A very Good Afternoon to you all. I want to say a very warm good afternoon to the beneficiaries in the villages who are joining us by video link. I also want to thank the three beneficiaries who spoke very passionately and shared their stories.
I am delighted to be present here today at the launch of the Modernization of Loan Management System (LMS) and ICT equipment distribution under the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project. The project aims at improving the lives of thousands of poorest people living in the rural areas across a dozen or so poorest districts across Bangladesh.
Globally, Bangladesh is known for its impressive track record of poverty reduction, as well as for development innovations that are now replicated elsewhere. In the last two decades, rapid economic growth at about 6 percent a year has propelled Bangladesh to become a lower middle-income country.
Despite the progress, Bangladesh still faces pressing challenges with about 28 million people living below the poverty line. The majority of the poor lives in the rural area. While the decline of extreme poverty in rural areas has been impressive - from 38 percent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2010 - poverty level remains almost three times that of urban areas. Thus, ensuring inclusive growth and addressing rural poverty and food security issues are key priorities for Bangladesh.
That is why we are supporting the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project and other programs. The Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project mobilizes the poorest people by building and strengthening community institutions, providing livelihood supports and access to market. Today, the project is also fully embracing the government’s ‘Digital Bangladesh’ vision by introducing automation and ICT to help its beneficiaries.
ICT is a transformative tool that continues to change the world around us, impacting the global economy and societies in new and unimagined ways. ICT is changing the way that countries and governments around the world work, interact, and provide services to their citizens and businesses across all sectors – be it in governance, agriculture, rural development, health, or education. As a result, opportunities for utilizing ICT solutions for reaching all groups of society, including the poor living in remote areas, and other disadvantaged groups, have transformed the landscape for development.
Today, the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project will launch the modernization of the loan management system and distribute laptops with internet connectivity to the beneficiary communities, enabling them to access the web-based management information system directly from their villages. The Social Development Foundation here in Dhaka will receive real time information from the remotest corner of the country. The use of ICT in the project will help improve access to information, transparency, service delivery and ultimately the well-being of the beneficiaries.
Honorable Minister, the World Bank is very proud to be among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed more than $24 billion grants and interest-free credits to Bangladesh including our support to the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project.
In recent years, Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of the World Bank’s interest-free credits. The World Bank also remains Bangladesh’s largest development partner and our financing accounts for 25 to 30 percent of the country’s total external development assistance. In the last five years, our financial support to Bangladesh has nearly doubled and we expect our support to Bangladesh to continue to increase significantly in the coming years.
Honorable Minister, it is very heartening to see a finance minister so focused on supporting the poor. Your presence here today is a reflection of your strong commitment to improving the lives of the poorest. Let me end by thanking the government for its commitment to improve the lives of the poor and congratulating the Social Development Foundation for their effort in using ICT to reach the poorest at the community level. We very much appreciate the strong partnership with SDF. I wish all the very best to the hundreds of thousands beneficiaries and to the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project.