per cent.

The entire country has been brought under Internet coverage. Some 130 million SIM cards are being used by people. The total fertility rate has fallen to 2.17.

Average life expectancy has risen to 72.4 years from 65 in only nine years. Bangladesh is expected to graduate out of the LDC (least developed countries) status to become a developing country this month.

We intend to go further. Foreign investment would be a key, among others, in fostering our development efforts. My government looks forward to working with Singapore to achieve our development aspirations.

Singapore has capital, advanced technology and know-how; in Bangladesh, we have a large pool of easily available and trainable workforce. These comparative advantages may be harnessed to our mutual benefit.

We have also liberalised our investment regime with protection of foreign investment by law, offering generous tax holidays and 100 per cent foreign equity. We are establishing 100 Special Economic Zones for attracting investment.

Bangladesh has been facing an unprecedented crisis due to the influx of over a million Rohingya from Myanmar. I would like to request the leadership role of Singapore as the present chair of Asean in influencing Myanmar to find a durable solution of the crisis.

We are committed to deepening our ties through increased contact and connectivity for the betterment of our two peoples. I hope my visit will infuse fresh impetus to our bilateral relations.