Kathmandu, Nepal (BBN)-Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wednesday urged the SAARC leaders for setting aside their differences and working on collective strength for bringing real prosperity of the people of the region.
“SAARC can actually attain collective political will and ambitions. What is needed is to set aside our differences and work on collective strength for bringing real progress of the region,” the PM said.
She was addressing the inaugural session of the 18th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at Katmandu City Hall in Nepal.
Calling upon the SAARC leaders to undertake more realistic, result-oriented and mutually beneficial partnership for cooperation to prosper together, she said, “Let that be our contribution to redeem our pledge to our people to leave a more peaceful, progressive, connected and knowledge-based South Asia.”For achieving development faster, she said, the SAARC nations must deepen their collective efforts to develop, use and apply science-technology-innovation at all levels.
The Bangladesh PM called for deeper cooperation in the areas of health, agriculture, food and climate change technologies saying a candid assessment and frank conversation among us is needed to bring dynamism in SAARC activities.
Hasina said poverty is the common and key enemy of the SAARC hindering peace and development of the region.
Ensuring food and nutritional security of our ever-increasing population is a big challenge, she said.
Hasina said much of South Asia has attained self- sufficiency in production of key cereals over decades, which helped reduce abject poverty and improved our MDGs profile.
In Bangladesh with an average growth rate of 6.2 percent for the last five years, poverty rate has been reduced to 24.4 percent now from 40 percent in 2005.
She said Bangladesh has attained targets of universal safe drinking water and sanitation for the people.
However, we need to do more as we have targeted to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041, she said.
Cooperation in increasing productivity of key cereals, inland fisheries and livestock, improving water efficiency in agriculture are crucial for attaining nutritional security of our people and eradicating poverty, Hasina said, adding in this context, it is very important to make operation of Food Bank and Seed Bank under the framework of SAARC.
She said SAARC region is home to a large youthful population. “We need to develop them as human resources primarily by giving them quality education and effective training.”
Focusing on development of education in Bangladesh, she said, Bangladesh has taken innovative steps to ensure education for all.
Girls are getting free education up to graduation level, while about 12.8 million students from poor families are getting monthly stipend, 75 percent of them are girls.
Each year, nearly 318 million textbooks are being distributed free of cost among all students up to the secondary level. Gender parity in primary and secondary schooling has been achieved. Now, we are focusing on