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Bangladesh Makes Progress

Bangladesh has made much progress, both political and economic, during the past year, says U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh James Moriarty.

Speaking to a press conference in Dhaka marking World Press Freedom Day, Ambassador Moriarty reviewed a year of U.S.-Bangladesh relations in terms of democracy, development, and denial of space to terrorists.

Political change, the Ambassador noted, has come to both Bangladesh and the United States. In January Barack Obama took office following an historic U.S. Presidential election. Also in January, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office in Bangladesh following the victory of her Awamai League in the country's freest and fairest elections in history. And Bangladesh's parliament is back in session.

A year ago Bangladesh faced major economic challenges. The country was struggling to recover from the devastation of Cyclone Sidr and inflation approached record levels. Fuel prices soared and fears grew concerning food security.

Today, said Ambassador Moriarty, "global commodity prices have fallen considerably." But Bangladeshis now worry about the impact of the global recession. To help meet this crisis, the Bangladesh government recently announced an economic stimulus package.

In the global war on terrorism, there has been some progress, notably in Iraq. But attacks in Pakistan, India and other countries around the world make it clear that there is still much to do. "In Bangladesh," said Ambassador Moriarty, "the recent seizure of weapons in Bhola and continued arrests of JMB [Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh] members throughout the country demonstrate terrorism remains a concern."

The U.S. applauds the Parliament's passage of the Money Laundering Prevention Ordinance and the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance, he said.

Challenges remain, Mr. Moriarty noted, including the global economic crisis, Bangladesh's ongoing power crisis, and insufficient funding for infrastructure, agriculture and education. "No party has a monopoly on good ideas," said the Ambassador; the Bangladesh government "should provide the opposition with meaningful opportunities to discuss and debate the upcoming budget."

Opposition parties, he said, "should reach out to the government to look for consensus." And Bangladesh's free press has "an important responsibility to frame this debate for the people, accurately report the facts, and ensure accountability and transparency."

For its part, said Ambassador Moriarty, the United States remains committed to working with its partner Bangladesh to promote democracy, ensure development and deny space to terrorism.