We must pursue democracy for progress, says Hasina

June 30, 2013

She slams Khaleda for urging the US to cancel GSP
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday highlighted the economic achievements of her government in the country during the last four years and said the nation must move forward on the path of democracy for continued progress and prosperity.  Winding up a three-week general discussion on the national budget for fiscal 2013-14 in the parliament, the prime minister said we must continue our march on the democratic road; otherwise there would be no progress and prosperity and our country would fall far behind.
The prime minister reaffirmed that the next general election would be held exactly the way it takes place in all other parliamentary democracies in the world and said: “We want to follow their examples for a solid democratic foundation in the country and reinforcing people’s democratic rights.”
Sheikh Hasina, who is also the president of the ruling Awami League, said the people are free to vote for whoever they wish in the next general election expected to be held later this year or early next. If they vote for opposition, it will be elected and no one should have any issue, she added.
The prime minister said the four city corporation elections in Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Sylhet were held in a free, fair and impartial way and took a swipe at opposition leader and BNP chief Khaleda Zia, who was also present in the parliament, for saying that those polls were not held in a fair manner.
The prime minister told the House that a total of 5,654 polls were held across the country electing as many as 64,766 representatives of the people since her government took over power about four years ago and added that all these elections were held in a free and fair style without any complaint.
Referring to the suspension of GSP facility for Bangladesh by the US government, Sheikh Hasina said the Awami League-led government had been trying to protect this trade benefit with the United States since 1996. It hasn’t just happened all of a sudden; they gave us notice back in 2007 for its suspension, she added.
In the House, the prime minister showed a copy of an article written by BNP chief Khaleda Zia that appeared in Washington Times newspaper earlier in the year and lashed out at her for what she said “proposing for suspension of GSP and other economic sanctions against Bangladesh in that article.”
Giving a detailed account of achievements of her government over the last four years in the country, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has received many international awards for its spectacular economic performance. “Our country has been adjudged world’s one of the five top countries on the economic development index,” she added.
Bangladesh is being praised at various international organizations including the United Nations for its steady progress over the last four years, the prime minister told the Jatiya Sangsad amid deafening thumping of desks by the treasury bench members adding that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also acclaimed our country as the “role model for economic development.”
Sheikh Hasina said the GDP growth rate averaged over 6 percent while the rate of inflation came down to seven percent. People’s per capita income went up to $953 while the rate of poverty decreased significantly. The foreign exchange reserve now stands at $15.3 billion which is enough to meet the import expenditures for five months, she added.
She said the government took the health care facilities to the doorstep of people and brought significant improvement to education sector. Recently, 26,200 primary schools were nationalized across the country making available salaries and all kinds of government benefits to 1.4 lakh teachers. The performance of students at the secondary level also shot up spectacularly, she observed.
Over the last four years, the ruling Awami League government created employment opportunities for 90 lakh people, Sheikh Hasina said adding that thousands of people were also sent abroad with employment to many countries around the world – especially Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Steps are also underway with the Saudi Arabian government for legalization of thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers in the kingdom, she said.
Turning to the Padma Bridge, the prime minister claimed that there has been no corruption centering on the project. “Hearing about the allegation of corruption, I challenged the World Bank officials to come up with documentary evidence. But they failed to provide any such evidence and then changed their position with a new statement there had only been a conspiracy of corruption,” she added.
In this connection, the prime minister said in 2005 when BNP was in power, the World Bank cancelled six projects for corruption. The World Bank resident director in Dhaka was then declared persona non grata by the then government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), she said adding: “It is a fact; it’s not a made up story.”

-With The Independent input

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