Address 2000

Address of the Hon'ble President 
Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed at the 
First Session of 2000 of the 
Seventh Jatiya Sangsad


January 01, 2000

 

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Janab Speaker,

I am delighted to have the privilege to address this august parliament at the dawn of the new millennium

            2.     The greatest achievement of the Bangali nation in the 20th century is the independence of Bangladesh. Today, the nation proudly remembers the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose unique leadership brought us independence and also remembers with gratitude, all the freedom fighters.

3.     During the past year we lost three Hon'ble members of parliament, Janab Ahammed Ali, Advocate Janab Mohammad Mosharaf Hossain and Janab A K M Shamsul Haque. We also lost famous personalities like the highly respected and exceptionally noble lady, Poet Begum Sufia Kamal, childrens' dearest, juvenile litterateur and organizer, journalist Rukonuzzaman Khan (Dadabhai), distinguished philosopher Dewan Mohammad Azraf and learned professor Abdur  Razzak.  I pray to Allah, the Almighty and the Merciful, for granting eternal peace to the departed souls of all the respected personalities, political leaders and members of parliament.

4.     Our country of abundant water, fertile land and green granary, is rich in tradition and heritage. By declaring 21st February, the symbol of our Language Movement, as the International Mother Language Day', the UNESCO and all the member countries of this UN-body have glorified both the Bengali Language and Bangladesh. All the nations of the world will remember our heroic language martyrs with reverence when this day will be observed. It is a glorious attainment for us. The UNESCO has bestowed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the citizens of Bangladesh with rare honour and dignity by awarding her the 'Felix Houphouet Boigny' peace prize in recognition of her outstanding contribution in restoring peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by resolving the long standing conflict and strife. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also brought unique honour for the country and the nation by winning the prestigious 'Ceres Award' of the FAO for her relentless struggle to alleviate hunger of the poverty-stricken people by attaining self-sufficiency in food.  I congratulate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on behalf of the fellow countrymen and on my behalf for raising Bangladesh's position to a respectable and dignified level in the international arena.

Janab Speaker,

5.     The Awami League government has attached highest priority to poverty alleviation through faster economic growth, along with generation of employment, development of human resources and re-vitalization of the rural economy. Despite the global economic recession the country has maintained macro-economic stability due to the effective steps taken by the government.  Although the economy of the country sustained heavy losses due to the devastating floods of 1998, the economy continued to grow at a rate of over 5% every year during the past three years. The well-balanced policy framework of the government, rapid and timely action, massive relief and rehabilitation efforts, assistance by the development partners and above all, the sincere endeavour and efforts of the peasants, labourers, social workers and people of all walks of life made this unprecedented achievement possible.

6.     It is the declared policy of the government to gradually reduce dependence on external assistance by increasing use of domestic recourses. Keeping this policy in view the Budget for the current year and the Annual Development Programme has been prepared. In recent years dependence on external assistance has been reduced to a great extent. Increase in export earnings and remittances from abroad have also substantially minimized the imbalance in the external sector. Efforts are on to further reduce dependence on foreign assistance and narrow the deficit in collection of revenue by increased mobilization of domestic resources through tax reforms.

7.           A number of reformatory steps have been taken in the current budget in respect of direct and indirect taxes, aiming at simplification of tax procedures, reduction of tax burden and expansion of domestic industries. Ceiling of tax-free income for the individuals has been raised. The highest rate of import duty of 40% has been reduced to 37.50%. To help the expansion of domestic industries duty on raw materials has been reduced from 30% to 25%. Surcharges on some type of fertilizers have been withdrawn to help the agriculture sector.

8.     Keeping in view the availability of domestic and external resources the Annual Development Programme for the year 1999-2000 has been prepared with an outlay of Tk. 15,500 crore. This allocation exceeds the revised allocation of 1998-99 by Tk. 1,500 crore. During last year overall progress in project implementation in financial terms was 89%. In view of the adverse effects of flood that lasted for a period of about three months this progress in project implementation can definitely be termed quite satisfactory.

9.     Education has been given the highest priority in the National Budget. With the objective to develop human resources, implement compulsory primary education and remove illiteracy by the year 2006, the present government has achieved a remarkable progress in the field of education by adopting a number of pragmatic programmes. The rate of literacy has gone up to 58% from the level of 34.5% in 1991. It is expected to reach 60% by the end of this fiscal year. Gross enrolment of students has also gone up to 96% from 76% in 1991. The rate of completion of primary education cycle has also increased from 40% to 65%. The 'Bangabandhu Literacy Award' has been introduced with the proceeds from the  'UNESCO International   Literacy   Award 1998' received by Bangladesh in recognition of her commitment to free Bangladesh from the curse of illiteracy. The mass literacy programme being implemented throughout the country under the supervision of the Deputy Commissioners has already freed the districts of Lalmonirhat, Chuadanga, Magura, Rajshahi, Jaipurhat, and Gazipur from the curse of illiteracy. The literacy drive is going on in other districts as well for the newly literates refresher education programme will also be introduced A scheme for granting scholarships through the "Children Welfare Trust" has been taken up to help the working-children to pursue higher studies up to the SSC level.

