BANGLADESH ON TRACK TO ACHIEVE POWER SECURITY, THANKS TO SHEIKH HASINA
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bengali of all times, had not only created the independent and sovereign Bangladesh. He had left his golden touch in everything during the post-independence rebuilding of the nation even though he got only three and half years before he was assassinated by a handful of conspiratorial and power-greedy army officers. The man who had successfully led the country’s nine-month independence war against Pakistan having survived nine-month solitary life in a darkened prison in Pakistan’s Layalpur awaiting death was killed, along with most members of his family, by some men who unfortunately were born in Bangladesh. Bangabandhu is no longer with us but his legacy remains to inspire us to build a strong nation the way he dreamed and wanted to build it: Sonar Bangla.
Soon after independence (even before it) Bangabandhu realized that energy was one of the fields that should receive top priority. He made his decisions and took steps accordingly. In 1974 a landmark law, Petroleum Act, was passed by the parliament giving to the people the ownership of the country’s all natural resources. Then in another historic move Bangabandhu bought the ownership of Shell oil company under an agreement that allowed payments in nine installments on August 9 in 1975. It had been a red letter day indeed in the country’s energy sector. The moves also had demonstrated how a great visionary leader Bangabandhu was. Whatever Bangladesh has achieved in the country’s vital power and energy sectors over the years since independence was because of Bangabandhu and his historic steps. The flag of success is now being carried forward by Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina who has established herself as the most successful prime minister and administrator Bangladesh has ever seen.
Since 2010, a year into Sheikh Hasina’s second term as the prime minister, Aug. 9 is observed as the National Energy Security Day. The observance focuses on the importance of power and energy in taking the country’s economy ahead. More importantly, it is also a decent way of paying our tributes to a great leader who had laid the foundation of Bangladesh’s rebirth from the war-caused ravages.
Bangladesh, as we have already said, formulated the energy policy with priority focused on exploration the country’s own primary fuel resources. During those difficult days natural gas had little role and contribution in the energy sector. But Bangabandhu had the vision that there would come a day when the engine of the economy would be fueled by energy. What was started by the father of the nation is now being carried forward by Sheikh Hasina, his daughter.
Until 1990, the energy sector in Bangladesh was almost entirely owned and controlled by the government. The private sector made a real dash into the energy sector during the first term of Hasina’s government, 1996-2001. That was the period when international oil giants came to Bangladesh in droves to prospect for natural gas and exploit the resources under agreements fair to Bangladesh. Production sharing agreements were signed favouring Bangladesh as Sheikh Hasina insisted on getting a fair deal for the country. The production of natural gas saw a big raise as a result.
Then the spectacular success in the production of electricity came during the governance of Sheikh Hasina, now in her third term as the prime minister. The country has now achieved a capacity of producing more than 13,000 MW of electricity, a huge jump from barely 3,000 MW she inherited from the BNP government of Khaleds Zia. Along with the increased capacity Bangladesh has been making records in the daily generation of electricity that has seen a great reduction in the instances of load shedding even during the peak of summer.
This has been possible as Hasina’s government let the power sector open to the private encouraging investors to put money in this gold mine. The policy has worked well and thanks to Hasina’s farsightedness, a leadership virtue she has inherited from her illustrious father, Bangladesh is well on track of transforming from a power-starved nation to power-secured country.