Today Bangladesh reached the 50th anniversary of its glorious independence – one of the proudest moments in the nation’s history. In addition, the people of the country are celebrating the birth centenary of the architect of independent Bangladesh, the "Father of the Nation" (Bangabandhu), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The two magnificent occasions created a unique opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of our independence in the last 50 years as well as shed light on the future.
Bangladesh has crossed many miles since its birth in 1971 to achieve many milestones that have captured global attention. Today’s Bangladesh is a completely changed country – in letter and spirit. There are reflections of modernity and vibrancy in every sphere of society. People are imbued with a renewed sense of pride, confidence, responsibility and maturity.
The country is transforming at a pace and in substance in a way that is hard to imagine and expect. Bangladesh is gradually turning into the "Sonar Bangla (Golden Bangla)" – poverty and hunger-free, secular and inclusive, economically vibrant and prosperous country – as dreamt by Rahman.
The skeptics who had doubted the future of Bangladesh have witnessed in their lifetime Bangladesh's phenomenal success in its socioeconomic landscape that is often referred to by the international community as the "role model for development."
Bangladesh has imprinted its marks on the global stage with its achievements in poverty alleviation, women empowerment and climate change. Bangladesh’s success stories have not only been recognized and appreciated by the global leaders, institutions and media alike but also considered as a model case for study and research.
The country has outdone its neighbors in many parameters in social, economic and human development indices. With a population of about 165 million and a relatively small land-mass, Bangladesh has already attained food autarky, a miracle by itself and speaks volumes for the development of its agriculture sector.
Bangladesh ranks second in global ready-made-garments exports with almost all top global brands including those of Turkey such as LC Waikiki, DeFacto and Koton. Not only in labour-intensive industries, Bangladesh is equally showing its brilliance in the knowledge based and technologically advanced sectors like pharmaceuticals and information technology.
Bangladesh is now exporting medicine to more than 120 countries in the world including the U.S. In recognition of the advancement of Bangladesh in the IT sector, the EU has listed Bangladesh as one of the ideal outsourcing destinations.
Bangladesh is currently the 30th largest economy by purchasing power parity and is expected to rank 23rd by 2041. The country attained gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 8.2% in the pre-pandemic period, the highest among the Asia-Pacific region.
It has achieved 5.24% of gross domestic product (GDP) growth even during the pandemic, while many of the developed economies have registered negative growth. This has been a clear demonstration of Bangladesh’s economic resilience and ability to sustain and survive the odds and challenges that even many developed countries find unsurmountable.
The country kicked off a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive on Feb. 7, 2021 with an aim to vaccinate 80% of its population. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's COVID-19 management program is greatly lauded by the world community at large.
Bangladesh today has consolidated a respectable position in the regional and global economic geometry, not only for its current attainments but also for the shining future ahead. The country is being shaped, slowly but surely, as an economic powerhouse in Asia and a connecting hub for South and South-East Asia.
The U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP) has recently recommended lifting up Bangladesh to the status of a developing nation from the orbit of least developed country. This particular recommendation has been done following a thorough assessment of performance in three particular areas – per capita income, Human Assets Index and Economic Vulnerability Index. Bangladesh has met all three prerequisites for graduation.
The success story doesn’t stop here. Hasina's Vision 2041 aims at transforming Bangladesh into an industrially developed country by 2041. Bangladesh is perhaps the first country in the world that has introduced and started implementing a 100-year plan called "Delta Plan 2100" to save its future generations from the scourges of climate change and global warming.
The country is experiencing exponential growth and expansions, especially in areas of communications, ports and energy infrastructures. It has already become a member of the prestigious satellite club by launching its first communication satellite, Bangabandhu-1, in 2018.
It is now preparing to launch a second one, Bangabandhu-2, by 2023. A good number of mega projects including nuclear power plant, deep seaport, metro rail and elevated expressway stands as testimonies to achieving the goals of the Vision 2041.
To further stimulate economic growth as well as create investment and employment opportunities, Bangladesh is developing 100 special economic zones and 28 hi-tech parks and software technology parks, offering special financial and nonfinancial incentive packages to investors.
Along with geopolitical significance, Bangladesh’s political and economic stability, growing middle class and purchasing power, dynamic youth bulge and demographic dividends, untapped economic potentials and opportunities, long-term policy supports and required incentives and most importantly people’s resilience, spirit and hospitality have turned the country as one of the most preferred foreign direct investment (FDI) destinations in the region.
Here optimism lies in bringing further growth to the Bangladesh-Turkey cooperation for the mutual benefits of our two friendly peoples.
In the recent past, Bangladesh and Turkey have seen significant upturns in their investment cooperation. Recently two Turkish companies, Arçelik in home appliances and Aygaz in the LPG sector, have firmed up their investments in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is ready to offer an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), dedicated only for Turkish investments.
Turkish investors are welcome to invest in almost all sectors including agriculture, health, shipbuilding, energy and tourism. We should also pay due attention to effectively realizing the untapped trade potentials that exist between the two countries. Our total trade volume stands below $1 billion (TL 7.95 billion), which is of course much lower than its potential.
Trade targets set by the two countries to the tune of $2 billion do not seem to be difficult to achieve. We need to be a little creative in enlarging and diversifying our export-import baskets, in addition to traditional items like textile machinery, textile chemicals, ready-made garments and jute yarns.
A range of products like pharmaceuticals, ceramic tableware, plastic items, agricultural machinery and medical equipment may be added to the list.
Signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) could be a viable option to facilitate trade, which is now on the table for discussion. Even "preferential trade" on some selective products may add a much-required boost to our trade relations.
Business bodies of the two countries – Bangladesh's Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI) and Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) – concluded a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in February 2021, designed to enhance business by ensuring more quality and outcome-based interactions and exchanges at the private sector's level.
The newly launched "Asia Anew Initiative" by Turkey is to focus on the contents of the two countries’ trade and investment with the priority and urgency that it deserves.
Bangladesh-Turkey relations are deeply rooted in their historical connections, cultural proximity and religious affinity. There is no dearth of mutual respect, love and emotions between our two peoples, irrespective of geographical and physical distance.
The shared sense of solidarity has given strength to our peoples to navigate through our relations in all circumstances. Our relations are multifaceted and multidimensional. It is comprehensive and encompasses all spheres of our relations including politics, economy, education, culture, tourism and person-person interactions.
The ever-expanding relations have now evolved into a strong partnership, as clearly manifested in our understanding and coordinated approach in bilateral, regional and international platforms to resolve as intricate an issue as the one involving the Rohingyas.
The recent visits of the two foreign ministers to bilateral capitals amid the pandemic – the visit by the Bangladesh foreign minister to Ankara in September 2020 and a reciprocal visit by the Turkish foreign minister to Dhaka in December 2020 – exhibit the unwavering commitments of both sides to take the bilateral relations to new heights.
The discussions held between the two top diplomats were substantive, productive and forward-looking sending a message clear and loud for deeper engagement and greater cooperation for the mutual benefits of the two friendly nations.
Honorable President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to pay a state visit to Bangladesh at his earliest convenience, which would certainly inject new momentum into our relations and help broaden the horizon of our cooperation. The proposed visit could be a game-changer, triggering a paradigm shift for the future of the Bangladesh-Turkey relationship.
*Foreign secretary of Bangladesh