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‘Bangladesh, world’s 32nd largest economy, to become 23rd by 2050’Predicts Ambassador Islam at Bangladesh National Day reception

By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporters Sua Kim and Won Hwi

Ambassador Abida Islam of Bangladesh in Seoul said, “Bangladesh is currently the 32nd largest economy in the world and is poised to be the 23rd largest economy by 2050.”Speaking at a reception hosted by the Embassy of Bangladesh in Seoul at the Millennium Seoul Hilton on March 26, 2018, Ambassador Islam then stated: “After maintaining a GDP growth over 6 per cent for the past one decade, we have achieved over 7 per cent growth for the last two years and looking forward to attaining 8 per cent growth by 2020. Our per capita income has almost tripled over the last ten years (now US$ 1610) and we have an impressive foreign currency reserve the 2nd highest in South Asia. Bangladesh is the 4th rice producing country and ranked 5th in fish production in the world.” (See excerpts from the speech toward the end of this report.)

Ambassador Abida Islam delivers a welcoming speech to the guests.

The reception was attended by many distinguished guests from Korean government and various other segments of society. They included Deputy Minister Suh Jeong-in for Planning and Coordination at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a good number of civic leaders representing all walks of life, including the business community, whence came CEOs, including President Chung Un-koo of Samyoung Express. From the press came many publishers and editors who included Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news media outlets. There were beautiful performances by a traditional Bangladesh dance troupe of women and men who captivated the guests with beautiful, rhythmic body movements, which were unique and traditionally Bangladeshi interesting to the eyes of the Korean and international guests.

Deputy Foreign Minister Suh Jeong-in delivers a congratulatory speech.

Congratulating Bangladesh, and Ambassador Islam in particular, Deputy Foreign Minister Suh Jeong-in of Korea (Planning & Coordination), said, “Korea is the number one investor country in Bangladesh’s garment industry and, furthermore, the Speaker of the National Assembly visited Bangladesh last year and the vast community comprising of 15,000 Bangladeshi people in Korea are a truly invaluable asset to our bilateral relations.” Then he said, “Korea and Bangladesh both share the experience of overcoming colonialism and war, and defying all odds and challenges, both countries shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve development and prosperity.” (See excerpts from his speech toward the end of this report.) Hardships shared by the developing countries who in the past experienced the colonial rule by the big countries, sometimes, serve as a strong impetus for the rapid development of the country. And in this sense, the speech appeared to come pat to the Korean guests attending the party.

Ambassador Abida Islam of Bangladesh (in an orange dress on the right behind the table) cut a celebration cake with guests with other ambassadors and guests

Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Islam:

A very good evening to you all. I welcome you all to the celebration of 47th Independence and National Day of Bangladesh. On this great day, I pay my homage to the greatest Bangalee of all time, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Majibur Rahman, whose iconic leadership in our struggle for independence finally culminated into the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation State in 1971 through a nine-month long bloody War of Liberation. I remember with great reverence three million valiant martyrs, two hundred thousand women, who were violated during that War and the valiant freedom fighters, men and women, who made supreme sacrifices to earn the independence of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has come a long way during the past 47 years. We are contributing to global peace through our participation in the UN peace keeping operations as a leading troop contributing country. On climate change, we are playing an active and leading role globally. Bangladesh is waiting to launch its own satellite named “Bangabandhu Satellite-1” for the launch into the space. Our empowerment of women has been phenomenal. We are the first country to send an all-female contingent to the UN peace keeping Mission in Haiti in 2010. 4 million female workers in our garments industries have made a silent revolution in their impressive journey of socio-economic capacity building. In gender equality our ranking is 47th of 144 nations. Bangladesh is a role model in achieving the MDG targets and progressing in full swing towards achieving the SDG targets.

A panoramic view of the guests listening to the congratulatory speech of Deputy Foreign Minister Suh Jeong-in (behind the rostrum and on the left of Ambassador Islam). An estimated total of several hundred guests attended the reception.

