PM emphasises rural economy
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday said enhanced investment in rural economy under a global partnership is the key to fighting poverty, reports BSS.
“We believe that in order to ensure resilience, investment in rural economy is the key factor. This, we believe, cannot be achieved without global partnership and cooperation,” she told the 41st Governing Council Meeting of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) while presenting a keynote paper. Hasina asked the development partners to be “a little more generous” to eliminate poverty and hunger as “the world appears to me to be ready now for it”.
“I would like to urge you for investing in sustainable rural economies,” she told the session with its theme ‘From fragility to long-term resilience: Investing in sustainable rural economies’.
The PM said sustainability could not be achieved without creating long-term resilience while a comprehensive sustainable rural economy requires investment in the development of the rural social fabric.
She described the IFAD’s model of mutual help and partnership to be “very different” from that of other UN agencies and organisations and “we hope and pray that in continuing such a partnership, IFAD will play an important role”.
“And we sincerely believe that this ideal model will work in the promising future that is before mankind now,” Hasina said.
She also expected that the development partners’ continued cooperation with Bangladesh as they came forward with eager and generous hands and jointly we made proud progress.
The premier sought their effective support to help realise Bangladesh’s goal to be a middle-income nation by 2021 and developed one by 2041.
Hasina said she always tried to plead for sustainable rural economies through investments to develop people’s resilience as it worked in Bangladesh as the country has been very lucky with stable governance for almost a decade.
“We have formulated our strategy of socio-economic growth very carefully over a period of about four years. And then we tried to implement it in the last nine years... we made adjustments...very carefully.”
Hasina said despite being dubbed as a fertile land for centuries,
The country’s reputation was marred time and again for a long period till the late 1990s while during its turbulent 1971 emergence it faced serious food shortages as the yield then was only 11 million tonnes of grains for 75 million people.
Soon after the independence, she said, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman laid utmost importance on increased agro production terming it a ‘Green Revolution’ by taking some pragmatic measures like revised land ownership and management system, relaxed land tax and launching of research bodies.
The premier recalled that nationwide installation of irrigation pumps and free distribution of agro-inputs started yielding a great success but after his assassination in 1975 the agricultural sector was exposed to subsequent governments’ negligence, resulting in acute food shortages.
“Every year for a decade and a half it (Bangladesh) had to assemble development partners for at least four times a year to meet its food needs.”
Hasina, however, appreciated IFAD’s role in boosting Bangladesh’s agriculture yields, saying since its inception the specialised UN agency invested in 31 projects involving $680 million while another five were in the pipeline.
“Currently, IFAD is focusing on the adaptation of rural livelihoods to climate change and the scaling up of successful approaches,” she said.
But the PM feared the future global scenario in terms of yield as a World Economic Forum report predicted the global population to surpass 9 billion by 2050, half of them being the middle class, while the climate change phenomenon could complicate the situation.
“There will be a huge strain on declining global arable land, forests and water” as the rise in the sea level would heavily reduce arable land in many countries and “we (Bangladesh) will be its victim again without contributing to sea level rise at all”.
Hasina said global food demand in 2050 would increase by at least 60 percent over 2006 levels and food prices are likely to increase by at least 84 percent.
“How do we respond to such a combination of adverse developments? I shall tell you the story of agricultural growth of my country pointing out the lessons which can be adopted or more appropriately adapted in other countries for human development on a global scale.”
“We don't want to face another 1981 when we discovered that neglect of agricultural growth was most unfortunate for mankind” although Bangladesh’s natural resilience to any crisis did not allow the build-up to a food crisis in a year of climatic vagaries and reduced food production in the country, she added.
The premier said the resolve of Bangladeshis to tighten the belt, encounter difficulties with confidence and seek alternative ways of meeting the crisis enabled us to overcome and succeed. She said Bangladesh had about a decade of self-sufficiency in food and then this year there was an unexpected shortfall due to untimely and recurrent flooding, requiring her government to make some immediate adjustments in import policy.
“In my country, you may please note that we have increased our food production from 11 million tonnes in 1971 to 39 million tonnes in 2017, although one third of arable land has been lost in the meantime,” she said.