10.   In order to develop a system of education suitable for the present time, primary schools will be built in every village as necessary, by the year 2002. The work for setting up 20,000 satellite schools within the catchment areas of the primary schools and 5,000 non-government primary schools in the school-less villages, is in progress. Already, 3,200 satellite schools have been constructed. To ensure increase in enrolment of children of school-going age, maintain their regular attendance in schools and to retain them till completion of the primary education cycle to prevent child  labour, the 'Food for Education Programme' will be further strengthened and the free distribution of books to the students of the primary schools will be continued.

11.   The governmenthas formulated a scientific, pragmatic and planned Education Policy that suits the modern age to build up an educated, progressive, science-oriented, patriotic, competent nation imbued with ethical and moral values. With the objective of expanding science education in the country that suits the present time, setting up of 12 Science and Technology Universities is in progress. For the development of science and technology-based education, computer courses are being introduced in all government andnon-government educational institutions.  To expand the facilities of technical and vocational education, programmes have been drawn up to establish 16 new Polytechnic and 13 Vocational Training Institutes. Besides, a plan is underway to introduce SSC vocational course in private schools and HSC business management course in 200 non-government colleges. A "Welfare Trust" has been set-up for the non-government teachers and staff.

12.   The  'Bangabandhu Fellowship Scheme' has been introduced to facilitate higher training and-research for the development of human resources in the field of science and technology. Under this scheme, the scope for research and the study of science and technology will be expanded through increased number of scholarships in the universities. Promising scientists are being sent abroad in larger numbers for higher education and research. The network of our interaction and co-operation with the international organizations and the organizations of the developed countries involved in scientific and technological development are being widened.

13.   Compared to previous years the present government has taken up significant programmes for the development of madrasah education along with increased allocation of funds.  To modernize madrasah education subjects of science, vocational trades, business management and commerce, etc. have been added to the curricula and a Training Institute has been established for madrasah teachers. The scheme of imparting education through the mosques has been expanded further.

14.   For the rapid expansion of female education, the government has already nationalized 18 private girls' colleges. Programme has been drawn up to set up three technical institutes for girls and six women technical training centres, one in each division.  Construction of Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Women Technical Training Centre has already started at Mirpur in Dhaka. Stipend and tuition fee facilities are being extended to the girl students at secondary level. As a result, the number of girl students at primary and secondary levels has increased to a level almost equal to the ratio of women in the population.

15.   Government has been ceaselessly working to achieve 'Health for All' and improve the standard of living of the common people. With this end in view, the 'National Health Policy' has been finalized. Construction work of 13,500 community clinics is progressing fast all over the country under the Health and Population Sector Programme to ensure essential health services to the general public by providing minimum health care for the mothers, children and the poor. Number of beds in the District and Medical College Hospitals as well as Thana Hospitals has been raised by about 2,400. An effective referral system will be put in place by gradually increasing number of beds in hospitals. More than 2,000 doctors and 4,000 nurses have already been appointed. Additional doctors, nurses and paramedics will be appointed for rendering appropriate services.

16.   Substantial progress has been achieved in the fields of control of infectious diseases, health improvement activities and improvement of nutrition status. Child and maternal mortality rate have been falling. Programmes for the eradication of polio and leprosy are being carried out successfully. As a result of the successful implementation of the family planning programme and mother and child care activities, population growth has come down to 1.6%.

17.   For the overall development of public health by providing easy access to drinking water, this year 50,000 tubewells will be sunk in the rural areas. Water supply in 141 municipalities are also being improved and expanded. To mitigate the arsenic problems in tubewell water, steps have been taken for the survey and investigation about the presence of arsenic in ground water and for supplying of arsenic-free water.

18.   Water supply in Dhaka city has been increased from 93 crore litres to 114 crore litres. With the completion of the on-going Syedabad Water Treatment Plant, water supply in Dhaka metropolis will increase further. To improve water supply in Chittagong city, four projects are being implemented. By improving the drainage system in the Dhaka city, problem of water logging has been reduced to a great extent.

Janab Speaker.

19.   The availability of essential agricultural inputs including fertilizer and the reform measures taken to modernize and improve agricultural management has yielded positive results in agricultural production. Despite heavy losses sustained in the devastating flood of FY 1998-99, food production increased to 2.19 crore tons owing to a bumper harvest in boro and wheat. The growth rate of crop production increased to 4.3% in 1998-99 compared to 2.8% in 1995-96.

20.   To extend practical support to agriculture and the farmers, the 'National Agriculture Policy' has been declared and the new 'Seed Regulations' and the 'Fertilizer Control Order' have been issued. Allocation of funds for the agriculture sector in the Annual Development Programme has been increased. Various development projects are being implemented to apply modern technology in agricultural production, increase production of high yielding varieties of seeds and ensure balanced use of fertilizer. To maintain prices of agricultural inputs within the reach of the farmers, subsidy on agriculture is being given along with reduction of import duty on agricultural machinery. Besides, for the first time a large number of share-croppers have been provided with loans on easy terms without any collateral. Recovery rate of these loans is also satisfactory.  These supportive policies and development programmes of the Government are expected to contribute to increase production of food-grains in the country to 2.5 crore tons in the year 2002. I am hopeful that this will help us in attaining self-sufficiency in food very soon.

21.    To ensure fair price to farmers for their produce, the procurement prices of IRRI-Boro and Aman paddy and rice have been increased compared to those of the last year. The internal procurement of 6.4 lakh tons of IRRI-Boro rice and 2.56 lakh tons of wheat this year is an all-time record.  The internal foodgrain procurement of the government has resulted in the infusion of about Tk. 1,012 crore into the rural economy which has made immense contribution in re-vitalizing the rural economy. Food-grain reserve in the country is now at a very satisfactory level. At the beginning of the new year, the foodgrain reserve is at a record level of over 15 lakh tons.

22.   Considering the importance of fisheries and livestock sectors in the economy and in meeting the nutritional requirement, these sectors have been earmarked as priority sectors.  Successful implementation of the 'National Fishery Policy' formulated by the present government, has resulted in the preservation of fisheries resources and significant increase in fish production. Government patronization of private entrepreneurs has resulted in the increase of dairy farms in the private sector and in reducing import of powder milk to a large extent. As a result employment opportunities have been created and animal protein shortage is declining.

23.   In order to meet the increasing demand for forest resources and in conformity with the changing world environment, various programs are being implemented throughout the country for afforestation, wildlife and habitat management, preservation of bio-diversity, etc. During the past three years afforestation of more than 29,000 hectares and creation of 10,000 kilometres of strip forests have been completed along with social afforestation, thereby generating employment for the poor and unemployed freedom Fighters and ensuring their livelihood. This has resulted in the increase of forest areas by 1.72% during the last three years.

24.   The government is very much aware of and active to preserve, develop and keep the environment free from pollution. Significant successes have been achieved in the preservation and management of environment through the implementation of a number of projects. From July 1999, supply of lead free gasoline has been ensured. To supply environment-friendly gasoline, efforts are on to increase use of compressed natural gas.

25.   Considering the need for the integrated development and management of water resources of the country, the government has formulated the 'National Water Policy'. This will act as a milestone for the planned development of water resources of the country. Based on the guidelines stipulated in the 'National Water Policy', preparation for the formulation of the 'National Water Management Plan' has also started.

26.   Due to the certainty of availability of water under the historic Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, dredging work of the Gorai river has started to restore its flows. With the completion of dredging, salinity in the project area will be reduced and retention of ground water at upper layers of the soil will be stabilized. Programme for the conclusion of agreements on sharing of waters of other common rivers including the Teesta is in progress.  In the meantime, both the countries had already agreed on some vital issues concerning sharing of water of the Teesta.

27.   The Government has formulated a pragmatic Industrial Policy. This policy has widened the scope and opportunities for the development of private sector and foreign   investment. In the meanwhile, investment agreements have already been signed with China, Poland, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and North Korea and investment agreements with 12 more countries are under process.

28.   In the Industrial sector the government is playing the role of a facilitator instead of a regulator in order to increase local and foreign private investment. During the period from July, 1996 to December, 1998 the Board of Investment registered 439 foreign and joint-venture investment proposals worth US $6.4 billion. About 60% of the projects registered with the Board of Investment are now under implementation.  On completion, these projects will generate job opportunities for over one lakh people.   To gear-up domestic and foreign investment, attractive incentive packages have been announced along with the introduction of 'One stop' service at the Board of Investment. Goods worth $712 million have been exported from the two export processing zones in Chittagong and Dhaka during FY 1998-99. The development works of Mongia and Ishwardi Export Processing Zones are expected to be completed by June next year.  Being attracted by the facilities offered by the government, local and foreign industrial entrepreneurs are coming forward to set-up private export processing zones. Recently, the Honourable Prime Minister had inaugurated construction works of two private export processing zones in Chittagong District, one of which will be built exclusively with foreign investment.

29.   The public sector fertilizer factories are producing about 90% of the requirement of fertilizer in the country. Initiatives are on to set up new fertilizer factories at different parts of the country to achieve self-sufficiency in urea. To improve the quality of newsprint produced in the country, modernization work of Khulna Newsprint Mill has been taken up. Construction of 17 industrial estates is going on for expansion of small and cottage industries along with large and medium industrial plants. The process to transfer nine Textile and Spinning Mills of Bangladesh Textile Mills Corporation to the workers is at the final stage.

30.   Despite decline in the demand for jute due to the extensive use of artificial fibre and synthetic goods worldwide, jute continues to play an important role in our export trade. The per acre yield of raw jute has nearly doubled as a result of various steps taken to increase production. At present more than 90% of the equipment and spares for jute mills are being produced in the country. Steps have been taken for innovating alternative uses of jute. Encouraging results have been achieved in the diverse and alternative production of jute goods like jute pulp for manufacturing paper, fine jute thread for manufacturing cloth, jute blanket, plastic granules, etc.

31.   Three projects are being implemented this year with a view to alleviating poverty and improving standard of living of the weavers and increasing production of handloom. Construction of 'Benarasi Palli' at Mirpur in Dhaka for development and production of the traditional Benarasi textile is nearing completion. A programme has also been taken up to construct a 'Benarasi Palli' at Ishwardi. In the current fiscal year, Taka five crore have been allocated to provide working capital to the marginal weavers. BMRE of Rajshahi and Thakurgaon Silk Mills have been completed. Bangladesh Sericulture Board is implementing five projects including construction of a 'Sericulture Town', production of high quality eggs, cocoon and silk for the overall development of sericulture industry.

32.   Our export earnings have gone up to US $5,313 million during FY 1998-99 from US $3,880 million during 1995-96. In spite of the effects of regional economic instability and adverse impact of the most devastating flood of the century on production and export for long three months, the government was successful in maintaining growth in the export sector during the last fiscal year.

33.   Our export is limited to a few items. Therefore, it is necessary to widen the export base.   The 'Export Diversification Project' has been taken up with the objective of expanding the export base and export market, through strengthening and re-organizing export infrastructure. Under this project exporters will be given direct assistance to improve quality of their export products and expand export market along with modernizing the Tariff Commission and the National Board of Revenue. The government has initiated various steps to develop production of new items such as computer software and data entry services, fresh flower, jewelry etc. and promote their export.

34.   To increase the employment opportunities abroad for our skilled, semi-skilled and un-skilled workers and for gradually increasing foreign exchange earning from overseas remittances, programmes are going on for imparting training to our nationals to improve their skill and to assist them in their search for employment. From January to October, 1999 about 2.27 lakh workers got employment abroad. During this period, our nationals working abroad remitted a sum of Tk. 7,103 crore.

35.   After assumption of office the present government had taken various measures for reforms and development of the power sector to meet the ever-increasing demand for electricity. In the private sector, a number of power generation plants are now under implementation. In the meantime, four power generation plants in the private sector are generating 372 MW of electricity.   With the commissioning of the under-construction private power plants, additional 928 MW of electricity will be generated. Beside private initiatives, construction of power generation plants in the public sector is also under process. Rehabilitation of existing plants and commissioning of two new power plants in the public sector has resulted in the increase in power generation by 670 MW. Thus a total of 1,042 MW of power have been added during the last three years.

36.   Under the power sector reforms programme, a number of steps have already been taken, like necessary amendments in the existing Electricity Laws, enactment of the  'Electricity Reforms Act', rationalization of areas earmarked for the power distribution agencies and formation of various power companies. To ensure fair and just competitionbetween the public and private investments in the power sector and to make power available to consumers at a reasonable price, it has been decided to set-up a 'Regulatory Commission'.

37.   Bangladesh has made significant progress in the energy sector. The number of gas wells has increased from 34 to 44 and the number of active gas fields has gone up from 7 to 12 during the last three years. Daily gas production has increased from 700 million to 925 million cft.  Gas supply to North Bengal has begun through the pipeline installed on the Bangabandhu Bridge. This will enable the power generation plants of the western zone to be converted into gas-based plants and thereby drastically reduce power generation cost. Augmentation of gas and electricity supply will usher in much improvement in the agriculture and industries sectors in the north-western region of the country.

38   Exploration and production of oil and gas has been geared up further. In addition to the four companies now engaged in eight blocks in the exploration of oil and gas, the process for conclusion of Production Sharing Contracts with a number of new companies for exploration of oil and gas in seven more blocks is in the final stage.

39.   In order to augment supply of LP gas as an alternative fuel to timber for preserving forests, 21,000 tons of LP gas are being produced annually including 5,000 tons at the Kailashtila LP Gas Plant. Agreements have been concluded with a number of foreigncompanies for increasing supply of LP gas through import and bottling under joint venture.  With the implementation of the Barapukuria Coal Mine and Maddhypara Hardrock Mine Projects by the year 2001, it will be possible to produce of 10 lakh tons of coal and 16.50 lakh tons of hard rock annually.

40.   Roads and Railway network are very important for socio-economic development. The civil works of the highways in north-western and south-western regions of the country and development works of Dhaka - Aricha highway including the repair of flood damages have been completed. Upgradation work of 150 kilometers of road connecting Bangabandhu Bridge will be completed by the year 2001. Reconstruction of five bridges on the Dhaka - Daudkandi highway will be completed within the current year. Construction of Nalka � Hatikamrul - Banpara road in the north-western region, improvement of 520 kilometres of feeder roads in the western districts, maintenance work of 100 kilometres of regional and national highways and reconstruction and rehabilitation of Dhaka - Sylhet highway are expected to be completed by the year 2004. Work for the preparation of detailed design for the construction of Rupsha Bridge has started. Construction of Shahid Syed Nazrul Islam Bridge over the Meghna at Bhairab and the Shikarpur - Duarika bridge has started. Construction of a bridge over the Gabkhan River, a bridge on the Padma at Paksey and the Dhorala Bridge, will start soon. To establish direct and efficient road link between the capital and the southern region of the country, a pre-feasibility study on construction of either a bridge over or a tunnel under the Padma has started.

41.   The government has agreed to include Cox's Bazar - Teknaf route as the new route for Asian Highway for establishing direct road communication with neighbouring Myanmar, and the inclusion of Sylhet - Zakiganj route as an alternative to Sylhet - Tamabil road for this Highway. Direct bus service between Dhaka and Calcutta has started and rail communication on the Khulna-Benapole sector has resumed after a long time. From the very first day of inauguration, trains have been plying over the Bangabandhu Bridge. In order to establish direct rail communication between the eastern and the western regions, work for transformation of the existing railway lines upto Joydevpur on the east and Parbatipur on the west into mixed gauge has been taken up along with programme for connecting the Bangabandhu Bridge with the Jarnalpur � Mymensingh - Netrokona railway network. This bridge has already started making significant contributions to bring about developmental changes in agricultural and industrial sectors of the western region.

42.   In a bid to expand direct road communication between the district HQ's and far-flung areas of the country, roads are being constructed at thana and union levels.  Hence about 1,400 kilometers of metalled road, 5,800 kilometers of kutcha road and 4,500 bridges and culverts will be constructed under the current ADP.

43.   The survey work for the construction of the Dhaka-Eastern Bypass Road for eliminating traffic jam in the Dhaka City is already complete. Government is also considering construction of a ring road, a circular railway, dredging of the rivers encircling the city to improve waterways and construction of mono-rail to ease the cities traffic jam.

44.   Various projects are being implemented to develop easy and less expensive river communication systems. Formulation of the 'National Shipping Policy' is underway in order to modernize and update the shipping sector.

45.   With a view to expanding domestic air transportation, construction of STAL airports at Bogra and Mongia including construction of the Barisal airport will be completed by June this year. Expansion and modernization of M A Hannan Airport at Chittagong and Osmany International Airport at Sylhet are in progress. Bangladesh Biman has already started operating flights with wide-bodied aircraft to Osmany Airport directly from London and Dubai. A number of private airlines are also operating alongside Bangladesh Biman in the domestic sector. Two wide-bodied aircrafts have been added to Biman's fleet to expand its network and increase the volume of passenger and cargo on international routes.

46.   The present government has undertaken a number of modern technology-based development projects in the light of the 'National Telecommunication Policy' to improve telecommunication infrastructure and quality of services. To facilitate services for the people in the remote areas, 800 operator trunk dialing telephones have been installed. Under this, the subscribers are enjoying the facility to talk to the remote areas by direct dialing from both home and abroad. Work for the installation of 1.38 lakh digital telephones in Dhaka City and 2.16 lakh in different district towns is in progress.  Digital telephones have already been set up in 171 thanas and 24 districts. This will be expanded to 83 more thanas and 24 districts by the end of this year. 'Packet switching exchange' has already been installed at eight towns of the country to make data communication system easily accessible. Data network is being installed for communication with domestic and overseas data systems.  Private investment has been encouraged in the 'National Telecommunication Policy'. Government has approved in principle installation of two lakh personal handy telephones in the private sector in Dhaka City. Steps have been taken by the present government to constitute a 'Telecommunication Regulatory Commission' to ensure fair competition among telecom service providers and protect the interest of subscribers. A new 'Telecommunication Law' suitable for the present age, replacing the hundred-year old 'Telegraph Act' will soon be placed in the Parliament for approval.

47.   To provide faster domestic and overseas postal service GEP and EMS services have been introduced along with mobile post offices at Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Khulna.  Dhaka GPO has been computerized and Chittagong GPO will be computerized soon.

Janab Speaker,

48   The present government has taken effective steps to foster free press as committed in its election manifesto. Permission has been given to operate private TV channel, which is expected to commence telecast by the first half of the year 2000. It is under consideration of the government to accord permission to set up and operate radio channel under private ownership.   Initiatives have been taken to establish a 'Film City' for promotion of film industry under private sector.  With a view to making healthy and aesthetic films reflecting our history, tradition, spirit of freedom struggle, encompassing the entire Bangali culture, formulation of a realistic Film Policy is at the final stage.

49.   Dhaka station of Bangladesh Television is being modernized to keep pace with the present-day information technology. In order to expand BTV's coverage abroad, installation of Transponder and Satellite News Gathering Technology has already started. On completion of the relay stations at Rajshahi, Rangamati and Ukhia, 90% of the country will come under TV coverage. Bangladesh Betar has also expanded its coverage. Barisal Radio station has started transmitting its own programme since last June. Cox's Bazar Radio station is expected to go on air very soon.   The Asia Broadcasting Union has awarded Bangladesh Betar with the ABU Award of 1999, for its special contribution in broadcasting.

50.   A number of projects are being implemented to establish and strengthen infrastructure for promotion of cultural activities of Bangladesh in line with the current trends in world cultural activities. Construction of the National Art Gallery, National Theatre and National Dance and Music Hall at the Shilpakala Academy Complex in Dhaka will be completed this year. Construction of the Mausoleum at Rayer Bazar in memory of the martyred intellectuals has been completed.  Construction of a Mausoleum at the mazar of the Father of the Nation at Tungipara and the 'Independence Tower' at Suhrawardy Uddyan is progressing fast. These projects primarily aim at preserving the heritage and memories of our liberation struggle and the war of independence alive for the future generation.

51.   Various development programmes have been taken up to develop infrastructure for the promotion of cultural activities in all the districts and assist tribal cultural activities.  A 'Welfare Trust' is being established for the overall welfare of the poets, litterateurs, writers and artists of the country.

