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Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday renewed her vows for tougher and continued crusade against corruption for expedited development pace and sought the countrymen’s vigil against any impediment to upset the nation’s journey forward.

“There are elements who look for ways to grab people’s wealth using different techniques, (but) we have taken strict stance against corruption,” she said in a nationwide televised address coinciding with the beginning of the third year of the third term of her government.

Sheikh Hasina said the corrupt elements irrespective of their political or party links and influence “are not being and will not be” spared to clear the development highway obstacles and reminded all that the Anti Corruption Commission was carrying on its mission 'independently'.

The prime minister simultaneously sought everyone’s sharp vigil against any obstacle that could hinder the rapidness of the current development pace saying the nation was now embarked on a journey on the development highway.

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“We are firmly committed to removing all hurdles on the way of development,” she said adding that, at the same time, her government would do everything needed to ensure people’s civic and democratic rights, upholding the rule of law.

Sheikh Hasina said her government prevented the rise of militancy with an iron hand and kept its cultural and spiritual heritage of being a nation of interfaith harmony.

“The followers of all religions, faiths and casts have been living together maintaining mutual respect and they will do so in the future as well,” she said.

The prime minister said the COVID-19 pandemic left a huge scar throughout the globe when the cyclone Amphan, repeated and prolonged flooding alongside the pandemic exposed Bangladesh economy to a deeper crisis, which “we managed to overcome with firmness”.

“The world is yet to be freed from the coronaviris crisis (but) by the grace of Almighty Allah the death rate and infection rate caused by the pandemic continued to remain much low in Bangladesh,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said her government put in its all efforts to contain the pandemic and ensure the import of its vaccine as quick as possible.

“Frontline warriors like physicians, health workers, and law enforcement agency members will have the priority in getting the inoculate as soon as the vaccines are available” in the country, the premier said.

She reiterated her clarion call upon all to follow health guidelines, meanwhile, such as wearing of facemasks properly.

The prime minister said Bangladesh kept stabilised its economic performance defying COVID-19 onslaughts and “according to our estimates this year our GDP growth rate will stand at 7.4 per cent.

She said different international agencies predicted Bangladesh to be on the top of the countries with higher GDP growth in Asia while the International Monitory Fund (IMF) report said Bangladesh was third top scorer among the nations across the globe.

Sheikh Hasina pointed out that the Bangladesh GDP last year grew by 5.24 per cent when the per capita income stood at US$2,064.

The new year in the Gregorian calendar marked the beginning of the third year of the incumbent government’s current term when the nation awaited golden jubilee celebrations of the Independence amidst Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“The coming 26 March will mark the golden jubilee of our Independence. We will celebrate it with all festivity InshaAllah if the coronavirus disappears. Simultaneously the Father of the Nation’s birth centenary functions will continue,” she said.

The prime minister said that remarkable developments since her government’s assumption to power in 2009 by now was established Bangladesh as a self-dignified country in the global stage.

“(Yet) we have miles to go. The path might be smooth or uneven. We have to reach the desired target however difficult the path is, as the Bangalee is a nation of heroes,” she said.

“If we work hard and perform our duties with honesty and patriotism, We will be successful, InshaAllah.”

The premier urged the nation to take a fresh vow to build a welfare-oriented and non-communal Bangladesh eradicating hunger, poverty and illiteracy as dreamt by Bangabandhu.

The state-run Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and private TV and radio channels broadcast live her address.

Sheikh Hasina was sworn-in as the prime minister for the fourth time, third in a row, on 7 January 2019 after her Bangladesh Awami League secured a landslide victory in the general elections held on 30 December 2018.

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Sheikh Hasina outlined her government’s policies and strategies to negate the pandemic impact on Bangladesh economy particularly keeping in mind the issues of poorer people.

“We have so far announced stimulus packages of Tk 1210 billion which is equivalent to 4.3 per cent of the total GDP. We are still continuing the process considering the situation,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said during the crisis the social safety net was widened to bring around 2.5 crore grassroots people under financial and other assistance programmes.

The prime minister said the pandemic forced closure of educational institutions in Bangladesh as elsewhere in the globe but students continued to attend classes on virtual media.

