Energy and Environment

Climate Change

Climate Change
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  • Germany
    A Conversation With Minister Olaf Scholz of Germany
    German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz discusses fighting climate change in multilateral settings, European economic developments, and German economic policy. ALLEN: Good morning. Thank you all for being here today. And we welcome you to today’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting with Olaf Scholz, the finance minister from Germany. I’m Thad Allen, a member of CFR’s board of directors and a senior executive advisor at Booz Allen Hamilton. I’ll be presiding over today’s discussion. And at this point, I’d like to invite Mr. Scholz to the podium to give his remarks. SCHOLZ: Thank you. Thank you for the kind introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to be here at the Council on Foreign Relations today, and I look forward to be a frank and lively discussion with all of you. I want to use my opening remarks to address a topic that concerns all of us around the globe with increasing urgency, tackling climate change. This year, millions of people, young people in particular, have taken to the streets to remind us of the urgency of limiting global warming. But at the same time, we have seen pushback from those who refuse to grapple with the reality of climate change, who question the science, and who deny the need to take action because they find it inconvenient. I would like to respond to them by quoting one of your founding fathers, John Adams. “Facts are stubborn things. And whatever may be our wishes, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Manmade climate change is a fact. Another fact, the global community hasn’t done enough so far to limit global warming. None of us, including Germany. Speaking for Germany, I can say we want to change that. To this end, the federal government has recently laid out its multibillion-euro climate strategy for the next decade. As I like to point out, to those that always insist that Germany should be spending more to combat climate change, Germany is investing fifty-four billion euros in the period until 2023. And if you look at the next decade, until 2030 we are in the region of one hundred and fifty billion euros. When we undertake such a massive task, there is one central question that we need to answer: What’s the point? Why do we bother when at the same time new coal-fired power plants are being built in other parts of the globe? When, as in Germany’s case, our share of total global emissions is about 2 percent? My answer is threefold. Firstly, it is the right thing to do. As industrialized countries, we have emitted the bulk of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions until now. Now we need to acknowledge our responsibility and start leading the fight against climate change. Secondly, we can do it. We have the necessary technological and financial capacity. Germany prides itself on its engineering. If we can show that it is possible to reduce emissions significantly, and be all the more successful for it economically, others will follow suit. We can lead the shift to a low-carbon global economy. And thirdly, it is an opportunity. Yes, making this transition requires a big effort now, but ultimately it will strengthen our industrial base. From battery-powered vehicles to hydrogen fuel cells, we are seeing climate- friendly technologies improve to the point where they are becoming commercially viable, similarly to what happened, for example, to wind energy. The fight against manmade climate change will become a business opportunity. And in a country which prides itself on its business instincts, in a country of dealmakers, I say if you do not join in the fight against climate change you are voluntarily forgoing a great deal. Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against climate change will be the defining issue of the coming decades for all of us. Climate policy will shape all policy areas, economic policy in particular. By the way, we are also seeing this trend at the IMF. Tomorrow, on the margins of the current IMF and World Bank Group meeting, we will be having a special meeting of the coalition of finance ministers for climate action. Increasingly, foreign policy will have to be climate policy. The need for coordinated action to reduce overall emissions is only one of the channels connecting climate change and foreign policy. We need to consider the link between migration and desertification, of flooding, between water scarcity and the potential for international conflicts.   We all know that climate change poses a global challenge. And so, in the fight against it, we will need international cooperation and strong international institutions. Here, at the Council on Foreign Relations, in the heart of the capital of the most powerful nation in the world, I do not have to stress the importance of international cooperation and strong international institutions. Everyone is aware of this, at least almost everyone. Let me put it this way: The future does not belong to those who deny reality and isolate themselves. The future belongs to those who take action together. Thank you. (Applause.) ALLEN: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for the remarks. If I could follow up on your remarks and have you comment on the economic impact in Germany, on their economy, of the proposed climate change package you put together and some of the pros and cons you’ve had to deal with in cobbling that agreement together. SCHOLZ: I would—so it is one hundred and fifty billion for the next ten years. This is quite a lot of extra impact for the economy. But it’s more important that it also helps to do the necessary investments into the infrastructure, for instance, in the railway system, in the infrastructure of our electricity grid, in the infrastructure which is necessary to have new battery companies and things like that. So I think it will be an aspect of future growth, which is coming from the investments we do now. And it will be even more important because if we are able to produce things without fossil—using fossil energy, this might be of big importance in ten or fifteen years when anyone is willing to look for a solution like that. ALLEN: One of