Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has moved to allay concerns over the economy, saying the situation in Bangladesh is still stable despite the struggles faced by many developed countries in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war and the coronavirus pandemic.
"I know that there are some issues that are getting a lot of coverage. Many people may be misled by that. But I will say that there is nothing to be confused about," Hasina said while addressing the graduation ceremony of the National Defence Course and the Armed Forces War Course 2022 on Monday.
"Bangladesh's misfortune is that not everyone is pleased when the country makes economic progress in a peaceful environment. That is the reality."
The prime minister underlined the government's commitment to ensuring economic development for Bangladesh, highlighting the achievement of more than 9 percent growth by a war-raved country on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's watch.
Although that figure remains unmatched, Bangladesh has been able to achieve as much as 8 percent GDP growth under her administration, she said.
While the global economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was 'unfortunate', the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and the raft of sanctions and counter-sanctions that followed, 'rubbed salt into the wound', according to Hasina.
"As a result, inflation is on the rise throughout the globe. Even developed or rich countries are struggling economically. They are taking measures to conserve electricity, and fuel as the price of food and essentials has increased."
"Even under these circumstances, I can say that we have been able to keep Bangladesh in a stable state."
Addressing concerns over the country's economic situation, including the state of the foreign exchange reserves, Hasina said there is an effort to stoke fear by misleading people. "When I formed a government in 1996, our [forex] reserves were only $2.5 billion. We took initiative to increase the amount. The second time we came to power was in 2009 and at that time, we had only $5 billion in reserve. We were able to bring that up to $48 billion."
Hasina pointed to the travel and trade restrictions put in place during the pandemic as a reason for the decrease in the forex reserves, while also highlighting the provision of free vaccinations and other incentives to mitigate the impact of the disease.
Emphasising the increase in prices and transportation costs of all imported goods, including wheat, due to the Russia-Ukraine war, Hasina said, "There's nothing we could do about that. As a result, we had to spend from our reserves and we did.”
"But then, our imports and exports have increased along with investments and crop production. We are providing everything, including fertilizers, to our farmers at very low prices."
The head of government reiterated the need for people to cultivate any arable land at their disposal and to practise austerity to ensure ample food supply amid global economic headwinds.
"I request you all not to indulge in excess because the aftershock of a global economic recession is going to hit us. That should be kept in mind as the world is essentially a global village now. All countries are dependent on each other."