Bangladesh’s ‘Economic Diplomacy’ – OpEd


Bangladesh’s Prime Minister has outlined a few roadmaps to help achieve Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s goal of Sonar Bangla by 2041, and to aid in achieving those roadmaps, Bangladesh government has introduced two packages. The public diplomacy bundle and the economic diplomacy package complement one another. This event is indeed an opportune initiative, especially in light of the fact that the ongoing Ukraine crisis is making it more challenging for the world to recover from Covid. The crisis has demonstrated to us that in the connected world of today, any occurrence anywhere has an impact on everyone everywhere.

Economic diplomacy: What is it? There are five parts to the economic diplomacy bundle. They are as follows: (1).More diverse commerce and exports, (2) More foreign investment, (3) Gainful employment for domestic and international human resources, (4) Technology transfer, and (5) High-quality services for the Bangladeshi Diaspora and other groups.

While BD government agencies and officials will portray the success stories of Bangladesh and its potentials and opportunities, its Public Diplomacy package is designed so that global leaders, academicians, Think Tank, CEOs, MDs of credible organizations reiterate the narrative of Bangladesh’s achievements and potentials.    

Bangladesh possesses two excellent resources. One is its youthful but enormous labor force, and the other is its abundance of rivers and rivulets. Sonar Bangla will undoubtedly become a reality for Bangladesh if we can completely utilize these resources.  In order to utilize them, it requires increased trade and investment to generate job opportunities, as well as technology transfer to make the best use of our resources.  It has developed a public diplomacy package to support its economic diplomacy.

The mission heads have all been urged to work harder to realize our objectives for economic diplomacy. As Bangladesh prepares to leave the Least Developed Country (LDC) category in 2026, economic diplomacy is even more crucial. This is a crucial tool for the country’s endeavors to fulfill the 2030 SDGs and 2041 objectives.

Bangladesh has developed into a manufacturing and connectivity center as well as an export powerhouse over the past 15 years. Its selling revenue increased four times between 2005–2006 and 2020–202. Bangladesh currently has access to specialized markets, a privilege given to all LDCs.

However, we are well conscious that if we graduate from LDC, we run the risk of losing a number of preferred accesses. We have already made a number of steps to mitigate these risks. Bangladeshi embassies around the world are working nonstop to guarantee preferential post-graduation entry for Bangladeshi goods to major markets like GSP-plus facilities in the European Union. For instance, Bangladesh’s apparel industry is already moving to progressively strengthen its backward linkage industries in order to achieve “double transformation” and satisfy the RoO (Rules of Origin) requirements of the GSP-plus scheme.

Currently, around 80% of the nation’s exportable knitwear is already experiencing double transformation, compared to 50% for woven clothing. Additionally, the Ministry of Commerce is working with Bangladeshi missions overseas to finalize free and preferential trade agreements with a number of nations. On 23 nations, feasibility studies for bilateral and regional trade agreements, free trade agreements, and comprehensive economic agreements have already been done. BD is expanding its business reach. A few Double Taxation and Investment Protection Agreements have also been inked, and a few more are in the process of being signed.

In order to assist the private and governmental sectors in achieving the aforementioned objectives, it has also established a dedicated Trade & ICT Wing within the Ministry. Additionally, its foreign ministry has established a department to oversee and keep tabs on the accomplishments of missions overseas.

There are plans in motion to broaden our export base by giving priority to industries like IT, the ceramics industry, the shipwrecking industry, agriculture, the cement industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the blue economy. Robots, ships, and medicines are currently being exported from Bangladesh to South Korea, India, and Europe. Bangladesh is currently vying for a sizable foothold in the global IT market with 650,000 registered IT freelancers, the biggest freelancing group in the world.

Despite the epidemic, we were still able to make around $436 million in 2020–2021. ICT Products and Services have been named the “Product of the Year” for 2022 by Prime Minister in an effort to promote product-based export.

Our economic policy has always been based on luring foreign direct investment (FDI). Bangladesh, the eighth most populous nation in the globe, has managed to lift tens of millions of people into the “middle class and affluence” category. In addition to having a thriving domestic market, we serve as a vital crossroads connecting China, India, and the ASEAN nations. With a broad range of facilities, alluring incentive policies, and ongoing reforms, Bangladesh currently has the most liberal investment regime in the area.

One of the ten Special Initiatives of the Prime Minister is investment growth. With the aim of promoting investment and accelerating economic growth through an increase and diversification of industry, employment, production, and export, 100 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and 28 High-Tech Parks are being established. In order to capitalize fully on our advantageous location and to speed up the growth of various industries, we have initiated massive projects. The nation’s longest bridge, Padma Bridge opened on June 25 of last year, granting the long-held wish of the populace, especially those from the southern districts. The double-decker bridge, which has a four-lane road on top and a narrow-gauge single train track below, may increase the nation’s GDP by 1.2 to 2%.

With 2.3 million young professionals joining the workforce each year and 70% of our population under the age of forty, we are well-positioned to support rapid industrialization through foreign investments. Initiatives have also been made to improve “ease of doing business” and lower obstacles to the creation of factories and commercial enterprises. Bangladesh should become a global center for manufacturing. 

Being on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, Bangladesh has no choice but to make the right decisions and take the necessary precautions to ensure that our young people can completely benefit from technological advancements. It is crucial to provide our young with top-notch education and improved skill training in order to successfully transfer critical technologies.

There have been efforts made to make adolescent technology shabby. In the nation, about 83,000 schools have received ICT equipment, and 3,27,000 instructors have received training in using these tools. Schools now have Sheikh Russel Digital Labs where young pupils can play with digital equipment. We have also made efforts to update religious instruction. We have given technical instruction top priority. The percentage of students enrolled in vocational education increased significantly from 0.1% in 2009 to 17.14% in 2020. The admission quota for female students has been raised from 10% to 20% in order to boost the number of female students enrolled in TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training).

These improvements in primary, secondary, faith-based, technical, and tertiary education have significantly increased the country’s total literacy rate, which will rise from 56.8% in 2010 to 75.6% in 2020.

The government is working tirelessly to provide education and skill training in order to open up opportunities for lucrative employment both domestically and overseas. Numerous social protection programs have been created, including the Investment Program, the Food/Cash for Work Program, the Employment Generation Program for the Poorest, and the Skills for Employment Program. Being naturally resilient, Bangladeshis understand that having the chance to labor is all we need to move forward and create our own future.

Experts described our future as a “bottomless basket with no hope of survival” at the moment of our birth. 50 years later, Bangladesh has overcome all odds to become a prosperous country and a land of opportunity. You’ll be glad to learn that Bangladesh’s economy, which is presently the world’s 41st largest, is expected to grow to the 25th largest status by 2035. In fact, over the course of our first 50 years, we have developed the practice of creating wonders out of seemingly hopeless circumstances. From a place known for famines and relying on food assistance, we have achieved food security and are now among the top producers of rice, vegetables, and inland fisheries worldwide.

We have faith that the vision of PM Sheikh Hasina, which places a strong stress on economic diplomacy, and its implementation by all relevant government ministries and authorities will contribute to the realization of this goal. Today, we are adamant that our efforts to pursue economic diplomacy successfully would greatly aid in our timely achievement of the 2030 SDGs.

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