Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has defended the actions of the government in the face of criticism from the BNP over the country's shrinking foreign exchange reserves, highlighting the money laundering conviction of the party's acting chairman Tarique Rahman in a scathing response.
"The Awami League government didn't waste a single resource of this country," she said at an event on Saturday.
Accusing the BNP of running a 'disinformation campaign' across the country, the prime minister called into question the party's track record in governance. “When the BNP was in power, the reserve stood at only $2.9 billion. And from 2001 to 2008, it increased by just $5 billion. From there, we were able to raise it to around $48 billion.”
Hasina made the remarks after virtually inaugurating the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project.
The premier highlighted the economic blows dealt by the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, noting that the twin crises propelled the country's import bills, which in turn put a strain on the forex reserves. She also pointed out that the government provided COVID-19 testing and vaccines to citizens for free.
Although Bangladesh is a producer of rice, other commodities such as wheat and corn, along with fuel and edible oil, have to be imported, according to Hasina. However, the prices of these products as well as transportation costs have swelled in the wake of the conflict in Eastern Europe.
"So, whatever we have spent was for the benefit and welfare of the people. We have to buy food and medicine for the people along with fertilizers, fuel oil and electricity, We are buying them with cash."
The government also dipped into the forex reserves to purchase aircraft and to fund river dredging projects, according to her.
"The reason why we are investing is that if we borrow from the export-import bank of another country, we have to repay those dollars with interest. If we spend our own dollars, we are doing it through Sonali Bank so that the money along with the interest stays in the country."
With that in mind, Bangladesh used about $8 billion dollars, some of which was loaned out to crisis-hit Sri Lanka, she added. "So that is how we are using the funds. No one took any money.”
"A kind of fear always plays on the BNP's mind. The reason for that is that their leader Tarique Rahman has been jailed for seven years and fined Tk 200 million in a money laundering case and is a fugitive.”
"That's why those who practise money laundering can only think about grabbing money."
Underlining the Father of the Nation's vision for the country, Hasina reiterated the Awami League's responsibility to ensure the people's welfare. "We want to enact the ideals with which the Father of the Nation liberated the country."
"Bangladesh has changed in the last 13 years because we have been running the state with that goal."