Bangladesh is currently the 32ndlargest economy in the world and is poised to be the 23rdlargest economy by 2050. After maintaining a GDP growth over 6 per cent for the past one decade, we have achieved over 7 per cent growth for the last two years and looking forward to attaining 8 per cent growth by 2020. Our per capita income has almost tripled over the last ten years (now US$ 1610) and we have an impressive foreign currency reserve the 2nd highest in South Asia. Bangladesh is the 4th rice producing country and ranked 5th in fish production in the world. We have secured the 34th place in the Inclusive Development Index's list of emerging economies (2018) of the World Economic Forum (WEF)– way ahead of our peers. We are looking forward to creating additional 12.9 million jobs by 2020, including 1.3 million ICT professionals and 10,000 ICT entrepreneurs for our $600 million ICT market.

Ambassador Abida Islam (left) and Deputy Minister Suh Jeong-in converse with each other on the promotion of relations between Korea and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is the home of the largest NGO of the world -BRAC with its operations in more than 12 countries. We are now the second largest exporter of readymade garments in the world after China. Our $28 billion RMG industry, has taken the lead in green manufacturing as it has established 67 eco-friendly green units, the highest number in the world. Our world class pharmaceutical products are exported to more than 100 destinations including the USA and the EU after meeting more than 97% of our domestic requirements.

Ambassador Abida Islam of Bangladesh is all smiles welcoming the guests to the National Day reception of her country.

Our leather products, frozen fish, ocean going ships, bicycles and ceramic products are exported to different counties all over the world. This year’s celebration of Independence and National Day is also significant because it coincides with the announcement of the UN Committee for Development Policy that Bangladesh has met all the three-criterion considered for graduation from the least developed country (LDC) to a developing one and it could have been made possible under the dynamic leadership of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This is an important stepping stone towards our aspiration to become an advanced economy and a developed country as envisioned in the ‘Vision 2041’. While there are challenges, we believe new windows of opportunities will also be opened up for Bangladesh with this graduation process.

Bangladesh dancers present a performance at the reception venue.

The Republic of Korea has been one of the "economic tigers" in the region. The Republic of Korea secured its place among the top 11 economies in the world. The country has become an aid donor country from an aid recipient one through the resilience, devotion and hard work of its people. Republic of Korea is a great friend of Bangladesh. We share similar social values, common aspiration for socio-economic development and speak the same language of democracy. Similarly, we both celebrate our movements for independence in the month of March. We commend the Government of the Republic of Korea for the successful conclusion of Pyeongchang Winter Olympic and Para-Olympic. Bangladesh has always been vocal against the provocative actions like nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests by North Korea and deeply appreciates the initiatives undertaken by President Moon Jae-in for bringing peace in the Korean Peninsula. We wish him all success in his future endeavors in this regard. We deeply value our relationship with the Republic of Korea as it is our important development partner, the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment and also an attractive destination for our hardworking and dedicated workers who are also contributing to the economic development of this country. Our bilateral trade is also increasing gradually along with our cultural exchanges and people to people contact contributing to further strengthening our relations bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally. K-pop and Korean drama are very popular among our youth and making its own place in Bangladesh.

Ambassador Abida Islam holds The Korea Post newspaper with Pubisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik. The regular-sized Korean-language newspaper of The Korea Post reserved the front, second and third pages on that day for the exclusive coverage of Bangladesh with particular attention paid to the National Day of the country. Some three million people died and hundreds of thousand other Bengalis in their struggle for winning their independence.Shown on the top level are, from left, President Moon Jae-in of Korea, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.The special Korean-language edition of The Korea Post that day covered various aspects of Bangladesh with particular emphasis on the independence of the country won by the people at great sacrifices and the remarkable economic development and growth attained by Bangladesh along with a very bright prospect of further increased development and growth at a remarkably rapid pace.

We deeply appreciate the active presence of EDCF (Economic Development Cooperation Fund) and KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) in Bangladesh which are assisting us in Human Resources development. We have always found Korea beside us during our hour of need. In this context, I would extend my sincere gratitude to Korean government for its humanitarian assistance for more than one million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals who have now taken shelter in Bangladesh. Our economy is becoming intensely engaged with the economy of the Republic of Korea. Our bilateral trade has reached over USD$1.5 billion in 2016-17 from only USD $22.86 million, in a little over one decade (2005). Republic of Korea is our 3rdsource of import, the first country to establish a private Export Processing Zone in Chittagong, Bangladesh and one of the largest foreign investors there, pioneer country to invest in RMG sector in Bangladesh in the 70s, followed by the investment of almost USD $1 billion in the late 90s. We are delighted to announce the presence of over 200 Korean companies in different sectors in Bangladesh including SK Group, Samsung and LG employing over 80,000 Bangladeshi workers in textiles, leather and other sectors.

