“The journey was not always easy, but we have never lost courage. In the past 50 years, the World Bank remained a steadfast development partner and supported our aspirations. We hope to work together with the World Bank as Bangladesh progresses to achieve higher-income country status by 2041.” — PM Sheikh Hasina
Bangladesh and the World Bank have forged a resilient and innovative partnership, resulting in transformative initiatives and sustainable progress. The recent visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the World Bank has garnered a great deal of attention, and rightfully so. This visit, commemorating fifty years of cooperation between Bangladesh and the World Bank, highlighted the diversity and interconnectedness of Bangladesh’s foreign policy while recognising the impact of World Bank development assistance. Through her visit, Prime Minister Hasina reaffirmed the significance of the partnership and emphasized the progress made over the past half-century. Clearly, this partnership has evolved beyond the provision of financial aid to become a manifestation of friendship, cooperation, and mutual understanding.
New World Bank Projects
The International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for developing countries, has provided more than $40 billion in grants, interest-free loans, and concessional credits since 1972. With approximately $16.3 billion in financing for 56 ongoing initiatives, Bangladesh’s IDA programme is the largest in existence.
Therefore, success can be attributed to the foreign policy’s clarity and strength. In the current global landscape, where many developing nations struggle to achieve sustainable development, this is of particular importance. In addition, a seminar titled “Reflection on 50 Years of Bangladesh-World Bank Partnership” was conducted during the visit to emphasise Bangladesh’s achievements as a development model. During the visit, the two parties concluded five development initiatives comprising $2.25 billion USD, with a focus on resilient infrastructure.
Fulfilled the necessary support for ‘Delta Plan 2100’
The unique geography of Bangladesh, which includes a vast floodplain and a breath-taking coastline, presents both challenges and opportunities. Despite periodic difficulties, the country’s resilience has allowed it to continue to prosper. However, Bangladesh is not immune to the effects of climate change and natural disasters, which are anticipated to cause an annual economic loss of at least 1.7% of GDP in the future.
The resilient infrastructure initiative, which includes a $500 million investment programme, is a significant step towards supporting the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 in addressing these challenges. This plan seeks to enhance disaster preparedness against inland inundation and reduce vulnerability, thereby mitigating the economic impact of natural disasters.
In addition to enhancing calamity resilience, the Delta Plan presents Bangladesh with a thrilling opportunity to make substantial socioeconomic progress in the next century. By decreasing urban migration by 60%, littoral zone outmigration by 50%, and river area outmigration by 50%, the plan can significantly reduce extreme poverty, generate more employment opportunities, and maintain a high GDP growth rate of over 8% through 2041. In addition, the plan will increase trade and navigational opportunities and improve food security, all of which will strengthen the economy of the nation.
Towards achieving environmental sustainability
The second project on Bangladesh’s environmental sustainability and transformation is valued at $250 million. The project is set to provide valuable support to the Department of Environment, helping to enhance its technical and administrative capacity. The project will help to enhance environmental regulations and enforcement, which will lead to a reduction in pollution and an improvement in environmental quality.
Also, the project is set to pilot new financing mechanisms that will encourage green investments in specific sectors. Therefore, the Green Credit Guarantee Scheme established to encourage the financial sector to invest in green initiatives that will help reduce air pollution. Finally, the successful implementation of the project will have a positive impact on the country’s pollution issues, benefiting over 21 million people living in Greater Dhaka and beyond.
Accelerate transport and trade connectivity
The World Bank has initiated a $753,45,000,000 initiative to improve transport and trade connectivity in Eastern South Asia – Bangladesh Phase 1. This will assist Bangladesh in enhancing regional commerce and connectivity.
In addition, the ACCESS Programme Phase 1 is designed to assist governments in overcoming the most significant barriers to regional trade, such as manual and paper-based trade processes, inadequate transport and trade infrastructure, and restrictive trade and transport regulations and processes.
Moreover, the initiative will significantly improve digital systems, infrastructure, and procedures at Benapole, Bhomra, and Burimari land terminals, the three largest land ports in Bangladesh that manage approximately 80% of land-based trade.
Therefore, this will significantly contribute to the transformation of the Chattogram customs house, which manages 90 percent of Bangladesh’s import and export declarations. Also, the initiative has the potential to link South Asian nations with Bangladesh in the near future, which is an encouraging development.
First green and climate resilient development; a timely initiative
Additionally, the $500 million project on first green and climate resilient development is a great step towards the country’s transition to green and climate resilient development. Also, the project will contribute to Bangladesh’s efforts to attain upper-middle-income country status by 2031 by addressing crucial obstacles to achieving higher and more sustainable growth.
Moreover, this will lead to the development of a diverse and competitive private sector, which will create more and better job opportunities. It will also promote socioeconomic inclusion and expand opportunities for all, while addressing climate and environmental vulnerabilities. Bangladesh’s growth aspirations prioritise these three outcomes.
Establishing sustainable micro-enterprise and resilient transformation
Scheme on sustainable micro-enterprise and resilient transformation, which involves $250 million, will play a crucial role in transforming the micro-enterprise sector into a more dynamic, resource-efficient, and climate-resilient growth sector. This will lead to a brighter and more sustainable future for all. Also, the scheme has the potential to create local employment, contribute to economic growth, and promote sustainable development. Resilient transformation is a great quality of a system that enables it to adapt and recover from external shocks and stressors.
Moreover, sustainable microenterprise and resilient transformation are interrelated concepts that can aid in the development of robust, sustainable, and equitable economies. Additionally, SMEs have the potential to bring about positive change by implementing sustainable practises, fostering local capacity, and enhancing community resilience. SMEs have the potential to create numerous local jobs, support local supply chains, reduce reliance on external sources, and encourage innovation. Additionally, microenterprise and resilient transformation have the potential to promote sustainable practises, serve as role models, build social capital, and help build strong relationships with customers and suppliers.
To summarize, Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the World Bank signifies an important turning point. This visit signifies a renewed dedication to cooperation and development, as well as a reaffirmation of the significance of partnerships between nations and international organisations. On the other hand, the immediate results of the visit have sparked a number of World Bank development assistance programmes, laying the groundwork for future collaboration. Therefore, this is an opportunity for Bangladesh to build on its accomplishments and advance its sustainable development, poverty reduction, and economic growth objectives. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the significance of foreign policy in facilitating cooperation and development, and it offers valuable lessons for other developing nations seeking to achieve sustainable growth.
[Photo by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, via Wikimedia Commons]
*S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Analyst at the Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), Dhaka, Bangladesh. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.