the major tools in implementing this program will be a carbon tax. I know there was a lot of discussion on the level of carbon tax, what would actually allow you to achieve your goals. Can you comment on that? SCHOLZ: We have a strategy where we increase the price for using CO2 on different levels. And we are now implementing them step-by-step. One of them which is already decided now is to increase the tax on using airplanes. So there is a special tax we already implemented, and we will increase it. This will be extra benefits for financing what we are doing, but it helps that people use the railway, for instance, where there is a chance to do so. And this is why we, at the same time, reduce the value tax at this level for trains. Then we will have an increase in the car taxes we take if there is a big—if they are producing a lot of CO2. And so we changed the way how people buy cars. This is what we hope. And the third thing is we will have an increase in the road taxes, if you would call it like this, for trucks, if they have very high CO2 emissions. And the last thing is then to have a very special CO2 taxation, which is an extra model. We will organize it in a way that the people have to buy certificates. And we start with the low price, increasing it for the next years up to 2025. And afterwards, there will be a market which will be built because we have the agreed limit of CO2 emissions by Germany in the sectors of transport, of housing, of heating, of every culture and small businesses. And this is going down each year. And if enough investment into reducing CO2 emissions would have been done before, the price will increase. I think if nothing would happen it will increase up to a hundred euros per ton of CO2. And knowing this, I hope—and all of us hope—that this will have an impact on private—on decisions in the future. ALLEN: I think any great technological challenge, at least in this day in age, cannot be solved by an individual country or the private sector. There’s a large automobile manufacturing industry in Germany. Can you comment on the public-private conversation that goes on around an agreement like this, and how you actually interact with the private sector, specifically the automobile manufacturing sector? SCHOLZ: The first thing to understand is there is nothing—there is nothing like a German car industry. There is a European car industry. And this is a market of four hundred and fifty million people living there, if we expect that the United Kingdom will have left the European Union soon. But there is a common decision about CO2 emissions, which are allowed for cars in the next years, and a very strong aim for 2030. This is due for cars and for trucks. And it’s very similar what is happening in China, for instance. So big markets of the world are giving regulations, which are saying the production of CO2, the emission of CO2 should be reduced, otherwise you will have to pay a lot of extra money in this case to the European Union. And this is the field where all our activities are now taking part, because they are an environment where anyone knows there is a big market that asks for other cars, which will be battery electric cars, which will be plug-in hybrids, which will be in the end, especially for the big ones, hydrogen with—using hydrogen with—and all the things which are necessary for that. And I think that this is now going on. Because the market is big enough, what we now do is building the infrastructure. Our aim is now one hundred—one million charging points for electricity in the streets. ALLEN: Thank you. Since you mentioned Brexit, it looks like the outline of an agreement is coming together, at latest from the press reports. Can you comment on how this is actually moving along, and the potential economic impacts for not only Germany, but the European Union and specifically the euro? SCHOLZ: It’s a good message that there is, again, an agreement on how the Brexit could take part. It is much later than we expected, but in the end it is early enough if the House of Commons will accept it tomorrow. And I hope that they will do. It’s good for the U.K. economy, because they would suffer a lot if there would be a hard Brexit. It’s good also for Europe, because there is some uncertainty which is related to a hard Brexit. We are prepared for that. Mostly in the financial sector there will be no problems because anything is done, and it’s more virtual. You can do it easily. The bigger problems are coming from the supply chain of goods in Europe, because there is already something where a car that is produced is produced at forty places, and it’s going back and forth. And if you interrupt this supply chain, this has a negative impact on economic growth. So I would be very happy if we will not have to suffer from those problems. ALLEN: Thank you. One of the issues with introducing new technologies, and I think we see this globally, is the transition of workforces at new jobs. You have a very strong apprentice model in Germany. Any comments regarding how you’ve been able to adapt to changes in technology, some of the things that you just mentioned, and how you actually build the workforce to do that? SCHOLZ: The most important thing is that we have to invest in research and development. This is my—I’m absolutely sure about that. And if you look at what Germany is doing this is quite a lot. It’s more than 3 percent of GDP now, which is one of the reasons for the global competitiveness of the German economy. But the other part of skilled labor. And, yes, we have this model of apprenticeship which is working really well. The more important question is to convince young men and women leaving the schools that this is something they should use for their activities and for their—for their vocation, for their training. And the second is to convince the companies that they offer something like that, like an apprenticeship. And this should be changed due to the new needs. So now anyone is in the car industry, trying to figure out how to people could deal with electricity, which is not the case in this size today. My view is that we not—should be not just successful at university and at the vocational training schools to react to the changing request of the economy due to technical reasons. We also should be able to have a better chance for