Today is the 74th birthday of Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina as she was born on 28 September, 1947. Born in Tungipara, an upazila of Gopalganj district, to the family of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, she has become a great statesman. She was elected prime minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh four times.
The vision of Sheikh Hasina is very clear -- the welfare of human beings, particularly those in Bangladesh. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she tried her best to coordinate between life and livelihood. She has given top priority to the well-being of the people of Bangladesh. Her political philosophy is very simple -- loving people, doing good for the people and executing the people’s welfare prescriptions effectively. She believes in the economic philosophy of the welfare of human beings to ensure that no one is left behind. She has been working relentlessly to build an inclusive society to ensure that. Bangladesh achieved outstanding success in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, particularly at the begging and towards the end of the 15-year period for their implementation. Now she is steering the country to attain the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) well before the 2030 deadline.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, her rural development efforts became the role model for the world. World leaders and economists, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, praised the achievements of Bangladesh under the astute leadership of Sheikh Hasina. Under her guidance, Bangladesh has become a food surplus country from a food-shortage state. The nation hopes that under her leadership, Bangladesh will graduate to a middle-income country from the least developed status by 2026. On different fronts of the economy starting from electricity to education, the country is marching in the right direction. Sheikh Hasina always fights against any sort of autocratic rule. After the tragic death of the Bangabandhu, she was not allowed by Gen Ziaur Rahman and other masterminds of the murder to come to Bangladesh. She later returned home on 17 May 1981 though she knew that evil forces were in state power. At different times her life was under threat though she bravely handled all. Attempts were made on her life on several occasions with the most heinous one on August 21, 204 during the BNP-Jamaat government. By the grace of Almighty, she survived the attack, but many Awami League leaders and activists died and were wounded.
Sheikh Hasina initiated 10 mega projects to foster the development of the country. Padma Bridge and Metrorail are now a reality due to this visionary leader. However, an airport in Cumilla may be developed so that Dhaka city remains free from the crowd. The project of Dhaka-Chittagong Expressway, which will cut the distance between the two largest cities, should also be implemented without delay.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina took the laudable initiative against war criminals through bringing them under justice as the trial was 'indispensable' for a democratic, secular and peaceful Bangladesh. She believes in secularism, democracy and humanity. Under her able leadership, the trial of the heinous murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members and relatives took place after more than 34 years of the crime.
The Bangladesh economy is growing at a faster pace during her tenure as the prime minister. In the year 1996, when she became the first prime minister of the country, she tried to develop a balanced economic growth between rich and poor so that economic disparity can be eradicated from society. During that period, she tried to remove corruption, nepotism, to develop the nation with an ideology of humanity, and to ensure social justice.
On September 23 this year, she argued in the White House “Global Covid-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better Health Security to Prepare for the Next” that the Covid-19 vaccine needs to be acknowledged as 'global public goods to save humans from the pandemic. Last year when COVID-19 was first reported in Bangladesh, she started saving lives by assigning necessary medical services, apparatus and life-saving drugs.
At the ninth Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development in New York on September 20 this year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received the ‘SDG Progress Award’ in recognition of Bangladesh’s progress in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals. The programme was jointly organized by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Master of Development Practice (MDP) and the Earth Institute of Columbia University. Her creativity, imaginary policy and accurate implementation process have made her a great leader of the world. She has been able to prove her worth not only as the leader of Bangladesh but also as a global leader.
The Digital Bangladesh programme introduced by Sheikh Hasina can be thought to be the driver of economic growth. During the ongoing pandemic, Digital Bangladesh programmes have saved human beings, supported innovation and promoted online businesses. The digital economy played a vital role in economic growth and in ensuring people’s livelihood. The prime minister tried her best through the diplomatic channel to ensure vaccine for the people. She has been making all efforts to ensure the equal participation of women in society. She has put emphasis on export-oriented growth strategies and taken initiative to develop 100 export processing zones. For export diversification, her government has formulated different guidelines. The prime minister always advises banks to do ethical businesses.
The prime minister has put emphasis on improving the tax structure so that tax can be widened for the richer section. Before the pandemic, macroeconomic stability was maintained and the GDP growth rate increased up to 8.2 per cent. However, when the pandemic started, GDP growth of different countries went into negative trajectory but Bangladesh still has a positive growth rate. In 2021, it was estimated that the GDP growth rate will be around 6 per cent. Currently, the country's per capita income has increased to USD 2,227.
Sheikh Hasina tried her best for the improvement of education from the pre-primary level to the tertiary level. Under her guidance, Educational Policy 2010 was formulated but it is yet to be approved. She has set up Bangladesh Accreditation Board, but unfortunately, the country is yet to have Educational Qualification Framework. During the pandemic, institutions offered education online thanks to the progress in digitalisation. Now schools and colleges have resumed academic activities and universities are going to reopen soon. The country has progressed a lot to ensure universal primary health coverage. Community clinics are good initiatives taken by the prime minister. It is a laudable venture but doctors need to stay in the community clinics to attain the goals of the initiative. Under her guidance, the government has developed the Delta Plan, a timely and comprehensive development plan focusing on economic growth, environmental conservation, and enhanced climate resilience.
Bangladesh is so lucky to have such a great personality as its leader. She needs more recognition at the international forums for her excellent efforts to promote peace. We hope that she will be elected prime minister of the country for the fifth time too. May Allah keep her well and bless her for her good deeds to the masses and for her efforts to take out the country from the vicious circle of poverty.
- Prof Dr Muhammad Mahboob Ali is a professor at Dhaka School of Economics, a constituent institution of the University of Dhaka, and an expert in the field of macro and financial economics, entrepreneurial management and ICT. He can be reached by email address -- email@example.com