Dwelling on the issue of Bangladesh's graduation towards a middle income country and its challenges ahead, Per Olsson Fridh said, “I met so many strong individuals and communities that despite vulnerability are determined to create a better tomorrow for themselves as well as their children. And I think in this 50 years, this process has really shown that Bangladeshi people have great aspirations and they are committed to continue making their lives better. And to be able to have it within 50 years, of course, is a success. But also, of course, looking forward this transition means a couple of things that Bangladesh still needs to take up successfully to become a middle income country. A stable economy of tomorrow must be built on renewable energy not on fossil fuel. Stable market economy also needs transparency. Also it needs accountability and strong social dialogue.”

Expressing his country's interest to continuing the partnership, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation said, “We also have to think that even when the country as a whole graduates, there will still millions of people within the status of extremely poor. So in pockets of success there will also be pockets of vulnerability and poverty. And to close these pockets is something that we want to partner with Bangladesh even on post graduation. It changes development cooperation. There is an economic development so maybe we do not have focus on economic development as such in our cooperation. But to make it inclusive, those who are left behind much has market access and be enhanced.”

Responding to a query on attracting more investment of his country in Bangladesh, Per Olsson Fridh said, “Prior to my visit here I met Swedish private sector actors and I understand that Bangladesh needs to see two things to enhance our investment for future. One of them is the energy mix, the demand of the consumer side for more carbon neutral products. If Bangladesh could guarantee that we can produce with renewable energy, then we are more interested to continue investing. The other one is social dialogue. We need to make sure that people have the freedom and the right to organise themselves to protect themselves at the workplace, welfare that is more inclusive. There is also continued demand from the consumer side for fair trade. Yes, human rights are important for individuals but it also means for a society and its institution which is prerequisite for sustainable market economy and transition from LDC.”

The Swedish minister also opined that apart from energy mix and social dialogue the country needs to have transparency and predictability in the system. Also, civil society and media must be allowed to hold decision makers accountable. These were key elements for improving investment.

Despite several rights indexes of some international organisations including Transparency International, where there were worrying trends of Bangladesh coming down few points, he found civil society was thriving in Bangladesh.

During his week-long trip to Bangladesh, the Swedish minister visited Cox's Bazar to see the plight of the Rohingyas. Responding to a question, he said that the repatriation of the Rohingyas to their place of origin in the Rakhine is unlikely in near future due to the coup of Myanmar on 1 February.

Per Olsson Fridh said, “The neigbouring countries can create the best pressure on Myanmar to accept fair, open and democratically held election. Unfortunately that has not happened.”

Appreciating Bangladesh's role in the multilateral forums, Per Olsson Fridh said, “Bangladesh is a very strong multilateral player and will continues to be so post graduation from LDC. And I'm sure about that.”

During the week-long visit from 13 March, the minister had constructive discussions with representatives of the government, including prime minister Sheikh Hasina, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, finance minister Mustafa Kamal and environment minister Md Shahab Uddin.

He also met civil society as well as youth and national and international development partners, to get their view on development and the opportunities and challenges of the future.

In his meetings with his Bangladesh counterparts, the minister held discussions on areas where Sweden and Bangladesh might cooperate more closely, including climate change adaption and mitigation, social dialogue and rights in the workplace.

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