adult people to change their profession. So my view is something of an apprenticeship which is better financed than when you are seventeen years old or so, but with forty-six or fifty-one, to take a new job if the world changed. And I think this is one of the things that people expect from us for being safe in an always changing world. ALLEN: Thank you. As you know, we’re pretty occupied in this country right now with issues related to trade between the U.S. and China. I wonder if you want to comment on the impact that has on the European Union and Germany specifically, that maybe is not caught up in the discussion that we hear, which tends to be bilateral between the U.S. and China. SCHOLZ: We are very much looking at the trade conflict between the United States and China, because it has already an impact on the global economy. And this is not just because of tariffs. They have an impact, and anyone can find out that they will reduce growth, and they are already doing in United States, in China, and in the rest of the world. But the more important aspect of this conflict is that there is a growing uncertainty. And if those taking decisions in the companies all over the world are not sure what the future will be about, they postpone their decisions. And the lower growth in the global economy we face today is the—is the direct outcome of postponing decisions because no one is sure what will be the future about. And so this is one of the reasons why this conflict should end as soon as possible. And it would be a good message for world economy if this would happen. ALLEN: Thank you. Assuming that Brexit occurs and you’re not dealing with the British pound, just the euro community, there have been some stresses in the past, the—Greece and others. How do you see the European position to move forward and deal with those kind of challenges when they arise? SCHOLZ: When the U.K. will have left the European Union, 85 percent of GDP will be directly produced in Europe. There is—there are two countries now directly asking for participating in the euro system very soon. And I think that earlier than anyone expects, all the rest of the countries will follow. We don’t know yet if this will be in five or ten years, but it will be earlier than anyone thinks. And then the whole European Union will have one currency in the end. I’m sure about this. And we managed to be more effective in fighting crises. We did so with Ireland, with Spain, with Portugal, with Cyprus, and with Greece—especially the Greek program was the biggest program in the world to save a country that lost its contact with the world—to the financial markets—bigger than any program the IMF financed before. And this shows that there is a lot of strength in Europe to do things like that. And now we build the necessary institutions, and we are remodeling them now at this time to be more successful. Also, to act much—a long time before a real crisis appears on the scenery. And this will be one of the aspects of the changing agreements we are looking for in Europe. We did our political work the last year, and we are now doing the legal work to make it feasible. ALLEN: Moving beyond the euro, we live in a digital world and we’ve seen the rise of digital currency. Would appreciate any thoughts you might have on how that’s evolved. And recently Facebook indicated that they might launch their own digital currency. Your views? SCHOLZ: First, to be—frankly, there is a technical and economic question, which is related to this approach. And this is that there should be a better payment system. Cross-border payments should be faster and should cost less than they do today. And the payment systems within our countries need to improve as well. So there is something to do and to organize. But this is not the reason for building a new private-owned currency. I think this would be a danger for all democratic states, but in the end for all states, if the sovereignty on currency is moving from states to private-owned companies. And I would like to say directly, this should not happen. It was not the best model of developing the world to have this private companies, like the West Indies investment companies from London and from Amsterdam. We shouldn’t have something—like in a currency way—in our twenty-first century. ALLEN: Thank you. Interested in your views in the context of what we’ve just been discussing about the European Central Bank and the future of that institution moving forward. SCHOLZ: The European Central Bank was successful in fighting the last crisis. And President Draghi was really successful when he said that they will do whatever it takes. And I think this was the important sentence for making this a strong currency that is able to fight any difficult situation. And now, after all the reforms we have done and the reforms we are working on, I think the European Central Bank is stable. And with the new president, Madam Lagarde, who has a lot of experience and who made a very great job at the IMF, I’m sure that this institution will be able to do the right decisions, in all the different economic situations we will have to survive. ALLEN: Thank you. There’s been some discussion about the possibility or the potential for a larger European budget, the ability to do eurozone public bonds. Your views? SCHOLZ: These are two questions. I very much supported the idea of my French colleague that we should do something about the eurozone budget. And we made a common proposal to our friends in the European Union and the euro group. Now we succeeded to get consensus on a special model, which is not including any aspect that was in the discussion in the beginning, but in the end we will have it. It will have a small size in the beginning, but it is the model to enlarge it, if there is the time to enlarge it. And so the more important question is to have the institutional framework for acting, which is taking years to get it. And now when we will get it, we have it to use it for immediate action, if there is a need for it. And this is, I think, what is the best advantage from the proposal and from the agreements that we had in the last meeting of the finance ministers in Europe. My view on bonds is that we need to build something like really working banking union. And my idea is that we should very much look to the United