USAID mission director Janina Jaruzelski yesterday said it is possible for Bangladesh to make similar progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since it made outstanding progress on key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"Bangladesh has already shown leadership on the SDGs and has been impressively proactive in incorporating the SDGs into its 7th Five Year Plan and other budget and strategic planning efforts," she said while speaking at the opening session of Bangladesh Development Forum in the capital.
Jaruzelski highly commended the Bangladesh government for its "tremendous generosity and compassion" in sheltering the fleeing Rohingya in Bangladesh and said the development partners stand with Bangladesh in addressing this "very severe" crisis.
She said many years of sustained 6 percent annual growth has already pushed Bangladesh across the World Bank's Lower Middle Income threshold.
With the right choices, the prime minister's goal of attaining full Middle Income Status by 2021, the 50th anniversary of independence, is achievable, said Jaruzelski, also co-chair of Local Consultative Group (LCG) Development Partners.
The USAID mission director said sustaining high economic growth will require Bangladesh to do more to encourage investments, especially in infrastructure and renewable energy, and to do more to break down the many barriers to regional trade.
"Perhaps even more important is preparing young people for a rapidly evolving world economy by equipping them with the sort of quality education and analytical reasoning skills that will enable them to adapt and excel," she added.
To consolidate Middle Income Status, Bangladesh will need to focus greater attention on modernising its institutions of governance and maintaining ample space for informed policy debate, she said.
Bangladesh has significantly improved its nutritional statistics, she said, adding that still, under-nutrition and stunting remain formidable challenges and cost an estimated $1 billion in lost productivity every year, with even higher costs in terms of healthcare.
She said Bangladeshi women have made enormous strides over the last four decades, in terms of political empowerment, better job opportunities, and greater access to education.
Mentioning Rohingya issue, she said, "One of the challenges we all face, collectively, is steadfastly maintaining the momentum and trajectory of Bangladesh's economic and social development even as we all address the special issues created by this sudden large influx of displaced, distressed people".
"I am optimistic that, working together, we will succeed," she added.
"We look forward to working with all of you to further realise the dream of Sonar Bangla, where all women and men across the country have the greatest possible opportunity to learn, to live healthy and productive lives, and to truly prosper," she said.