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At the press conference at her official residence, Ganabhavan on Monday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had been as eloquent as before. She first read out a written statement detailing the outcome of her March 4-8 official visit to Qatar where she attended the UN-sponsored 5th LDC conference. For Bangladesh, which is set to leave the LDC club to become a middle-income developing economy by 2026, the Qatar conference turned into an event of saying goodbye to the Least Developed Countries. Representatives, including high officials from the United Nations, applauded the Bangladesh prime minister for her remarkable leadership that saw the country’s transformation from a country of poverty to middle-income group of nations. Bangladesh, she said, stole the show at the Qatar conference. Echoing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres the prime minister told the developed nations at the conference that the graduating countries should be rewarded instead of being punished for their good work. She told the conference that it must be borne in mind that the LDCs don’t want any charity, but ask for their dues.
The graduation of Bangladesh, Nepal and Laos come at a very difficult time. The global economy has been rocked by the Russia-Ukraine war that came just as the world struggled to return to shake off the damages caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now into its second year the war has disrupted the supply of food grains, energy and many other essential commodities triggering global shortages and pushing the inflation up. Even the developed nations such as the UK, Germany and the US are struggling with rising high cost of living. Sale of essentials items is being rationed even in the supermarkets in the UK.
Bangladesh, the prime minister said, has been hit too. Before the pandemic struck in 2020 the country’s economy posted growth above 7 percent and was even poised to reach 8 percent. The Covid-19 took a toll and before the country could overcome this shock, then came the Ukraine war. Bangladesh is dependent on imports in meeting its energy requirement. The prices of fossil fuel – oil, coal, LNG and LPG – leaped forcing the government to go for austerity measures and hiking rates in the domestic market. The hikes, forced upon the government, were greeted by criticisms from both domestic and industrial users as well as the energy experts. The higher rates passed into the commodity prices further raising the inflation or the cost of living. The higher prices of electricity meant less working hours in the factories and reduced production, which in turn affected the markets. The domino effect of the price hikes caused sufferings to the common people as the final victims. This did not go unnoticed even by the prime minister. She acknowledged that the prices of essential commodities have gone up and urged the businesses to behave properly for the sake of the consumers, especially during the upcoming fasting month of Ramadan.
During her stay in Doha, the capital of oil-and-gas-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hasina met with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss further promotion of bilateral relations with focus on energy cooperation. Bangladesh imports fuel, including LNG, from Qatar. The prime minister told the emir to increase its export of LNG to Bangladesh. She also requested the leader of Qatar to consider making investment in Bangladesh’s energy sector, especially in renewable energy. The response from Qatar, the PM told the press conference, has been positive. Bangladesh has now a 15-year agreement with Qatar on the import of LNG. This government-to-government deal is set to expire in 2032. Besides, Qatar employs over eight lakh Bangladeshi nationals in different sectors of its economy. Dhaka and Doha thus continue a productive bilateral relation, which is set to grow further following the PM’s visit and talks with the emir and other Qatari officials.