States, because this is also—or, this is a federal state. They have some central institutions that work quite well. And so we have to understand how in a big continent like the United States is—in the end, it is feasible to have a united banking system. The FDIC is something we have to look at, and things like that. And if we do this, I think there will be more stability in the banking sector in Europe. It will be much more able to solve problems with—for financing we will have a better growth. But this is the next big task. And if we do so, I think sovereign bonds will be part of the banking sheets in the end. And they will have—they have to find out how they do it themselves. ALLEN: Across the range of topics we’ve talked about this morning you’ve emphasized multilateral institutions and cooperation as a way to move ahead. My last question, before we go to the fellows here in the room is, just your general view on multilateral institutions, transatlantic partnerships. And moving, and this world is getting more complex, and the tension between nationalist and populist movements, and where do you see all this headed? SCHOLZ: I think the only way for a good future is the multilateral approach. We will be not successful just to look at our own nations, because the world is getting closer. And it is better to cooperate. My view on the world of 2050, or of the world in hundred years is more or less that there will be big countries. The United States will be one of them, and obviously the strongest, as they are today. But there will be other strong countries or groups. Hopefully Europe will be one of them. There will be still Russia, there will be China, but there will be also India. And if you just look at India and China and their part of GDP they had two hundred, three hundred years ago, this is something which gives us an advice how the world will be in thirty-forty years. And knowing this, it is really wise now to work for a multilateral world that works and not to do the things which are more on the line to avoid situations with a lot of strong nations. ALLEN: Thank you. At this time, I’d like to invite members to join our conversation with their questions. Just a couple of reminders. This meeting is on the record. Please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. And please stand and state your name and your affiliation. And if you can limit your request to one question and allow as many members as possible to speak. At this time, we’ll take your questions. Q: My name is Hattie Babbitt. I’m on the board of director of the World Resources Institute, which is a global environmental think tank, but based in Washington. And I’d like to get back to the climate change issue. One of the things that has happened in the environmental community in the past has been that we have been shuffled to the environment ministry in discussing climate change. You spoke very eloquently about the role that the finance ministers are now playing in this. And I wonder if you could talk about how you have been successful—those of you—those of you who are finance ministers and dealing with this—in bringing together the health ministries, the people involved within your governments on refugees, on what—those other issues that all feed into the climate change issue. It’s herding cats, in some cases. And I’d be grateful for your—to learn how. SCHOLZ: We should understand that climate change is one of the really big challenges we are facing, and that it is not—we will be not successful if we just act in the responsibility of the ministry that is responsible for climate, and environment, and things like that. So cooperation is necessary, and that we understand that all the different decisions we take are linked to each other. If we are not successful in fighting climate change, this will have deep impacts on the economy. This will have impacts on the situation of refugees, as you already mentioned. This will have impact on the natural resources we can use, and so on. And so I think this is absolutely key that we understand this is nothing we just let those who are directly responsible. We have to cooperate, and we have to think about the necessary steps. So my view is governments should have a common strategy to fight against climate change. And we should discuss on international levels with all those involved in the different views of the question. But we must go from literature, discussing, speeches and things like that. We must go to action. This is the real change that needs to happen now. ALLEN: I’ll come back over here. Q: Hi. My name is Charles Reynolds, State Department Foreign Service officer going out to Berlin for my next assignment. I’d like to know if you can talk about the shape of the state of Germany’s economy and if there is potentially a global slowdown how that may affect you, and what steps you’re taking to prepare for that. SCHOLZ: First, the economic situation in Germany is not that bad. We have the highest number of people employed we had ever. And there’s—all the forecasts say that there will be a continuous increase in labor, and people at the workforce. So in the dimensions of Germany, we are now—have more than 45 million people employed, which is really a lot. And we haven’t had that much ever in the past. And we have a lot of industries, not just but also construction, where they are desperately looking for better capacities because they are not able to work for all the requests which are there on the market. And we have quite a very stable situation in the inner market of Germany. So there is an increase in growth coming from that, which helps in the difficult situation we have due to the global economy. We had to support the situation with reducing taxes for low- and middle-income families. We increased the support for childs in the families. We will get mostly rid of a special tax we implemented after German unification for financing it. So there is a lot of impulses for growth coming from Germany itself. But in the end, if you are a really competitive economy that’s successful on the global market with goods and services, as lower growth in the world has an impact on your economy. There is no—nothing to avoid that. But if you understand that there is this slower growth, we are still having a quite—not a difficult situation. This is my view on