Acknowledging Bangladesh's "impressive" economic growth and social progress, Director of the OECD Development Centre Ragnheiour Elin Arnadottir has said she sees strong political commitment in Bangladesh to address the challenges that come with graduation.

"Graduation like any other graduation in life should be a joyous occasion. So, continuing on that path with the right policies, I have full confidence that Bangladesh's graduation will indeed be joyous," she told UNB in an exclusive interview during her recent visit to Bangladesh.

Arnadottir, who served as Minister of Industry and Commerce in Iceland from 2013-2017, said Bangladesh is moving from one place up to another and advancing; and highlighted the importance of getting international partners' support.

Responding to a question, she said political commitment is definitely there and they see it from the highest level.

Arnadottir has been the Director of OECD Development Centre since 16 August 2021. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives.

In March 2023, at the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Qatar, development partners reaffirmed their commitment to lift LDCs from the cycle of extreme poverty, instability and vulnerability that limits their development prospects.

The Doha Programme of Action outlines a ten-year plan to support LDC development efforts through enhanced international partnerships.

Bangladesh is the largest country graduating from the LDC category, with graduation scheduled for the end of 2026.

"I was there (in Doha) and participated in three panel discussions on Bangladesh, two of which the Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) was herself and a lot of ministers in all of this process," Arnadottir said, adding that, "I can see nothing but strong commitment from the government."

She said policy-making at its best when it is built on evidence such as the report that they presented (Production Transformation Policy Review of Bangladesh: Investing in the Future of a Trading Nation).

"I think the most important thing is to remember not to try to cling on to the preferential treatment, but to get, with the help of the international community, the tools to be able to advance. We need to put them in the right order," she said.

Arnadottir said it is very important to realize that all need to be aware of the challenges and the danger; and take preventive measures. "Don't shy away from it."

"And we have a lot of tools and policies to choose from to prevent it from happening. And if all come together, there are more chances of success instead of failure," she said, highlighting the importance of joint efforts taking international partners onboard.

Arnadottir said some of the challenges that Bangladesh is facing including inflation and high prices of energy and essential commodities are indeed global challenges. "These are not challenges that are unique to Bangladesh. These are global challenges. So, in terms of everything that is going on in the world, I think Bangladesh is on the right track."

Arnadottir thinks there is cause for optimism and she very much looks forward to following Bangladesh's progress." And throughout this process, the OECD Development Center of course is ready to continue its support towards Bangladesh's journey.

She said Bangladesh has come a very long way and it is very impressive to see the commitment and the dedication that the authorities and all the stakeholders have put into this process.

"What we see going forward is to build on these successes that have been achieved. And to make sure that despite outward challenges (that we have everywhere) we have a roadmap. It is a roadmap for action," Arnadottir said.

Bangladesh was granted an extended preparatory period of five years to enable it to recover from and reverse the socio-economic damage incurred by COVID-19 and other external shocks.

Bangladesh's impressive economic growth and social progress, achieved amidst a multitude of challenges, are commendable, she said.

The country has turned into a global garment manufacturing hub and is now also among the few developing nations, and the only LDC, capable of meeting its essential pharmaceutical needs through domestic production, Arnadottir said.

In doing so, she said, Bangladesh has also demonstrated its adaptability and willingness to address pressing concerns.

Advancements in workers' safety and rights have been made through a combination of legislative reforms and improvements in private-sector practices, she mentioned.

Bangladesh is also transforming its economy and society through information and communications technology.

"Notwithstanding, significant challenges remain. The constraints facing developing economies that are not LDCs are in some areas even tighter and will need close attention from policy makers and international partners," she said.

Arnadottir said Bangladesh needs to diversify its economy and export structure. "Climate change, including rising sea levels and extreme weather events, will affect socio-economic development."

Furthermore, she said, strengthening institutional productive capacities, boosting resource mobilisation, and enhancing the business environment will be essential to achieve the nation's ambition to graduate successfully and reach high income status by 2041.

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