Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for strengthened multilateral cooperation and global solidarity among the D-8 member states to ward off the economic crisis driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
The prime minister made the call via video conferencing from the Ganabhaban after joining the celebration of the silver jubilee anniversary of the D-8 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and the inauguration of the alliance's 20th ministerial conference in Dhaka on Wednesday.
"As the world is passing through a difficult time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, food and energy crisis, climate change and natural disasters, the need for strengthened multilateral cooperation and global solidarity deserves more attention than ever," Hasina said.
She cited measures taken by her government to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the country's economy and revive it to its desired growth trajectory.
"So far, we have announced 28 stimulus packages equivalent to $23 billion, which is 6.3 percent of our GDP. A total of 67.4 million people and 118,000 business entities have benefited from these packages."
"Bangladesh is one of the very few countries which has successfully vaccinated its targeted population against COVID-19. Bangladesh has ranked fifth out of 121 countries and the first among the South Asian countries in the COVID-19 recovery index," she said.
The prime minister said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has pushed the world into fresh danger while countries like Bangladesh were reeling from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The conflict and the subsequent sanctions and counter-sanctions have disrupted the production and supply of food, fertiliser, energy and power, and other commodities."
"Prices of essentials have risen beyond the purchasing capacities of most of the people," she said, urging the D-8 member states to come forward to bravely address the "looming humanitarian crisis".
The prime minister urged the D-8 countries that have been collaborating in the six thrust areas to formulate some specific focus zones for the next decade.
Hasina emphasised the implementation of the PTA for a successful D-8.
"We have large domestic markets, but our combined market is also considerable. Intra-D-8 trade will help accelerate our business prospects and opportunities. It should be our goal to double the intra-D-8 trade from $129 billion in the next decade," she said.
Secondly, the prime minister proposed that the member states use the space in Bangladesh's Special Economic Zones for investment.
"If we begin the process now, within the next decade, we will have a robust D-8 Economic Zone," she said.
Thirdly, she cited ICT as an area that has immense prospects.
"The youths of the D-8 countries can be turned into a formidable workforce. About 70 percent of Bangladesh’s population is under 40 years and we have 650,000 registered IT freelancers. We can use this huge manpower to create an IT-based industry and involve the youth in various economic activities."
Fourthly, Hasina said: "We should concentrate on diversified agriculture production to ensure food security and steady food supply. Bangladesh is ready to share its best practices and experience with other D-8 member states. We should focus on agriculture production to become self-sufficient in food production within the next decade."
Fifthly, she urged all the D-8 member states to be careful about energy usage and the necessity of alternative energy sources, proposing that the D-8 should focus on developing capacity by involving other countries who have expertise in alternative energy.
"The D-8, established twenty-five years ago, is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through creating synergies. This is possible through political commitment and meaningful cooperation of our public and private sectors. The immense possibility that we have, if realised properly, will heighten our power as an economic bloc," the prime minister said.