that—on that aspect. And just referring to some of the public debates we sometimes have, we have the biggest figure of public investment financed by the federal budget we have had ever and this is how just supported also by these special decisions we took on climate change, and the investments related to that. ALLEN: Thank you. Q: So there is a growing view that monetary policy has been pushed too far, to the detriment of the economy. That emergency measures in the past have been regularly applied to non-urgent conditions. So how do member states, especially important ones like Germany, play a role to help steer a different course going forward? SCHOLZ: I think we did a lot to understand the situation. We have very good supervision institutions. Not just the European Central Bank, but many others. And they cooperate a lot in the world. So our knowledge about the difficulties in the financial system, problems that may come up, are much better than they had been before. And after the last crisis, we took a lot of decisions to have better regulations. I’m a bit afraid that now, at this stage, some people think they should get rid of them, which I think would be a mistake because they had good reasons for being implemented. And if we are working on this field very exactly and understand the development in the financial system well enough, we are able to act very soon if there—if a problem is coming up. And just for looking at the European Union, already mentioned that aside of the European Central Bank we built up the European Stability Mechanism, which is giving us the ability to support a country that has—that’s losing contact with the financial markets. We have the ability through this system to help a country out of a difficult structural crisis. And we now are remodeling it to have better instruments. This will be supported also by the eurozone budget we spoke about before. And we built up a system of how to deal with banks that are relevant for financial security. And there is a supervision or an authority that has been built in Europe. And we built a fund that is financed by the banks to the resolution of banks, if necessary. So there is a lot of activity that has been done to be much more prepared for a difficult situation than we were ten years ago. And this is a reason for being quite confident that we will be able to manage situations. ALLEN: Thank you. In the back. Q: Thanks. I’m Megan Greene. I’m a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. And some of my colleagues have put together this atlas of economic complexity. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, but Germany is a terrifying outlier on it. So they basically look at countries and what they produce, and connectiveness of what they produce. So how easy is it, if you produce one thing, to jump into something else? And it turns out for Germany, it scores very low on connectiveness. It’s really easy for Germany to jump into other industries. They also look at complexity, so how easy is it for you to move up the value chain and boost your productivity. And there, Germany is actually already at the top, which suggests there’s really no more room for Germany to move up the value chain. And this suggests, you know, the common narrative is that Germany needs to provide fiscal stimulus, and that will solve everything. This actually suggests that won’t solve much of anything. So I’m just wondering if you have any plans at all for what to do about this connectivity, complexity problem. Because Germany really is an outlier here. SCHOLZ: So in a situation where the economy is running quite well and where we have a lot of people employed, and where a lot of Mittelstand companies are successful in the world market, it is quite—it is—I do not agree that there is not an ability to develop new technologies and to be successful in the future markets. I think many of them do. The main aspect of this is spending money for research and development, which is happening quite well. And we are increasing it right now. We are launching a new act which is dealing with the question of supporting research activities in private medium-sized companies to have it not just in the big corporates but also in many other activities in the business environment. So I believe that we would be able to react to different situations. And what is happening now is that the country is remodeling itself and becoming more independent from fossil energies. And this will help us to be successful in the future as well. My view is, just to give you the figure, that it is necessary to increase research and development as the aspect of getting the future, and not just having it in some companies, and not just having it at universities and research institutions—which is something the state can do—but also enabling the companies to do it all very broadly. And this was the mood of the past. Now they have to do the necessary decisions. My view is that if we make it, for instance, to have mobility that is not related on fossil energies, but working with batteries, with plug-in hybrids, with hydrogen, this will be something which will support the activities of many companies, not just big car producers but all the supplier industries around. And this is the same with the energy supply in the country. This is the same in investment into infrastructure for supporting the digital development. What is the things we have to do in Europe and in Germany? I think we have to make it more easy to have big digital companies that are able to be successful on the world market. Some of them occur, but they are not of the size they should have to—if you look at the dimension of the European Union. And working in this field, I think, not just on legislation but also on legislation, not just on research but also on research, and not just in business but also in business, I think is key. Q: Hi. Andrea Shalal. I just wanted to build on that question. ALLEN: Who are you with? Q: I’m with Reuters. Andrea Shalal with Reuters. I wanted to build on that question. So in—there is a lot of sense that China kind of won the artificial intelligence race, and a lot of the sort of development on higher-end technologies, and that Europe has waited too long to get into that game. You’ve just mentioned this lack of critical mass on companies. Do you anticipate