Bangladesh has called for joint efforts in the region to develop together for long-term stability and sustainable development saying the region offers vast potentials for mutual benefits, reports UNB.

"Bangladesh has mooted that we must focus on the countries of South Asia, sub-regionally, as in BBIN or regionally as in SAARC and Bimstec and harness all available synergies and vast potentials of this region for mutual benefits," said state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam.

The state minister made the remarks at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday virtually pointing out three basic strengths of the South Asian sub-region which they need to be collectively capitalised for a better tomorrow.

He said regional cooperation is one of the top foreign policy priorities of the government of Bangladesh since they firmly believe that it is essential that all the countries of the region develop together.

These are development vision, diversification of economy and huge internal market.

Shahriar said the government of Bangladesh under the leadership of prime minister Sheikh Hasina has undertaken a development vision to transform Bangladesh into a developing country by 2021, a developed one by 2041 and a prosperous delta by 2100.

Other South Asian countries are implementing similar programmes like Bhutan's five-year plan and Nepal's special drive to attract FDI.

"We need to formulate public policies and realign resources so that the development visions could be implemented without much hindrance," Shahriar said.

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On diversification of the economy, he said though Bangladesh has attained food self-sufficiency it has succeeded to shift a significant chunk of surplus labour from agriculture to the service sector of the economy.

Bangladesh has developed 100 Special Economic Zones which render One Stop Services to the investors.

"We've a very liberal investment regime and our universities produce a vast pool of English speaking IT literate graduates. We're also developing Hi-tech parks and incubation centres," Shahriar said.

He said the burgeoning IT sector is expected to offer employment opportunities to millions of youths who enter the job market round the year.

"Such diversification is a common feature of the South Asian economies which helps absorb any major shock. In another decade, we can expect a structural shift in much of the South Asian region," Shahriar said.

About the internal market, he said this is an obvious advantage of the South Asian economies. "However, the region is yet to take full advantage of its geographical contiguity and togetherness," said the state minister.


Because of the huge internal demand, Shahriar said, the region can remain relatively stable vis-a-vis global economic and political setbacks and uncertainties.

He said South Asia is also flanked by China and the ASEAN region with which the trade and investment ties are flourishing.

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The continued annual growth of 7 per cent will double the size of South Asian economies in the next decade, Shahriar said.

Despite encouraging signs, South Asia cannot remain complacent, he said.

To retain growth, the regional countries have to implement pre-declared reform measures and launch a new wave of structural reform, particularly in all factors of production such as land, labour and capital, said the state minister.

"These're urgent in attracting investment and expanding the economy's base," he said adding that trade and investment regimes should encourage the economic agents to participate in global production and manufacturing networks.

This is critical in elevating the region's economic standing at a time when the global trading regime is turning increasingly competitive, he said.

Shahriar said the South Asian region achieved consistent economic growth in the last three decades.

However, fact remains that this region is still not as integrated as the potentials would suggest, he said.

"We must acknowledge that South Asia's potentials to grow are enormous," Shahriar said adding that the journey is still bumpy.

Nepal’s foreign affairs minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Maldives’ foreign affairs Abdullah Sahid, India’s minister of state for road transport and highways VK Singh, and Nepal’s Chaudhary Group chariman Binod K Chaudhary, also attended the meeting.