Bangladesh and the World Bank have forged a resilient and innovative partnership, resulting in transformative initiatives and sustainable progress. SM TANJIL-UL-HAQUE delves into details, analysing the key projects initiated during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit and exploring the significance of this enduring partnership in achieving sustainable development.
Bangladesh and the World Bank have forged a resilient and innovative partnership over the past fifty years, resulting in transformative initiatives and sustainable progress. The recent visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the World Bank marked the commemoration of this enduring partnership and highlighted the impact of World Bank development assistance.
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The collaboration between Bangladesh and the World Bank has evolved beyond financial aid, becoming a symbol of friendship, cooperation, and mutual understanding. This article analyses the key projects initiated during Prime Minister Hasina’s visit and explores the significance of this resilient partnership in achieving sustainable development.
FRESH PROJECTS: STRENGTHENING DEVELOPMENT LANDSCAPE
The International Development Association (IDA) has provided significant financial support to Bangladesh, with a total of over $40 billion in grants, interest-free loans, and concessional credits since 1972. Bangladesh’s IDA program, currently comprising 56 ongoing initiatives with approximately $16.3 billion in financing, stands as the largest in existence.
The clarity and strength of Bangladesh’s foreign policy have played a crucial role in this success, especially in a global landscape where many developing nations struggle to achieve sustainable development.
A seminar conducted during the visit, titled “Reflection on 50 Years of Bangladesh-World Bank Partnership,” highlighted Bangladesh’s achievements as a development model.
The visit concluded with the initiation of five development initiatives, worth $2.25 billion, with a particular focus on resilient infrastructure.
PM Sheikh Hasina showcases Bangladesh’s iconic Padma Bridge to the World Bank, symbolising the nation’s infrastructure achievements.
FULFILLED SUPPORT FOR ‘DELTA PLAN 2100’: BUILDING RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE
Bangladesh’s unique geography presents both challenges and opportunities. The Delta Plan 2100 aims to address these challenges by enhancing disaster preparedness against inland inundation and reducing vulnerability to natural disasters. A $500 million investment program as part of the resilient infrastructure initiative supports this plan. By decreasing urban migration, littoral zone outmigration, and river area outmigration, the plan aims to significantly reduce extreme poverty, generate employment opportunities, and maintain a high GDP growth rate. Additionally, it will increase trade, improve food security, and strengthen the economy. The Delta Plan 2100 presents an exciting opportunity for Bangladesh’s socioeconomic progress in the coming century while addressing environmental challenges.
ACHIEVING ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: A GREENER BANGLADESH
The second project, valued at $250 million, focuses on Bangladesh’s environmental sustainability and transformation. It provides support to the Department of Environment, enhancing its technical and administrative capacity.
The project aims to improve environmental regulations and enforcement, leading to a reduction in pollution and an enhancement of environmental quality. By piloting new financing mechanisms and the Green Credit Guarantee Scheme, the project encourages green investments and contributes to reducing air pollution. The successful implementation of this initiative will positively impact the lives of over 21 million people living in Greater Dhaka and beyond, addressing pollution issues and promoting a healthier environment.
ACCELERATING TRANSPORT AND TRADE CONNECTIVITY: BOOSTING REGIONAL COMMERCE
The World Bank’s $753.45 million initiative to improve transport and trade connectivity in Eastern South Asia – Bangladesh Phase 1 supports Bangladesh in enhancing regional commerce and connectivity. The ACCESS Program Phase 1 aims to overcome barriers to regional trade by improving manual and paper-based trade processes, transport and trade infrastructure, and restrictive trade and transport regulations. The initiative will significantly enhance digital systems and infrastructure at major land ports, facilitating trade and positioning Bangladesh as a regional trade hub. Moreover, it has the potential to foster greater regional integration among South Asian nations.
CLIMATE RESILIENT DEVELOPMENT: A TIMELY INITIATIVE
A $500 million project on first green and climate-resilient development marks a significant step towards Bangladesh’s transition to a greener and climate-resilient future. The project supports Bangladesh’s efforts to attain uppermiddle-income country status by 2031 by addressing crucial obstacles to sustainable growth. By developing a diverse and competitive private sector, the project will create job opportunities, promote socioeconomic inclusion, and address climate and environmental vulnerabilities. It aligns with Bangladesh’s growth aspirations, emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices, community resilience, and inclusive development.
