Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said hunger has already been eradicated from the country and vowed afresh to make a poverty-free Bangladesh.
“We’ve been able to make the country free from hunger. So, now we’ll have to make it completely poverty-free,” she said while inaugurating the weeklong PKSF Development Fair 2019 in the city.
Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) arranged the programme at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
The Prime Minister said the government is implementing 125 programmes under the social safety net. An amount of Tk 74,000 crore is being spent from the national budget for the social safety net to alleviate poverty.
“We’ve been implementing these programmes to strengthen social empowerment. The rural and grassroots people are getting benefits of the programmes,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Awami League prepared the action plans to fight poverty even when it was in the opposition.
“I always say that our main enemy is poverty. So, we’ll have to fight poverty and make people free from it. We’ve prepared the action plans with this goal. We did it when we were in the opposition,” she said.
Hasina said poverty rate declined to 21 percent from 41 percent in 2006. “But our goal is to bring down it to at least 15-16 percent so that Bangladesh does not remain poor and can run on its own feet. InsAllah, we’ll be able to do so,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the country is marching forward and will continue to do so. “No one can take the country back any more in the future.”
After coming to power in 1996, her government undertook ‘One House, One Farm’ project to make every family free from poverty, she said, adding that the project has been renamed as ‘My House My Farm’ now.
‘Microcredit nurtures poverty’
In an oblique reference to Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus, Sheikh Hasina said someone tried to get appreciation over microcredit and her party also supported it thinking that it would help people come out from the poverty margin.
“But we observed it (microcredit) closely and found that poverty is not alleviated with microcredit rather it nurtures poverty,” she said.
The Prime Minister said Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started microcredit programme immediately after the independence. “But somebody in the country started pretending as the pioneer of microcredit and also earned name and fame in the world.”
Though he earned fame, the people of the country did not benefit much from his microcredit activities, Hasina said.
‘PKSF founded to eradicate poverty’
She said her government emphasised industrialisation alongside the development of the agricultural sector. The government is setting up 100 special economic zones across the country to protect arable lands from haphazard industrialisation, Hasina added.
The Prime Minister said PKSF was founded to eradicate poverty through creating jobs. But it turned into a microcredit body. “Currently, we’re using PKSF for the overall development bringing it out of microcredit territory.”
PKSF is also emphasising education and health, skill development and technology alongside creating jobs for the poor, she said.
Currently, PKSF is working for the economic development and improving the living standard of 14 million poor people and family incorporating various income-generating activities, she noted.
Besides, PKSF is specially contributing to the development of economy through technology expansion, processing, marketing, development of value chain of agricultural products and skilled entrepreneurs, Hasina said.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal also spoke at the function chaired by PKSF Chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad. PKSF Managing Director Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah delivered the welcome speech.
In the inaugural session of the fair, lifetime achievement award was given to Begum Matia Chowdhury for her outstanding contributions to the field of poverty alleviation through development of the agricultural sector as the Agriculture Minister during the 1996-2001 and 2009-2013 periods.
Some 130 organisations, including partner organisations (non-government organisations funded under various programmes) of the PKSF, will showcase their products at 190 stalls in the weeklong exposition.
The fair will remain open for visitors from 10am to 8:30pm every day till November 20.