Begum Khaleda Zia: The developing world's best hope is its people

From a speech by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, at a conference on poverty in Shanghai

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Starting with a fragile resource base and a war-devastated economy in 1971, Bangladesh has reduced poverty from more than 70 per cent in the early 1970s to less than 50 per cent in 2002. Life expectancy at birth has increased from 37 years in 1960 to over 62 years in 2004.

Starting with a fragile resource base and a war-devastated economy in 1971, Bangladesh has reduced poverty from more than 70 per cent in the early 1970s to less than 50 per cent in 2002. Life expectancy at birth has increased from 37 years in 1960 to over 62 years in 2004.

Despite repeated major calamities, growth rate of GDP in Bangladesh increased from less than 2 per cent in the 1970s to about 5 per cent in the current decade.

Our experience has shown the enormous potential of human resource development. In the 1990s, my government established a separate Ministry of Primary Education, increased significantly the allocation for education sector, introduced a Food for Education programme to discourage dropouts and established scholarships for girl students to encourage female education.

Micro-credit programmes have unlocked the productive potentials of the poor and have given them access to the mainstream of the economy. They have also significantly contributed to empowerment of women.

Numerous lights of hope are shining in the darkness of poverty throughout the developing world. Success stories in diverse areas such as river blindness, women's empowerment, land reforms and social funds clearly suggest that the elimination of ancient curse of poverty is within our reach.

Though developing countries may lack natural and physical resources, they are second to none in creativity, initiative and sincerity.

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