Traditional products of Bangladesh are on display at the entrance of the reception venue at Millennium Seoul Hilton

We are thankful to the Korean Government for according duty-free and quota free access to our nearly 5000 products. Since Bangladesh government is presently implementing setting up of 100 Special Economic Zones and a number of Hi-tech Parks in Bangladesh, we will welcome Korean investments there which would further increase our trade and economic relationship. I am looking forward to working closely with the friendly Government, business community and the people of the Republic of Korea towards forging a greater cooperation and stronger partnership between our two countries. I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to the Government of the Republic of Korea, and particularly the Hon'ble Minister of Foreign Affairs and the colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and also the friendly people of this great country for extending all kinds of support to me since my arrival here three months ago. I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to our chief guest His Excellency Mr. Suh Jeong-in for joining us this evening despite his/her busy schedule.

Ambassador Abida Islam (left) poses with the President Chung Un-koo of Samyoung Express. President Chung takes strong interest in increasing investing in Bangladesh for the promotion of economic cooperation between Korea and Bangladesh. (right)

With these few words I would like to conclude now. I again thank you all for being with us this evening. Thank you. Long live Bangladesh! Long live Republic of Korea! Long live Bangladesh -Republic of Korea Friendship Excerpts from the speech of Deputy Minister Deputy Minister Suh of MOFA: Salam Walekum! Nomo Shekkal! (Greetings in Islam, Chrisitan and Hindu regions) On behalf of the people and government of the Republic of Korea, I am very delighted to be here this evening to celebrate the 47th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence Day. It is indeed my distinct honor and pleasure to be part of this truly auspicious occasion. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973, Korea and Bangladesh have built close ties of friendship and cooperation in a wide range of areas. In particular, Korea is the number one investor country in Bangladesh’s garment industry.

Mrs. Konul Teymurova (spouse of the ambassador of Azerbaijan and chairperson of the Ambassadors’ Spouses Club) is flanked on the left by Fashion Designer Jungdo Kim (son of famed late Fashion Maestro Andre Kim) on the and Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik (right) of the Korea Post on the right. Jungdo Kim is known to have a wider vision on the fashions than his father to properly meet the present-day requirements of the clientele.

Furthermore, the Chairman of the National Assembly visited Bangladesh last year and the vast community comprising of 15,000 Bangladeshi people in Korea is truly an invaluable asset to our bilateral relations Korea and Bangladesh both share the experience of overcoming colonialism and war. Defying all odds and challenges, both countries shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve development and prosperity. Korea and Bangladesh also share similar core values that make up our two nations. That is, pride in our mother language and cultural heritage. While Korea celebrates its official language, Hangeul, on Hangeul Day, Bangladesh has successfully turned its own mother language day into a UNESCO-rated international event. With our shared values and cooperation, Korea and Bangladesh can build a promising future together. This year, Bangladesh has graduated from its Least Developed Country status as announced by the UN Committee for Development Policy. A World Bank report estimated Bangladesh’s growth rate to reach the average rate of 6.7 percent over the next three years.

A Bangladeshi dance troupe who performed traditional Bangladeshi dances with songs.

In Bangladesh’s journey to be ‘Sonar Bangla’, Korea has been and will continue to be a robust and cooperative economic partner. Trade and investment between the two countries will expand further both in quantity and quality, and we hope to incorporate future industries such as energy and ICT into our cooperation agenda as well. Furthermore, Korea will continue to support Bangladesh as a priority partner country for ODA. In this regard, my government unveiled a new policy aimed at dramatically strengthening cooperation with South Asia, and I am confident the ‘New Southern Policy’ will enable Korea to better connect with Bangladesh. Let me congratulate you once again on the 47th anniversary of the Independence of Bangladesh, and I sincerely wish the Bangladeshi people living in Korea all the best in their future endeavors.

Hwi Won  edt@koreapost.com

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