ESTABLISHING SUSTAINABLE MICRO-ENTERPRISES: DRIVING LOCAL ECONOMIES
The scheme on sustainable micro-enterprises and resilient transformation, involving $250 million, aims to transform the micro-enterprise sector into a more dynamic, resource-efficient, and climate-resilient growth sector. This initiative has the potential to create local employment, contribute to economic growth, and promote sustainable development. By implementing sustainable practices, supporting local supply chains, and fostering innovation, micro-enterprises can bring positive change to communities and build strong relationships with customers and suppliers.
Moreover, the establishment of sustainable micro-enterprises not only drives local economies but also addresses key social and environmental challenges. These enterprises can act as catalysts for poverty alleviation by providing income-generating opportunities to marginalized communities.
Additionally, by adopting climate-resilient practices and reducing their ecological footprint, micro-enterprises contribute to mitigating climate change and conserving natural resources. This dual impact of economic and social-environmental benefits makes the promotion of sustainable micro-enterprises a critical component of holistic development strategies.
Overall, the establishment of sustainable micro-enterprises has far-reaching implications for local economies. By promoting economic growth, creating employment opportunities, and embracing sustainability, this initiative lays the foundation for resilient and prosperous communities.
It is a testament to the power of small-scale entrepreneurship in driving positive change and contributing to the achievement of sustainable development goals.
POST-LDC CHALLENGES: ASSISTING BANGLADESH
The World Bank Group’s country partnership framework for 2023-2027 focuses on equipping Bangladesh to face the challenges that come with graduation from the least-developed country bracket. The plan, which was presented before Sheikh Hasina, outlines key areas where the WB’s assistance will be extended. These include private sector competitiveness, adaptation to climate change and mitigation, and inclusive growth. The aim is to help Bangladesh achieve uppermiddle-income country status by 2031.
The CPF’s annual allocation from the International Development Association is expected to be within the $1.5-2 billion per annum range, which provides an opportunity for a series of transformational projects across key sectors. Some of the projects earmarked for development include the development of an economic corridor, restoration of the ecology of rivers in the capital, Bay Terminal project, modernisation of public sector operations, and learning acceleration in secondary education. Additionally, the International Finance Corporation and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, the WB arms that help develop the private sector and promote investment in developing countries, respectively, will strive to increase their investment and support programmes in Bangladesh.
PM SEEKS WORLD BANK’S SUPPORT FOR BANGLADESH’S SMOOTH TRANSITION
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for enhanced cooperation from the World Bank to ensure a smooth transition for Bangladesh as it moves towards becoming a developing nation and attains upper-middle-income country status. During a plenary session on the “Reflection on 50 years of World Bank-Bangladesh Partnership,” PM Hasina presented specific suggestions to the global lender, emphasizing the need for support in human capital and institutional capacity development.
She highlighted the importance of preserving the critical International Development Association (IDA) window and urged the World Bank to engage in both physical and social mega-projects. PM Hasina stated, “My presence here signals that we maintain our trust in the World Bank. Our success in the next two decades would depend on our collective ability and efforts to overcome the emerging challenges in a just and sustainable manner.”
BANGLADESH’S VISION FOR A RESILIENT AND PROSPEROUS FUTURE
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while jointly opening a photo exhibition with World Bank President David Malpass, expressed her determination to work hand in hand with the global lender to build a “Smart Bangladesh” for a brighter future. The exhibition showcased Bangladesh’s development journey and the government’s commitment to turning the country into a resilient and prosperous nation.
PM Hasina thanked the World Bank and other development partners for sharing the vision of inclusive growth and stressed the importance of eradicating poverty and hunger. She emphasized the exhibition’s role in reminding everyone of the achievements accomplished together and the work that remains. PM Hasina concluded, “It shows the kind of smile that our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wished to see among our distressed people.” She called for continued collaboration and shared trust to achieve the nation’s aspirations.
To wrap up, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the World Bank signifies a renewed commitment to cooperation and development, underscoring the importance of partnerships between nations and international organizations. The initiation of various World Bank development assistance programs during this visit sets the stage for future collaboration, allowing Bangladesh to build on its accomplishments and advance its sustainable development goals. This resilient partnership serves as a valuable example for other developing nations seeking to achieve sustainable growth, highlighting the significance of foreign policy in facilitating cooperation and development. Through their robust alliance, Bangladesh and the Wor