Bangladesh Development Forum - Shixin Chen

Speech | 29 January 2020

Opening Remarks by Shixin Chen, Vice President (Operations 1), Asian Development Bank, at the Bangladesh Development Forum (BDF 2020), BICC, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 29 January 2020

Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,

Honorable Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal,

Ladies and gentlemen:

Very good morning!

Thank you for inviting me to this important Forum.

First of all, on behalf of ADB, I warmly congratulate Prime Minister Hasina for leading the country through a period of rapid development. Bangladesh is now a global example of economic progress, with average GDP growth of more than 6.7% over the last decade. A record of about 8.2% growth in 2019 has made Bangladesh the fastest growing economy in Asia Pacific.

Good progress has been made in implementing the Seventh Five-Year Plan with the theme of “Accelerating Growth, Empowering Every Citizen”. A series of targets centered on GDP growth acceleration, job creation, and rapid poverty reduction. A broad-based strategy of inclusiveness was adopted to empower every citizen. A sustainable development pathway was widened to ensure the resilience to natural disaster and climate change,  and to manage the inevitable urbanization.

We highly commend the achievements in macroeconomic management, poverty reduction, infrastructure development, and human capital development. The robust growth has been driven by good policies for private sector-led growth, a strong focus on agriculture, rural development, and infrastructure. Wide social welfare programs have boosted the wellbeing of the people. I would also like to highlight that Bangladesh is working hard to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Aspirations for development are high. The vision of becoming a developed nation by 2041 is encouraging. At the same time, there are challenges to move forward. How to address them is the priority of the forthcoming Eighth Five Year Plan. I would like to share the following thoughts.

First, infrastructure. We believe an emerging middle-income economy needs better road, railway, bridges, ports, electricity supply, and more livable cities. Investing in these assets will help reduce binding constraints to growth, lower the cost of doing business, and improve access to local and global markets. The country needs more investment – from public and private, domestic and foreign sources.

Second, human capital. It is important to enhance the skills profile of the labor force, improve the quality of education, and promote gender equality. In the long term, human capital development is a key driver of sustainable and inclusive development.

Equally important is the need for regionally balanced development. Within Bangladesh, it will help better integrate the economy, boost domestic demand, and pursue economic diversification. With neighboring countries, Bangladesh can benefit from increased trade and services using its geographical advantage and access to sea.

Moreover, the new five year plan may achieve better results with a balance between the speed and quality of growth, with diversified economic structure to ensure healthy and resilient development, with innovative financial instruments to meet massive investment demand.

ADB is fully committed to a strong partnership with Bangladesh. Our current portfolio is about $11 billion. In 2018 and 2019, ADB approved $4.2 billion of investment in railways and roads, power generation and transmission, renewable energy, urban development, education and health services, SME finance, as well as private sector development.

Moving ahead, in alignment with the Eighth Five Year Plan, we will prepare a new country partnership strategy and tailor-make our assistance to respond to the country’s evolving needs. Poverty reduction, infrastructure enhancement, human capital strengthening, and regionally balanced development will be the prioritized. Gender equality, good governance, institutional strengthening, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and environment protection will remain cross-cutting themes..

In closing, I hope the Forum will catalyze new thoughts to help move the country onto a higher growth trajectory. I hope the new thoughts will benefit all the hardworking people of Bangladesh. I hope the new thoughts will make Dhaka, Chattogram, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet, and many other urban areas more livable. I hope the new thoughts will bring knowledge, finance, and dynamics to rural Bangladesh. I hope we will see another new Bangladesh by 2025, the end of Eighth Five Year Plan.

I wish the Forum a great success. Thank you!