Colombo, September 1 (newsin.asia): The Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, Tofail Ahmed, has urged Indian Ocean littoral countries to relax their visa regimes to enable free flow of people as tourists, traders and investors between the countries of the IOR.
Addressing the Second Indian Ocean Conference here held under the aegis of the India Foundation on August 31 and September 1, Ahmed said: “ Tourism has a great prospect in the region and in order to realize the full potential in the tourism sector, we need to consider liberalization of visa regime and enhance land, air and maritime connectivity within the region.”
Referring to the other issue of quality standards recognition, Ahmed said: “It would be of great advantage to one another if we could recognize the quality and standards of various services of one another with a target of enhancing overall trade among the countries of the Indian Ocean Region.”
Referring to the economic issues faced by Bangladesh and the way it is overcoming them to forge ahead, Ahmed said: “With a population of about 160 million, dwelling in an area of only 1,47,570 square kilometers, the major challenges for Bangladesh are ensuring food security, generating employment opportunities, eradicating poverty and bringing economic emancipation at large.”
“However even with these huge challenges, Bangladesh has been able to sustain GDP growth at around 6 per cent for the last ten years, and its per capita income has been continuously on the rise, which is now stand at $ 1602.”
“Bangladesh has demonstrated robust growth in the export sector. In F/Y 2015-16 our export was 34.26 billion U.S $ with a growth 0f 9.77% ,” Ahmed said.
“The Bangladesh economy is export based. Our export growth is now 9.77% whereas global growth is 3%. Bangladesh is now positioned as the 31 st. country in respect to GDP. Now our foreign exchange reserves are US$ 32 billion which can meet 12 months’ import bill. Besides RMG Bangladesh is also exporting medicines to 162 countries around the world and can fulfill 98% of its local demand.”
“Our electricity generation reached to 15000 mw, literacy rate is 71%, life expectancy is 70.30%, poverty has been reduced to 22% from 43%. MDG achievement is highest among the LDC countries. Food production has reached t 3 crore 83 lakh mt.”
“Bangladesh is developing very fast. Very soon it will graduate from LDC and by 2041 it will become one of the eleven economic powers,” the Minister said.
“The government of Bangladesh, under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, strongly believes in fair trade, inclusive welfare and also cooperation with other countries in the arena of trade and investment,” he added
With growing population in many of Indian Ocean Region countries, harnessing sea resources and sea-based economic activities are more important now than before.
“We need greater cooperation in the areas of marine fisheries, shipping, sea-bed exploration and renewable energy towards achieving a sustainable Blue Economy in the region. With this in mind, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since coming to power in 2009 took proactive steps to settle maritime boundaries with our two neighboring countries, India and Myanmar, through legal adjudication. The settlement of the maritime boundary has now opened up new opportunities to economic activities in the Bay of Bengal,” Ahmed said.
“Maritime security is very important in the Indian Ocean as about 50% of the world’s container trade passes through its waters. Unfortunately, maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean is a stumbling block to ensuring peace, progress and prosperity in the region. Therefore, countries need appropriate measures to address this challenge. Bangladesh believes that effective port administration, well-equipped enforcement agency, judicial and legislative capacity-building as well as counter-piracy measures in the ships are some important immediate measures which need to be taken,” Ahmed said.
Referring to disaster management, he said: “The Indian Ocean is the most disaster-prone area in the world. Our region witnesses 70% of the world’s natural disasters causing untold human suffering. Recent severe floods in a large part of South Asia and the resultant death of many lives and also loss of property in Nepal, India and Bangladesh are a testimony to that. Only a coordinated approach among the countries of the region can mitigate the loss of lives and properties.”
“Climate change is taking place and we need to assess and address the ecological and environmental related challenges to our countries, including water resources; agriculture and food security.”
(The featured picture at the top is that of the Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed)