Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the year 2022 will be a milestone in Bangladesh's infrastructure development.
In June, the government will inaugurate the much-awaited Padma Bridge, which is expected to contribute 1.2% to GDP, while in October, the country's first Karnaphuli tunnel will be opened and the 14-kilometre metro rail from Uttara to Agargaon will be flagged off towards the end of this year.
"Overcoming many conspiracies and obstacles, we have completed the Padma Bridge with our own money. The bridge will connect southern parts of the country directly with other regions, including Dhaka," Sheikh Hasina said on Friday while addressing the nation on the completion of the third year of her government's current term.
Work on other major infrastructure projects across the country is also going on, she also said, adding that the first unit of the 1,200MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the largest infrastructure project in Bangladesh's history at a cost of Tk113,000 crore, will be commissioned in April next year, Hasina added.
The prime minister urged the people to take extra caution against a quick spread of new variants of coronavirus. "The crisis is yet to end," she warned.
She called upon all eligible people to get vaccinated as early as possible. And stricter maintenance and enforcement of health guidelines must be followed as a new surge of coronavirus was quickly grasping the globe again.
The premier said the inoculation campaign was underway in full swing while her government took steps to expedite the drive setting a target afresh to vaccinate 1 crore people every month from January.
Sheikh Hasina said nearly half of the country's population or 7.58 crore people have so far received the first dose and nearly 5.46 crore people got both, while the authorities started administering the third or booster dose last month.
"We have 9.5 crore doses in our stock right now," the PM noted.
The incumbent Awami League government under Sheikh Hasina's leadership assumed office for the third consecutive term on 7 January 2019 following its landslide victory in the 11th parliamentary election on 30 December 2018.
The Prime Minister said Bangladesh secured the number one position in terms of GDP in South Asia with 5.43% growth during the last fiscal year, also heightening the per capita income to U$2,554 in 2021.
The premier said different global watchdogs praised Bangladesh's economic performance with the World Economic Forum predicting the country to be 24th largest economy by 2030, while the Economist placed it in 9th position in a list of 66 successful emerging economies.
"The 2021 was a year of unprecedented recognition of our development. We achieved final recognition of becoming a developing nation last year. The achievement is a matter of joy and pride for the Bengali nation as it coincided with celebrations of the Mujib Year and golden jubilee of the country's independence," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the country was currently leading South Asia in various socio-economic indexes as the outcome of her government's policy initiatives with a holistic approach, primarily whipping out poverty, developing the health system and empowering women.
She said the policy initiatives simultaneously resulted in reduction in mother and children mortality rate, and increase of average life expectancy.
"Bangladesh has progressed a lot in the last 13 years. . .it has been possible as the people have kept confidence in us," she said in an apparent reference to her government's successive elections to power.
The premier said her government was working with a target to turn Bangladesh into a welfare-oriented, developed and prosperous country by 2041 and "We hope you [people] will stand beside us as you did in the past to this endeavour."
Stimulus support to ward off pandemic fallout
"The pandemic affected Bangladesh economy as it had its onslaughts on other countries with many nations facing disasters but her government managed to recover the losses with your [countrymen] help," she said.
Her government was trying to keep moving the wheels of the country's economy by giving necessary policy support and various progressive financial stimulus packages since the onset of the crisis, the PM noted.
She said the government so far announced 28 stimulus packages worth over Tk1.87 crore and 56.76% of the amount was disbursed by October last year.
The revolution in power
At present, the daily power generation capacity has stood at 25,235MW, revealed the premier, the prime minister said, requesting the countrymen to recall their memories regarding the power supply situation before the Awami League government took over in 2009 as at that time, the total power generation capacity was 4,200MW.
"We have kept our promise," she said, referring to her commitment of providing electricity to 100% of the people in "Mujib Borsho" and the Golden Jubilee of Independence.
As part of the long-term plan, she said, a 1320-megawatt power plant has already been set up in Payra, while 7,800MW power plants are being constructed at Rampal, Payra, Banshkhali, Maheshkhali and Matarbari.
Now, gas supply to the national grid has been raised to 2,525 million cubic feet from 1,744 million cubic feet in 2009, Sheikh Hasina said, adding that the government has been importing liquefied natural gas since 2018 to meet growing demand for gas.
Sharing the good news with the countrymen at the beginning of the New Year of getting gas hydrate in the Bay of Bengal, she said approximately 17 to 103 trillion cubic feet of gas hydrates have been found.
Hardline on corruption
"We have taken a tougher stance against corruption. No corrupt elements irrespective of party affiliation and whatever powerful they might be are not or will be spared," she said.
The premier said the Anti-Corruption Commission was working independently to lash out corrupt elements but added that a social campaign was simultaneously necessary to whip out "the disease".
Zero tolerance against militancy
She said Bangladesh handled the militancy with an iron fist under an announced "zero tolerance" policy against the menace, and simultaneously her government was committed to upholding the country's tradition of interfaith harmony as a secular country.
Despite the development spree, anti-Bangladesh and anti-Liberation elements were reactivating staying at home and abroad to thwart the country's march forward, the prime minister said.
Sheikh Hasina urged people to remain alert against these elements and allow them not to play ducks and drakes with the fate of Bangladesh's people.
Tremendous positive changes in health sector
Sheikh Hasina said tremendous positive changes have been made in the health sector, both public and private, in Bangladesh, as health services are being provided to mass people, including rural women and children from 18,000 community clinics and union health centres across the country.
Besides, 30 types of medicines are given free of cost, she said, adding that as a result of the expansion and improvement of the healthcare facilities, the average life expectancy has increased to 72.8 years in 2019-20.
The premier added the age of under-five mortality rate has been reduced to 28 per thousand while under-1 mortality rate to 15 per thousand and maternal mortality rate has come down to 165 per lakh.
Education stipend and allowance
Sheikh Hasina said in FY21, the government distributed stipend worth Tk2,958 crore among around 2.30 crore students from primary to higher levels.
Around Tk111 crore was distributed among 210,049 students in graduate and equivalent classes under the Prime Minister's Education Assistance Trust.
Mentioning that 499 new madrasas have been made MPO-listed in 2020, the premier said 148,061 teachers and employees of 7,624 MPO-listed madrasas in the country are being given salary allowance amounting to Tk276 crore every month.
Besides, a quarterly grant of Tk3.15 crore is being given to 4,529 teachers of 1,519 Ebtedayi Madrasas, and Daware Hadith level has been given acknowledgement equivalent to Masters, she said.
Moreover, 560 model mosques and Islamic cultural centres are being built across the country, she added.
Pointing out her government's far-reaching initiatives to establish "Digital Bangladesh", Sheikh Hasina said digital technology has emerged as a saviour in this critical period.
Internet connection has been provided in 18,434 government institutions and 3,800 unions across the country through installation of fibre optic cable, she said, adding that Bangladesh has entered the era of 5G network last month as the ninth country in the world.
During the coronavirus outbreak, she said internet users increased to 11 crore as mass people have been able to continue their normal life, taking the advantage of online business and transactions.
Around 6 lakh of young people are earning foreign currency alongside their own employment through freelancing and that is why the government has taken measures to provide funds on easy terms to the entrepreneurs of this sector, she continued.
Housing for the landless
In the "Mujib Borsha", Sheikh Hasina said under Ashrayan-2 project, 148,397 landless and homeless families have been allotted two decimals of khas land along with constructed houses.
Besides, 4,448 flats are being constructed in 139 5-storey buildings at Khurushkul in Cox's Bazar, she said, adding that these flats will be distributed among the climate refugees and already 19 buildings have been handed over to the allottees.
On the other hand, some 10,000 flats are being constructed in Mirpur for slum dwellers in Dhaka and flats have already been distributed to 300 families in the middle of last year, she added.