52.   Government has undertaken a number of action programmes for the development of women and children and to ensure rights of children and participation of women in all spheres.  Various programmes aimed at poverty alleviation, promotion of awareness, creation of employment opportunities, equality between men and women, protection of child and women rights, development of women entrepreneurs, prevention of women and children from persecution and trafficking etc are being implemented. The decade of 2001-2010 has been declared as the 'Decade of Child Rights'. 'Birth Registration Prize' is being introduced for achieving all out success in the registration of births. In order to develop skilled women, training activities have been started at the Begum Rokeya Training Centre in Mymensingh and construction of the Shahid Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib Women Training Academy at Savar is in progress. Works to expand housing facilities for working women have been taken up. Moreover, 16 day-care centres for children have been set up in Dhaka and elsewhere. To bring women of all thanas and Districts under the coverage of development programmes, such programmes have been expanded to 236 thanas of 64 Districts. Projects are also being taken up for the socio-economic development of women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region.

53.   Youth Development Programme has been expanded to all thanas and districts of the country to turn youths into human resources. The number of training centres has been increased from 210 to 297 to impart training to unemployed male and female youths on various trades. More than 6.48 lakh male and female youths who were trained in these centres have become self-reliant by taking up self-employment projects. A 'Youth Credit Fund' has been created to ensure that the trained youths get credit facilities on easy terms to become self-reliant. A total of 69 Computer Training Centres have been opened in all the districts. Rural unemployed youths organized into family groups in 50 selected thanas are being imparted training and given micro credit facilities for poverty alleviation. Employment Bank is opening branches in all the districts.

54.   A 'Sports Policy' has been formulated and various projects are being   implemented for the development of sports in the country. Bangladesh Cricket Team brought commendable successes in the sports arena of the country by defeating Scotland and Pakistan in the 7th World Cup Cricket held in England. Bangladesh won 36 medals including 21 gold in the Special Olympic World Games for the handicapped, held in North Carolina, USA. Bangladesh became the unbeaten champion in the Asian under-19 Youth Cup Cricket Championship, held in Singapore. In the 8th SAF games football held in Nepal, Bangladesh won gold medal for the first time.

55.   A number of steps have been undertaken by the government to improve housing.  Private and foreign investments in housing sector are being encouraged. In order to make accommodation easily available for all and to attract foreign investment, the 'National Housing Policy' has been amended.  In the meantime, encouraging responses have been received in the housing sector from private foreign investors.  A proposal to construct 10,000 flats for middle and low-income people at Duttapara in Tongi on joint collaboration with a foreign private company is under consideration of the government

  56.   In order to solve problems in the housing sector, projects have been taken up to construct 2,100 flats for government employees, 16,250 flats for sale to low and middle-income people on hire purchase basis, build satellite towns at Yousufganj and Keraniganj of Dhaka and develop Nikunja residential area. Steps have also been taken for the construction of residential flats for poets, artists, litterateurs and journalists. Extension of Uttara Model town has been taken up. Programme for construction of flats in every district and municipality for sale on hire-purchase basis has also been taken up.

57.   In order to generate employment in the rural areas, keep food grain price in the local market stable and alleviate poverty, programmes have been taken to distribute more than 4 lakh tons of food grain under the Food for Works Programme for construction and reconstruction of rural infrastructure. Food assistance has been given for a long period of 9 months through 42 lakh VGF cards to provide food security to the poorest segment of the population during the post-flood vulnerable period. In addition, food grains have been distributed for a period of 3 months in 1999 through 28 lakh VGF cards.

                58.    The present government has initiated a number of important steps for poverty alleviation under various programmes:

  *             Bangladesh Rural Development Board, Cooperative Directorate, Bangladesh Rural Development Academies at Comilla and Bogra have made significant contributions    towards poverty alleviation through augmenting production in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, creation of self-employment, expansion of income-generating and service-oriented activities under various development projects.  A separate institution is being established to provide assistance to the rural destitutes with the aim of alleviating poverty of the rural people. With this end the Palli Bittahin Foundation Act, 1999 has already been enacted. Various schemes and programmes are being implemented for poverty alleviation and overall development of women, unemployed male and female youths.

  *          'Asrayon�, 'Adarsha Gram', 'Bhashantek Rehabilitation' projects, 'GhoreyFera' project of Bangladesh Krishi Bank and various other projects including Housing Fund have been undertaken for rehabilitation of the poor slum-dwellers who migrated from villages. Funds were also made available from the Prime Minister's Relief and Welfare Fund for these purposes. About 13,000 landless destitute families have so far been rehabilitated under the 'Asrayon' project and by the end of the Fiscal year the number is expected to reach 25,000. The rehabilitated families are being trained and given Tk. 10,000 each as credit for self-employment. In the first phase of the 'Adarsha Gram' project around 46,000 landless families have been rehabilitated in Khas lands. Under the 2nd phase of the project, rehabilitation of about 14,000 families will be completed by the end of the current fiscal year against the overall program to rehabilitate 48,000 landless families. Under the khas land distribution scheme, 30,000 acres of khas land have been distributed among 50,000 landless families.  

