Bangladesh has pledged to provide 5.32 million SDR (Special Drawing Rights) equivalent to BDT 65 crore to the African country Sudan as debt relief. This decision was basically a response by Bangladesh following a call from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The purpose of this financial assistance is to erase the debts that Sudan owed to the IMF. This will also assist the country to unlock access to the needed resources to increase its economic growth and break poverty shackles.
Sudan, Africa’s third-largest country by area and also the third-largest by area in the Arab league, has been battered by excessive pressure of loan repayment. The country has been in a deep economic crisis since the ouster of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 after 30 years of rule marked by armed conflict, an ailing economy and heavy international sanctions. This crisis has made the country heavily indebted as its external debt skyrocketed to nearly $50 billion at the end of 2019. The debt relief support by Bangladesh will help the country to rejoin the global economy after years of isolation. Existing bilateral relations between these two brotherly countries are excellent and this financial assistance would take the relations to a new height.
This is not the first time Bangladesh is providing debt relief to any country. Bangladesh had also provided 0.70 million SDR or more than Taka 8 crore to Somalia to help the country for poverty alleviation as part of the initiative from IMF last year. So, Sudan is the second African country after Somalia that received financial assistance from Bangladesh as debt relief.
After the independence in 1971, Bangladesh has stressed the principle of “Friendship towards all, Malice towards none” in dictating its diplomacy in order to support the people of the war-ravaged nation. Inspired by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s vision for a Switzerland of the East, the Bangladesh government has begun to translate this mantra into its foreign policy. Though Bangladesh’s realization on economic diplomacy has not been developed for many years, but the recent economic rise of Bangladesh motivates the country to reinforce economic diplomacy for expanding trade and business to achieve economic self-reliance. The country is also trying its level best to assists different countries of the world in different form amidst Covid19. Even though financial assistance to different countries is a part of humanitarian efforts, it ultimately brands the country positively by building its image globally.
There is an old saying that “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. Bangladesh has evolved as a perfect example of such kind of friend not only for its neighboring countries but also for the distant countries located in different continents. Recently, Bangladesh has helped out cash-strapped Sri Lanka with $200 million loan through currency swap deal. Bangladesh is also among the 40 countries that have sent Covid relief aid to India twice as the country battles the second wave. Bangladesh become an icon not only for struggling countries but also for many donor countries of the world. The country’s economic godsend and contribution to the world economy has also garnered praise even from its arch-rival Pakistan for its growing economic prowess. Through financial assistance to Sri Lanka, Covid relief aid to India & debt relief to Sudan, Bangladesh has proved itself as the Perfect example of Fidus Achates, a faithful friend.
*Shazzad Hussain is a consultant to Palli Pragati Sahayak Samity (PPSS), a Bangladeshi NGO