any changes coming? I mean, are you able to convince the EU—the new EU Commission that perhaps there should be sort of mega-companies and mergers allowed? And then, just very quickly on the technology piece, where do you see opportunities for Germany and for Europe to get ahead or get into a sort of pull position to make a difference in the future technologies? SCHOLZ: Most things will depend on whether we are successful in continuing the building of the European Union and its market. The next step is the banking union. And this should have—and the capital market union—to make it more successful, as they are today. And one of the outcomes should be that there is a change in the way how we finance the business. If you compare the United States to Europe, you will find that 80 percent of financing the business is equity. In Europe, it’s 20 percent. And my view is that there should be a change. And building the banking union and the capital market union could be a way to get there, and to get further growth for those companies who are successful in inventing new technologies, which is happening all over Europe. But they should always understand that there is market that they can reach very soon, and which is not fragmented. And this must be the European Union, with its four hundred and fifty million inhabitants. And we should cooperate in questions like artificial intelligence, and increase our public research activities, which we are doing. This is happening in most of the countries. Germany is doing a lot. France is doing a lot. Many other also. And if we join our forces, I think there is a chance that this is the basis for then later business models coming from that. We are working in the question of some cooperation in this field. And if we continue to do things like that, it is not that difficult. Where we should have a better progress is better cooperation. And it must be necessary that the next commission is working how we can make it easier that two things are happening. First, new companies to become big very soon, and being supported by equity markets so that they can grow by this support. And looking at the whole European market as the first one to get. And second, the opportunity for those companies who could be successful in the world market if they get together. And I think there is something that should be changed. The third is that we are very successful in opening markets, especially our own, but we are not very successful in defending the markets. So we did a lot that big payment companies now can get into cooperation with any bank in Europe. But we did not make it feasible that these banks could cooperate with the payment companies and ask them to give them access to their technical opportunities for their clients. And this is just a big mistake, and I think it will stop very soon. Q: Hi. Rebecca Patterson from Bessemer Trust. I’m an investor. It seems to me that there’s a difficult challenge that Europe so far has been very successful with, which is managing or balancing national, economic and political priorities with the regional European monetary union and EU goals. And you talked about the importance of working across countries to succeed in the future, whether it’s banking union, et cetera. Do you think there’s enough leadership within the monetary union today to drive that forward at the speed that’s required? And do you think that the German population appreciates the need to be thinking not only domestically but also regionally? You’ve got a strong consumer in Germany. What’s pulling down Germany is broad. It’s not domestic. SCHOLZ: Yes, there is a need for leadership. And as I’m part of this leadership in Europe, I think we will be successful. (Laughter.) And to the second question, just to give you an idea, on the question of banking union we are working very hard. And I will also make my own proposals on those questions very soon, because I think it is not wise just to speak about it. As in the question of climate change, we have to go to action. We have to understand what is the right way to do. And this is why I said we have to look at the United States. They have their banking union, in a way. And learning from that, we could do something, which is then a European approach which would be successful. And the second question, about the people if they accept that it is better for them to be part of a strong European economy and a strong and sovereign European Union, yes, I think there is a broad majority in Germany understanding it. And if you argue in the questions and explain what is necessary for it, I think you will have the support of the people. There is no need for being afraid. Q: Hello. Brad Setser. I’m a senior fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations.  I’m wondering if you would be willing to comment on the consequences of negative interest rates for fiscal policy, both in Germany but also for European fiscal rules. And in particular, do you believe that it is still necessary for questions like France and Italy to aim to bring their debt-to-GDP ratios down to 60 percent? SCHOLZ: I think that it is one of the key advantages in building the European Central Bank Germany fought for that we have an independent central bank. So the decisions on interest rates, which are taken by the central bank and all the activities they undertake, are their business. We are discussing with them, we have our own views on the one or the other discussion. But if you are the one that was fighting for independence, you cannot always intervene and say, please do it the following, because this would be a wrong arrangement in this field. So I think, just looking at the past, that the European Central Bank more or less did necessary things. And especially what Mr. Draghi said when there was the big crisis. And what he did was a big advantage, which saved the European economies. And we should not forget that. This is my view on this question. So we will see what will happen the next time. My view on interest rates is that the problem is not just a question of central banks, neither in Europe, nor in the Bank of England, nor the Fed, or the Bank of Japan, or—and so on. There is a lot of money in the world looking for interest and for ways to earn money. And if they are—and they have to go to the real economy, and to invest