*             With the objective of alleviating poverty, the present government has been successfully organizing, through the Department of Social Welfare, various programmes including rural social welfare activities in 461 thanas, 1 1,516 mother centres in 222 thanas, social welfare activities in 50 towns, socio-economic training centres for women at Mirpur in Dhaka and Rangpur, training and production centre for distressed women at Gazipur. Under the old-age pension scheme more than 4.3 lakh extremely poor old men and women, and under the programme for assistance of the distressed women about 2.2 lakh widows and divorced distressed women are being given a monthly allowance of Tk. 100 each. Old-age homes known as 'Shanti Nibash' are being constructed, one in each Division for the lonely and destitute aged men and women. These are expected to be completed by next June. Every 'Shanti Nibash' will provide shelter along with security and medical facilities for 40 aged men and 60 aged women with arrangements to live with orphan children in a homely atmosphere. The 'Foundation for the Development of the Handicapped' has been established to help rehabilitation and development of the handicapped. Construction of Training and Rehabilitation Centres for the socially handicapped women (prostitutes) is in progress in six Divisions.

59.   The present government has undertaken extensive, far-reaching and reformative programmes for development, modernization and increasing efficiency of the present judicial system. Under this programme, steps have been taken to increase efficiency and capability of the judiciary, introduce modern concept of judicial management, develop legal education and judicial training, construct and expand infrastructure of courts, formulate time-befitting laws and reform age-old laws complementary to ensure rule of law, socio-economic development and facilitate open market economy in the country.  During the past two years work for the identification of flaws and inadequacies in the existing judicial system have been completed by reputed local and foreign experts.  

60.   The Law Commission has been working very hard to modernize the existing laws and make them befitting with the present time.  Based on the recommendations of the Law Commission, the government has taken up the work to modify a good number of existing laws and to enact new laws.

61.   In order to bring about dynamism in the judicial system and increase efficiency of the judges, the Judicial Administration Training Institute, established by the present government, has been providing training to the judges working at different levels in the lower courts. The positive impact it has made is already evident.

62.   With the objective of ensuring human rights by enacting law for taking legal actions against violators of such rights, the draft 'National Human Rights Commission Act' has been approved in principle by the government.

63.   The draft of the 'Grameen Adalat� Act providing for easy and quick disposal of petty disputes in the rural areas, is under consideration of the government. In order to ensure rights of the oppressed, the poor and the distressed, the draft bill on  'Legal Aid Act' is under consideration of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

64.   The Government is committed to maintain the law and order situation under control and the country free from terrorism. Recently, 158 police camps have been setup to prevent terrorist activities in the south-western region of the country. As a result of joint operation by the Police, BDR and Ansar, huge quantity of illegal arms have been recovered and criminals apprehended. In response to the call made for surrendering arms terrorists numbering 2,838 surrendered. In order to make sure that the terrorists who had surrendered do not revert back to their previous criminal life, programmes to rehabilitate them have also been taken. Due to the steps taken by the government, there has been marked improvement in the law and order situation in the south-western region of the country and daily-life activities of the people has come back to normal.

65.   Government has decided to establish 3 administrative thanas in Patuakhali, Comilla and Meherpur districts. It was decided in principle to establish a new administrative thana at Ashuganj.  The existing bigger thanas will be split into 18 new police stations. Five such thanas have already started functioning. In the current fiscal year 13 new investigation centres will be set up in the remote areas. Establishment of 29 more investigation centres all over the country including four women investigation centres in Dhaka City, is under process. To enhance mobility of the police force motor vehicles have been provided to 428 thanas. Additional 113 vehicles will be supplied to different thanas during the current fiscal year. Police Staff College has been established to impart advanced training to police officers with the objective of modernizing the police force. During the current year computer network will be established all over the country including conversion of the existing police telephone exchange of Dhaka Metropolis into digital system. Steps have been taken for payment of risk allowance to the members of the police force of the rank of Inspector and below for performing hazardous duties. A project to modernize police hospitals for providing advanced medical services is under implementation.

66.   The National Defence College, the Military Institute of Science & Technology, the Armed Forces Medical College and the Peace-Keeping Operation Centre have already started functioning to foster professionalism and excellence in the Armed Forces. In order to strengthen the Bangladesh Air Force, advanced fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopter, radar and arms and ammunitions have been added to its fleet. A modern frigate is being procured for Bangladesh Navy. A composite Brigade has been stationed at the Bangabandhu Bridge to ensure security during war and peace. Members of our Armed Forces and Police have been discharging their responsibilities' with fame and competence in various peace-keeping operations of the United Nations. The involvement of the armed forces in the implementation of the Asrayan project, traffic management of the Dhaka City, disaster management, supervision of unloading and distribution of food grains at seaports and assisting generation of electricity, has been widely acclaimed.

67.   The Public Administration Reforms Commission has so far submitted 27 interim recommendations to the government on matters like receipt of application from general public at the secretariat and its prompt acknowledgement, disposal of cases within the stipulated time, simplification of procedures for payment of travel tax, �one stop� payment of utility bills, simplification of procedures for issuance of passport and driving license, voluntary retirement of government servants, etc. Some recommendations have already been implemented and steps are being taken to implement the remaining recommendations gradually. I am hopeful that with the implementation of these recommendations, efficiency and dynamism in administration will improve. To make the field administration more dynamic, fax machines have already been installed in the offices of the Deputy Commissioners and programme for providing E-mail service is under process.

