Sheikh Hasina takes Bangladesh to new heights -The Asian Age

Sheikh Hasina won the general election 1996 and took over the responsibility of Prime Minister of the country following an unwavering movement for democracy for almost a decade and a half. During that tenure she made several epoch-making initiatives.

The Ganges Water Sharing Treaty with India, completing the construction work of Bangabandhu Bridge connecting North Bengal like never before, repealing Indemnity Act and thus unbarring the way to start prosecution for Bangabandhu murder and jail killings and accomplishing Chittagong Hill Tracts peace accord to end insurgency in that region are some of the milestones of first tenure of her rule. We have seen her further consolidating the continuation of these successes later on.

In her second term in office as Prime Minister, she took up initiatives to carry out the trials of war criminals. At the same time, she remained committed to eradicate the sorrow of poverty-stricken people and remained pledge-bound to stick to her fight for economic emancipation.

Tackling the floods of 1998 in an unprecedented way, achieving food autarky and ensuring meals for ordinary masses despite the onslaught of repeated disasters are some of the glaring examples of her political and leadership excellence which are still vivid in our minds.

In her second term, she took up bold measures to build up the massive Padma Bridge at own cost of Bangladesh defying the obstacles created by some quarters.

She has also made enormous contributions by constructing flyovers, upgrading highways to four and eight lanes, modernizing railway and ports and developing other infrastructures.

Coming back to power for the second term 2014, Sheikh Hasina concentrated on resolving maritime disputes with Myanmar and India through international justice system.

Under her leadership Bangladesh has been able to add1, 11,000 square miles of maritime area through the verdict by international tribunal for maritime borders whereas the original claim was for 200 nautical miles or 1, 07,000 square miles. On top of 200 nautical miles Bangladesh has also acquired rights over the land and mineral resources of the extended sea basin.

Under Sheikh Hasina's farsighted leadership, Bangladesh is now at the doorstep of exploring the advantages of "Blue Economy". The exploitation of maritime resources needs adequate research, technical know-how and investment.

Her government is open to international cooperation and needed foreign direct investment and joint-ventures involving close neighbors and other friendly countries willing to join in this development journey for development of blue economy.

Sheikh Hasina boldly stated her promise to build up a digital Bangladesh to take advantage of young demographics and fast evolving technologies in her electoral manifesto of 2008.

We are now observing the strategic implementation of that promise. Expansion of digital technologies has successfully facilitated the deeper involvement of young entrepreneurs, students, farmers, workers, administrators, bankers and people from every walk of life.

A lot of business enterprises are being launched these days in information technology (IT) sector. Lots of hi-tech parks and relevant infrastructural developmental activities are progressing at a speed unimagined earlier.

Various digital business ventures are expanding like BPO, e-commerce, freelancing, e-banking, mobile banking, agent banking, software development and so on.

The far-reaching beneficial effects of this digital development have already started adding value to our economy. This is how Sheikh Hasina has emerged as a successful icon of digital innovations for inclusive economic advancement of the country.

Right after taking over responsibility as Prime Minister for the second time in 2009 with a massive electoral mandate she started implementing development programs like Vision 2021 and sixth five-year plans.

She amazed global analysts by maintaining stunning macroeconomic stability in terms of keeping prices within a tolerable range and ensuring economic resilience of Bangladesh defying global financial crisis. She paid deep attention to power sector which is the most vital precondition for investment needed for desired development.

She made efforts to boost exploration of gas and solar power for generating electricity, in addition to conventional sources of it. Simultaneously she went for effective regional cooperation to establish joint greed to buy electricity from neighbors. As a result there is almost no shortage of electricity in the country at present.

Remittances and export earnings have also been increasing consistently during her rule. Foreign currency reserve has reached 32 billion dollars, quadrupling just in just last half a decade or so. Till recently, there have been surpluses in current accounts. Per capita income has increased from 660 dollars to 1752 US dollars.

Bangladesh is now a lower middle- income country. Poverty has declined from 40% to 22.3% during last decade. The level of extreme poverty has declined to less than 12% during this period. Bangabandhu's motto of "save farmers to save the country" has been mostly materialized during her rule as she has always been focused on the interests of the farmers.

For this reason various initiatives have been taken to bring the greater masses of country under the umbrella of financial services through inclusive financing during the recent years.

The developmental role of the central bank under her guidance has been appreciated by the world at large. Record amounts of agricultural loans, loans to the share-croppers, refinancing scheme for renewable energy, SME loans and women's economic empowerment have been introduced during her tenures.

Million plus bank accounts have been created for school students with a deposit amounting to about fifteen hundred crores in addition to 16 plus million no-frill accounts of Ten Taka and Hundred Taka for the farmers and the disadvantaged. All this reflects realization of Bangabandhu's dreams for an inclusive economy.