more in this field. But this is the question we are dealing with. And as it is the case that we have that much money, this will have an impact on interest rates, aside of the activities of the central banks. It’s not just a central bank question, to my—this is my point of view. On the GDP—debt-to-GDP ratio, I think it’s wise to have a stable financial situation. You should do it very intelligent, to look at the situation where you are in and where you want to get to. In the case of Germany, when there was the last crisis we increased the debt-to-GDP ratio to 80 percent. Now we are doing down this year down under 60 percent. And having this idea of being able to act in a crisis, but using better times to get to a lower debt-to-GDP ratio I think is still wise, because the strength in the crisis is key for the ability to do something against negative impacts coming from a world economy slowdown, and things like that. And the message for Germany is we would be able to do anything necessary. And this is, I think, a good message. ALLEN: I’ll throw a question in. Would you care to comment on the current large current account surplus in Germany, and certainly the larger eurozone, and what should be done, if anything, to bring it down? SCHOLZ: The surplus is the outcome of business activities. And it was already mentioned, there was a question about it, but the strong Mittelstrand companies being competitive on the world market are the reason for the surplus. And in the end, any country needs some companies that are not just acting on the home market, but also worldwide. And they may be small. They may have just five hundred employees, or two hundred, or two thousand or so. But if they are competitive, this is the key reason for strength, and economic strength. And the outcome of this sometimes is then the surplus you mentioned. For the future, just to give you some figures, there is more than $500 billion which are invested in research and development by the United States. It’s a bit smaller from China, but they are at this size. Japan is at about $170 billion research and development. Germany is about $130-140 billion. The rest is following far behind. If the European Union would do the same as Germany is doing, investing more than 3 percent of GDP in research and development, it would be $600 billion. And this is one of the answers to your question. Q: Gale Mattox from the U.S. Naval Academy. Let me ask you another percentage, and that is the one that this administration mentioned often, and that’s the 2 percent for defense. Where do you stand on this? And will you meet the Wales summit percentage that you agreed to? SCHOLZ: We increased the military budget in the last years more than we did all the years before. And we did it due to needs from our defense forces. And this is part of our activities within the NATO, since we are supporting very much transatlantic partnership and all the things related to that. We are always doing it in a way that we can finance it from our budget. And this is, I think, the most important message. What we do, we will be able to continue to do in the next years. And if we have increases, they should be not just for one year, or for two. They should be something that is stable for the future as well. And constantly we are working on this question, looking at our budget abilities, and things like that. And as you look—see from the past, there has been a bigger increase than we had before. ALLEN: Maybe I’ll close out with a question related to our conversation before we came in. If you read the minister’s biography, you know he’s a former mayor of Hamburg, Germany, a major seaport. We had a discussion, maybe we could extend it into the room here, sir, on maritime transportation growth. Ninety-five percent of the goods that come in and out of the United States go by sea. There are environmental issues related to that. There are cyber issues. There are issues regarding modernization of ports. You had some interesting views. Would you like to share them? SCHOLZ: Yeah. We had a very interesting debate on that question. I hadn’t expected it, but it was really something which I was—I discussed about very much when I was the mayor of the city of Hamburg. I think we should understand that for globalization and for the global economy, shipping is key. It’s a cheap transport we have. And without the ships, and without the containers, all the possibilities we—advantages we had from globalization would not happen. But we have to manage it in a way that it is good for our future. So we have to reduce emissions. It is necessary that decisions are taken, and that we try to implement it into the shipping systems. We have to do something with the ports, so that there is less emissions-producing problems for the people. And for instance, I think we should make it feasible that when they are at the shore, in the port, they should—they should use electricity from land and not from the ship with some diesel, and things like that. And we should discuss about something, which is getting away from a permanent growth of the size of ships. So we are now—we reached twenty thousand containers, and more. I don’t think that we should give—go far beyond that, because this would have constantly new investments necessary in all the ports all over the world. This would enforce dredging and things like that all over the world, which is not the best thing for the environment. And so international agreement possibly about the size of ships and the further enlargement could be helpful for environment and for the world economy. ALLEN: Thank you. We have time for one final question. Otherwise, we’ll give you back a couple minutes here. Thank you very much, sir, for joining us this morning. We appreciate it. (Applause.) (END)
  • Food and Water Security
    Down the Hunger Spiral: Pathways to the Disintegration of the Global Food System
    For a precarious global agricultural system with powerful feedback loops, business as usual means widespread hunger and embedded systemic risk.
  • Energy and Environment
    As Negotiations Stumble, the Rationale for a Global Environmental Pact Grows
    Negotiations on a Global Pact for the Environment are poised to produce a nonbinding political declaration. Ecological catastrophes, meanwhile, continue to unfold across the planet. 