68.   Immediately after restoration of peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, development activities in the region have gained momentum. The Interim Council formed under the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act has already started functioning.  In order to accelerate development of this region, ADP allocation has been increased. In addition, a lump sum amount has also been allocated for designing and implementing development schemes at local level by the three Hill Tracts District Councils.

69.   In order to give local government system an institutional shape, the government has taken a number of important steps. To establish local government system at the thana level, "Upazila Council Act" has already been enacted and enactment of the 'District Council Act' is under process. Provisions have been made for election of women members to the reserved seats of the upazilla councils and city corporations on the basis of direct franchise.  In the last union council and pourashava elections women candidates had been elected to the reserved seats through direct franchise.

70.   Since the election of the Seventh Jatio Sangsad, the present government has been endeavouring to make the Sangsad the pivot for all the nation building activities. The transparency and accountability desired of the government have been ensured by the election of parliament members as chairmen of the Parliamentary Standing Committees instead of the Ministers concerned. These Committees are playing more effective role than before, by regularly reviewing the activities of the ministries and advising the ministries, when necessary, on matters of public interest.

71.   The Prime Minister has been regularly giving replies to questions asked by the Members of Parliament directly in the Parliament sessions once a week. Question and answer sessions of the Parliament are being directly telecast and broadcast. By directly broadcasting the proceedings of the parliament through radio, the general public has been directly involved with the activities of the Parliament.

72.     The Asian Parliamentarians' Conference for Peace was held in Dhaka last September. The Conference formed the 'Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace'. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been elected the first President of this newly-formed Association. The principal objective of the association is to establish peace and expand mutual co-operation among the Asian countries. Successful holding of this Conference has raised Bangladesh's image abroad and Bangladesh has been acclaimed by other countries as a peace-loving nation.

Janab Speaker,

73.   The objective of our foreign policy is to establish friendly relations and economic co-operation with all peace-loving countries of the world for our mutual benefit. The government is very active and vocal for preservation of world peace, democracy and human rights. The Government has been playing a laudable role in various international fora to achieve the goal.  The constructive and positive foreign policy pursued by Bangladesh has been highly acclaimed and appreciated by the international community at different fora. The unanimous election of Bangladesh to a non-permanent seat in the Security Council for the years 2000-2001 during the last session of the UN General Assembly is a glaring example of such recognition.

74.   In the D-8 Summit held in Dhaka last March, eight areas of co-operation were identified and actions are being taken accordingly. Bangladesh has been making relentless efforts to further expand regional cooperation through the SAARC. The preparatory meeting of the Economic Forum and the first sector-based conference on trade and investment of BIMST-EC, a regional economic group formed with Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, was held in Dhaka last November. Bangladesh provided effective leadership as the spokesman of the Least Developed Countries in the third Ministerial Conference of WTO held recently in Seattle, USA. The positive role of Bangladesh in OIC has elevated our prestige in the Islamic world.

75.   The next NAM Summit is going to be held in Dhaka in the year 2001. Holding of this Summit in Dhaka reflects the confidence of the International Community reposed on Bangladesh.

76.   At the invitation of the Honorable President of Turkey, Mr. Suleiman Demirel, I paid a visit to his country recently.  The bilateral relations of Bangladesh with brotherly country of Turkey have been further expanded and strengthened by this visit.

77.   The Prime Minister attended the 54th session of the UN General Assembly. This General Assembly session was of special significance to us. During this session, apart from the election of Bangladesh to the Security Council, a number of receptions were organized at the UN Headquarters to celebrate the 25th year of Bangladesh's entry into the UN as its member. The Prime Minister also played a prominent role in the Commonwealth Summit held recently in Durban, South Africa. In this summit, Bangladesh has been elected one of the members of the CMAG (Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group). Bangladesh has been re-elected as a member of the Executive Board in the last meeting of the UNESCO.

78.   Last year, Prime Minister visited Australia, France, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, India and other countries to further strengthen our bilateral relations. Presidents of Turkey and Palestine, Prime Ministers of India, Malaysia and Pakistan, the Chairman of the People's Congress of China visited Bangladesh on different occasions last year. During these visits, fruitful discussions on vital issues were held with our Prime Minister and other leaders of the government for further strengthening our bilateral relations with these countries.

79.   Continuing success of our foreign policy has made laudable contribution to brighten our image as a democratic and peace-loving nation.

Janab Speaker,

80.               We have created a unique history as a sacrificing nation for the establishment and preservation of democracy. We must put our national interests above all other interests to consolidate the foundation of democracy so as to bring about economic well-being of the nation. I call upon our leaders and people from all walks of life to forget individual and party interests for the sake of greater national interest and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to ensure a prosperous and peaceful Bangladesh for our future generation to realize Father of the Nation's dream of Sonar Bangla.

81.               I convey my sincere good wishes to you all and my fellow countrymen on the occasion of the New Year and the forthcoming, Holy Eid.

 

Khoda Hafez

May Bangladesh live forever