WASHINGTON, October 15, 2009 – Bangladesh is getting better. The South Asian nation, one of the world’s poorest, is on a steady path of economic development, and may even become a model for governments seeking to integrate Islamic values with a modern democracy.
That is the assessment from James Moriarty, the US ambassador to Bangladesh. Speaking at an Asia Society event at the Metropolitan Club, Moriarty said that the US policy known as “3D” – for Democracy, Development, and the Denial of space to terrorism – is helping improve the Bangladeshi economy.
The “free and fair election” of December 2008, said Ambassador Moriarty, demonstrates the compatibility between Islamic culture and democratic values. “The ruling Awami League government, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, operates on the basis of a strong electoral mandate. Bangladesh today is a secular, pluralistic and religiously diverse nation,” Moriarty said. Washington wants to expand cooperation with Dhaka, said the ambassador, who noted that Bangladesh is home to the world’s fourth largest Muslim population and “has a special role to play as a global bridge.”
One of the things going well in Bangladesh, according to Moriarty, is the economy, which is growing at 5 percent a year despite the global recession. The engine of this growth is exports, driven by the textile sector, while remittances from the global Bangladeshi diaspora also help. The US is the largest export market for ready-made garments from Bangladesh and the second-largest origin of remittances to Bangladesh.
The government welcomes foreign investment, but openness will not work without a reform of education, said Moriarty. America supports the reform of madrassas, or Islamic schools, initiated by Sheikh Hasina’s government: the reform will help the schools to “better prepare young Bangladeshis to compete in the global economy and serve as global citizens,” said Moriarty.
Still, Bangladesh faces today many of its old challenges, said Moriarty, including bitter bipartisanship, corruption, a high poverty rate, and human trafficking. Those dangers compound the threat, for a nation lying mostly at sea level, of rising oceans caused by climate change.
Reported by Janice Chiayen Tu, Asia Society Washington Center
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