The government and its development partners agreed to strengthen partnership to help Bangladesh achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and implement the Seventh Five-Year Plan as they wrapped up the Bangladesh Development Forum yesterday.
Throughout the two-day event, representatives of the government, the development partners and other stakeholders pledged to build a greater partnership in the context of Bangladesh graduating from the least developed country status.
In a joint statement, the government and the development partners said the third edition of the forum served as an important platform for a dialogue on ways to accelerate Bangladesh's development and the growing role of the private sector and civil society.
The meeting also helped the development partners prepare for a changed future role.
“To this end, the Forum explored the government's progress against its own development and poverty reduction goals as set out in the 7th Five Year Plan and in line with the SDGs.
“Overall, the Forum allowed sharing of views on recent development progress and continued challenges towards a future vision for an inclusive, prosperous, sustainable Bangladesh, in which no one is left behind,” said the communiqué.
The BDF-2018, organised by the finance ministry, has provided opportunities for high-level exchanges between the government and development stakeholders, including the development partners, to improve cooperation and exchange views on strategic priorities.
Ministers and leading representatives of the Bangladesh government, the development partners, multilateral, regional and bilateral development and financial institutions, and civil society organisations met at the programme at Sonargaon hotel in the capital.
According to the statement, Bangladesh has been a leader in approaching the SDGs proactively, assigning goals to government ministries to incorporate into their respective operational plans.
Bangladesh has also engaged internationally in development forums, for example taking leadership roles in the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation and in the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
“These are positive steps as Bangladesh prepares to graduate from its UN designation of Least Developed Country,” the statement said.
From the wide-ranging discussions, a number of issues came to the fore as being important for the country's future economic growth and poverty reduction and for supporting its transition from the LDC status.
The issues include creating decent jobs, tackling the barriers to growth and investment by strengthening high quality infrastructure, improving the enabling environment for the private sector, building the skills base, and strengthening regional connectivity.
The meeting stressed the need for strengthening governance, the rule of law, accountability and transparency through development of sound public financial management systems and pursuing all relevant international declarations and principles of aid effectiveness.
Implementation of the National Integrity Strategy and the Right to Information Act and building public sector capacity in terms of administration and financial management are also important, read the joint statement.
It said issues crucial for boosting the economic growth include strengthening social protection provision for the extreme poor, the marginalised and the most vulnerable people.
Enhancing women's empowerment by implementing the existing laws and policies, increasing their participation in the labour force, and improving their access to productive resources are also important for future economic growth.
The statement said it was also important to plan for an evolving role for development assistance and development partners as Bangladesh graduates from LDC status, ensuring that the country is prepared to lead and bear the costs of continued inclusive development.
Addressing the concluding ceremony, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said this was the first time all the sides in the BDF were able to prepare the communiqué without any trouble.
Janina Jaruzelski, head of mission of the USAID Bangladesh and co-chair of the Local Consultative Group, said: “Over the course of the last two days, we had very productive and valuable discussions on a wide range of key development topics.”
She said Bangladesh's economy would grow tremendously if it could ensure the participation of women, who make up half of the population.
As Bangladesh becomes more prosperous, the programmes of the development partners would evolve, she added.
“We also hope and expect to see a growing role of the private sector and the civil society as it is normal in the case of developed countries.”
Later at a press conference, Janina was asked about the next parliamentary elections. She said, “We support free and fair elections in Bangladesh and we look forward to that happening.”
Replying to a query over the Rohingya issue, Muhith said the government was going slow on accepting assistance from the development partners in this regard.
He said the government wanted to see how far it could go with the repatriation of Rohingyas. The government would explore other options if it found that no further progress could be made, he added.
The government has taken a project for Rohingyas at Bhasan Char, a remote island near Hatiya of Noakhali. The government has started building some basic infrastructures there with its own resources so that it can use the donors' assistance quickly after receiving the funds, Muhith said.
Kazi Shofiqul Azam, secretary of the Economic Relations Division (ERD), said the opportunities of Bangladesh graduating from the LDC category far outweigh the challenges the country would face once it leaves the group.