Effectiveness of SAARC yet to end: PM

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DAVOS, Switzerland : Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ruled out the notion of losing effectiveness of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), saying that the regional grouping is “very much alive”.

“The effectiveness of SAARC is yet to end. The eight-nation regional body is very much alive and I think it has an opportunity to do more work for changing the lot of the people of South Asian region,” she said.

She added: “There is a need for regional cooperation for socioeconomic development of the people of the region.”

The Bangladesh prime minister expressed these views while participating in an interactive session on “Harnessing Regional Cooperation in South Asia” in the 47th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Congress Centre here on Tuesday evening.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, representatives and civil society members from different SAARC countries joined the interactive session.

Describing again poverty as the main enemy of the region, the prime
minister said: “Our main emphasis should be how we could eradicate poverty.”

She said to eradicate poverty, the SAARC countries will have to boost trade and commerce as well as connectivity and the people-to-people contact.

“We have been working on rooting out poverty,” she said, mentioning the initiatives for establishing BBIN, BCIM-EC and BIMSTEC forums.

She said the BCIM-EC forum is being set up to integrate China in the South Asian region in larger scale, while SAFTA is being strengthened for boosting trade and commerce.

The prime minister also said an initiative has been taken to launch SAARC Satellite on the orbit for development of telecommunications in the region.

Replying to a question from a Pakistani civil society member that “elderly people” are being hanged in the name of war crimes trial in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina told the questioner that “the people you have described as elderly were young in 1971 and criminals and they carried out genocide and atrocities.”

“They were involved in heinous crimes like killing, rape and burning and looting houses and the criminals are being tried and getting punishment within the law,” she added.

While talking about the US authority’s threat of withdrawal of their investment after the election of new US government, the prime minister said in the present global context it’s not an easy task to shift investment from one country to another location.

In this connection, she said her government is providing training to the youths to turn the huge manpower into human resources.

On the climate change issue, Sheikh Hasina said her government has
constituted Climate Change Trust Fund of 400 million US dollars to combat climate change.

“We have also undertaken 134 action plans for mitigation and adaptation of climate change,” she said.

In this regard, Sheikh Hasina renewed her call to the developed countries responsible for climate change to come forward to the assistance of climate vulnerable nations.

Replying to a question that whether there would be any impact on
environment due to construction of coal-based power plants in Bangladesh, the prime minister said high and modern technology is being used in building the coal-based power plants to keep pollution at the lowest level.

The prime minister said 24,000 megawatt electricity would be needed to turn Bangladesh into a middle income country by 2021. “To generate such amount of electricity, we will have to use coal,” she added.

Sheikh Hasina said the government has taken initiatives for generating electricity through renewable energy and setting up nuclear power plants. “Besides, we have to increase use of coal for boosting power production,” she said.

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