Even the urban people and industrialists of Bangladesh are also enjoying the benefits of the vibrant rural economy providing demand for the goods and services produced by them.

As a result social cohesion and empowerment of the people at the base of the pyramid are distinctly visible. Sheikh Hasina's government is now busy in implementing SDGs after successful implementation of MDGs.

She is absolutely keen on realization of the main spirit of SDGs: `none to be left behind'. I was highly fortunate to be her companion on this forward march of macro-economy as a humble activist. This was indeed a rewarding experience for me.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been working relentlessly for last nearly ten years to implement the development programs under Vision 2021 to make Bangladesh one of the front-ranking developing countries shortly and subsequently a developed country in the world.

Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina, during her political career of more than three decades, has earned the laurels of becoming the Prime Minister of the country thrice.

She has profoundly contributed to the materialization of people's demands, voting rights, meals for all, people-friendly administration, boosting the spirit of 1971 and providing freedom of thoughts to people. She has taught us the true image of a political figure.

She told Noor Hossain, "Put on your shirt, what are you doing? They will shoot you!"She knew exactly what could be the consequences of protesting against a military dictator.

And we all know how Noor Hossain embraced martyrdom during the anti-autocracy movement of 1987. Sheikh Hasina has written several books on her political vision and her motivation for upgrading the social standing of the deprived and poor people.

Titles of some of the books include "Bangladeshe Shoirotontrer Jonmo (1993), "Bangladesh Jatiyo Sangsade Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib (1998), Miles to Go (1998), Daridro Durikoron: Kichhu Chinta Bhabna (1999), Ora Tokai Keno (1999), Peoples and Democracy (2000) etc.

Writing so many books in the middle of high administrative and political workloads is not an easy task. Once I reviewed these books in Dainik Janokontho and was touched by her depth of commitment to eradicate poverty.

The killers of 1971 and 1975 including the vicious fundamentalists and militants tried to kill Sheikh Hasina over and over again. She has survived all those heinous attempts by the grace of Almighty Allah.

Sheikh Hasina has risen out of adverse circumstances again and again like Phoenix bird with the blessings and love of the general people of Bangladesh. She even embraced imprisonment under military governments to pay price for her commitment for democracy and love for her citizens of the country. She has never surrendered to injustice.

She is now viewed both within our country and the world at large as an uncompromising leader, a successful statesman and a living legend of democracy. She has also been awarded as the Champion of the Earth.

And the whole world is aware of his fight against the crisis arising out of climate change. Militants have followed her like shadows. 

Vested anti-state quarters have tried to eliminate her repeatedly. Still she goes on bravely. Like her father, she is not afraid of death. She does not intend to' die before death'.

The land and people, sky and wind, mountains and rivers of Bangladesh are her lifetime companions. People of this country, her loyal party activists and intellectuals have kept her safe and secure by forming formidable human shields.

Bangladesh's first ever satellite Bangabandhu 1 was launched into space on 11 May 2018 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, United States of America which is another achievement by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

This is destined to further boost her dream for a digital Bangladesh. Moreover, Bangladesh has successfully achieved all the preconditions to graduate from a least developed country (LDC) to a developing country this year.

Her bold decision to welcome million plus hapless and displaced Rohingyas from the neighboring Myanmar has been appreciated by global leaders and human rights activists.

The UN and other global bodies like the World Bank, ADB, EU are all standing by Bangladesh for her courageous move on this humanitarian issue. This only reflects her deep rooted humane statesmanship.

The ongoing anti-drug operations all over Bangladesh have been adulated by the patriotic masses. This drive will save the young generation from the destructive impact of narcotics. Sheikh Hasina has meanwhile proposed to confer capital punishment for patrons of drug traders.

The construction works of Metro Rail, Padma Bridge and four lane highways are going on in full swing under the unflinching leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Thus Bangladesh is gaining new heights through her devoted efforts.

We have documented the above achievements of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to celebrate her farsighted leadership of more than half of 69 years of existence of Awami League as its President.

This is the Party which was created by the Father of the Nation along with other great leaders like Moulana Bhasani, Shaheed Suhrawardy, Moulana Tarkabagish, Shamsul Huq and many other co-leaders including our four slain national leaders.

We pay homage to all these great farsighted leaders on the occasion of the 69th birth anniversary of Awami League without whose vision we could not have achieved our beloved independent Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina deserves special appreciation for bearing the torch of the legacy of a party founded by her father and other great leaders for the emancipation of the fighting people of Bangladesh.

Long live Bangladesh and the spirit of independence created and sustained by Awami League under the committed leadership of Bangabandhu and later by her able daughter.

The writer is an eminent economist and
former Governor of Bangladesh Bank.