She said the schools and other educational institutions would be reopened as soon as the normalcy returned.

Sheikh Hasina said her government continued to make all efforts to resolve another crisis involving the Rohingyas of Myanmar to send peacefully all the 1.1 million of them back to their homeland, from where they were forcibly displaced.

“I call upon the international community to take more effective measures to repatriate Rohingyas to their own country,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said her government built improved and well designed infrastructures in Bhasan Char to accommodate 100,000 Rohingyas there.

But, she said, only those who voluntarily expressed their desire to be moved to the island were being relocated there from their current crammed makeshift abodes in Cox’s Bazar.

The prime minister said her government has been working to establish peace in the world following the foreign policy “friendship to all, malice to none” adopted by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

She noted with happiness that Bangladesh at this moment has secured the number one position in terms of peacekeepers number in the United Nations blue helmet missions in troubled parts of the globe.

The prime minister said the COVID-19 pandemic not only affected Bangladesh but also put a huge negative blow on the global economy.

She said the government has been trying its best to keep the wheel of economy rolling through different policy supports and financial stimulus schemes such as Taka 121,000 crore packages, cash incentive to 2.5 crore marginal people and expansion of social safety net etc, she said.

Referring to the achievement of 5.24 per cent GDP growth in the last fiscal during this pandemic, Sheikh Hasina said GDP growth has been projected 7.4 per cent in the current fiscal and several international organisations have predicted Bangladesh’s economic growth in 2020 will be the highest in South Asia.

Besides, IMF’s report said Bangladesh would secure third position among the highest GDP registered countries in 2020 while the country was in number 9 among the 66 emerging economies in 2020 as per the Economist magazine, she added.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would be the 24th largest economy within 2030 as forecast by the World Economic Forum.

“The country would be a higher middle-income nation by 2031 and higher-income one by 2041, and in this connection, the second Perspective Plan 2021-2041 has been framed under Vision-2041,” she said.

The prime minister said the Eighth Five Year Plan (2021-2025) has been approved last week that aims to cut down poverty rate to 15.6 per cent and extreme poverty rate to 7.4 per cent along with registering 8.51 per cent GDP growth at the end of 2025.

The head of the government also highlighted implementation status of different mega projects such as Padma Bridge (82 per cent) after the installation of the last span, first unit of 1,200-MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (80 per cent) and tunnel under Karnaphuli River (62 per cent).

Requesting the countrymen to remember the measurable scenarios of the power supply system before 2009, Sheikh Hasina said her government has added 19,000 MW power to the national grid during 2009 to 2020 and now the daily generation capacity has stood at 24,421 MW.

Population coverage of electricity has reached 99 per cent from the 47 per cent in 2005-06, while a 1,320-MW power plant at Payra has been installed recently and the work for other power plants with 7,800-MW capacity at Rampal, Payra, Banshkhali, Moheshkhali and Matarbari are going on, she said.

The prime minister said all houses would be illuminated as the government would provide power connection to cent per cent population during the “Mujib Borsha” and the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.

Mentioning that Bangladesh secured third spot, climbing from the fourth place in rice production, she said continuous policy support and stimulation to the agriculture sector has helped to achieve this success.

Turing to the road communication, Sheikh Hasina said the government has developed 63,655-km rural road while upgraded 453km highways into four-lane during 2009 to 2020. “The construction work of 46.73-km elevated expressway in Dhaka from airport to Kutubkhali would be completed by 2020 and upgradation work of 661-km highways is progressing fast,” she said.

Besides, the prime minister said, the government has set up 451-km new rail line, while renovated 1,181km rail track and constructed 428 rail bridges during 2009 to 2020 along with laying the foundation stone of 4.8-km Rail Bridge on the Jamuna River few days back.

She went on saying the government has procured a total of 1,040 locomotives, passenger carriages and goods-laden wagons along with introduction of 137 new trains to Bangladesh Railway.

Sheikh Hasina said 12 brand new Boeing aircraft including Dreamliners have been inducted into the fleet of Biman Bangladesh Airlines while a Dash-8-400 aircraft has been added to it last month and another two Dash-8-400 aircraft are on the way.