  • Bangladesh
    A Conversation With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh
    BESCHLOSS: Hello, and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations, ladies and gentlemen. Very pleased to be here today. It is with much excitement that I welcome Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh today. Prime Minister Hasina has been the leader of Bangladesh for over ten years, following in the legacy of her late father, Sheikh Rahman, Bangladesh’s first president. She has steered the country through an incredible period of growth. The growth in Bangladesh has been so much higher not just compared to the G-7 countries, but to the rest of emerging markets. And in the last two years it has been in the region of 7 to 8 to 9 percent, which is one of the highest rates, really, across most economies. She has received international praise for her management of the Rohingya crisis, accepting over one million forcibly-displaced persons into Bangladesh and providing them with safe haven. She has long been a proponent of women’s and children’s rights. And as Bangladesh’s longest-serving prime minister, she serves as an inspiration to millions in her country and around the world. Please join me in welcoming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. (Applause.) HASINA: Bismillah, rahman, rahim. President of CFR Mr. Richard Haass, distinguished members of CFR, members of my—(inaudible)—my former finance minister, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and as-salaam aleikum. It is a pleasure for me to be at CFR and to meet its distinguished members once again. It has been almost nineteen years when I was at CFR last. Since then, remarkable changes have taken place in many spells in my country, Bangladesh. It is now recognized worldwide as a role models of socioeconomic development and a responsible state in global affairs. These achievements are due to our people’s drive to realize the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s, dream of Sonar Bangla or Golden Bangla, a nation of prosperity and social justice for all with a modern inclusive society, yet preserving its old traditions and culture. Thus, Bangladesh today embodies secularism and religious freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights, principles enshrined in our constitution and shaping our way of life. Bangladesh takes particular pride in religious freedom and communal harmony in the region. This year Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate has hit a record high at 8.13 percent after registering 7.6 percent last year. It is not very far from achieving double-digit growth. Our per-capita income has raised US$1,909, which is close to the middle-income threshold. Bangladesh has attained food and energy security. According to The Spectator Index, Bangladesh achieved the highest GDP growth in the world during the last ten years, 188 percent. Bangladesh is today in the world the third-largest producer of vegetables, fourth-largest producer of rice, fifth-largest producer of inland fisheries, and second-largest orange exporter in the world. Sound macroeconomic fundamentals, political stability, pragmatic fiscal policy, and export-led vibrant private sector, and more importantly the determination and perseverance of our common people, have been the main contributing factors of this economic miracle. In 2008, when I campaigned for a vote, I promised a digital Bangladesh. Therefore, since assuming office in 2009, I immediately set forth expanding the ICT network across the country. The aim was to reduce the digital divide, enhance access to information, accelerate development, and create new empowerment opportunities. The ICT coverage in Bangladesh is close to a hundred percent. Bangladesh is now the fifth-largest internet user in Asia. And out of its 160 million population, more than 150 million are mobile subscriber and ninety million internet users. An important cornerstone of my domestic policy has been women empowerment. It is because I have always believed that equal participation of women and men was vital for optimum national development and progress. Now I am happy to say that women in Bangladesh hold high position in politics, government, parliament, local bodies, business, labor, military, police, border guard, security, and security agencies, as well as in U.N. peacekeeping. According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2018, Bangladesh is ranked first in South Asia and second in Asia on overall women empowerment. Bangladesh is ranked fifth in the world on political empowerment of women. Bangladesh, being a Muslim-majority country, has shown how the potentials of women mobilized and unleashed could make them equal partner and speed up a country’s development. In global efforts, Bangladesh has consistently contributed all ways possible to international peace and security. This emanated from Bangladesh’s policy of friendship to all, malice to none, as laid out by the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This policy of goodwill has helped Bangladesh maintain good relationship with all countries of the world. It has also helped Bangladesh in resolving its land and maritime boundary issues with its two neighbors. This policy has also inspired Bangladesh to support United Nations peacekeeping missions. For decades, Bangladesh has remained one of U.N.’s three top troop contributors. So far Bangladesh has served in fifty-four U.N. peacekeeping missions, contributing 122,000 troops, of which 119 gave their lives for the cause of peace. Among the challenges Bangladesh faces in its developmental journey is climate change. The frequency and intensify of cyclones and floods and river erosion have increased through the years. Science estimates that if global temperature increases by one degree centigrade by 2050, sea level would rise by one meter, submerging 70 percent of Bangladesh. My government has therefore adopted the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2009. And also, we are—under this plan two funds were set up: the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund, with own resources; and Bangladesh Climate Resilience Fund, with resources from development partners. But from partners we receive very little help. Since then, almost a billion U.S. dollars have been spent on several hundred projects, mostly on adaptation and a few on mitigation. The other significant challenge to our economic progress and humanity is terrorism and violent extremism, against which we have taken a zero-tolerance policy. We believe that terrorists do not belong to any religion or boundaries. To root out this menace of terrorism and violent extremism, I would like to propose the following stakes: First, must stop the source of supply of arms to the terrorists. Second, must stop the flow of financing to the terrorists and their outfits. Third, must remove the divisions within societies. Fourth, must pursue the principle of peaceful settlement of international disputes through dialogue for a win-win situation. I believe only by taking those actions sincerely and with determination would we be able to free our world from scourge of terrorism and violent extremism and have peace. In Bangladesh we have already started taking necessary measures to isolate these menaces socially and the aim of ridding them for good. Our efforts are made effective by the excellent cooperation that we have been receiving from our regional and global partners. We have also taken digital measures to stem the spread of lies and hate narratives that ignite violence. As a result, since the Holey Artisan attack on 1st of July 2016, there has been no major incident. We have remained increasingly vigilant as we are committed to ensuring the safety of our people and supporting security situation beyond our borders. An immediate challenge facing us is the Rohingya crisis. Through a planned genocide, the government of Myanmar cleansed its northern Rakhine state of Rohingya minority. They fled violence and atrocities, and we opened our border to shelter them on humanitarian ground. This humane decision came from our own experience in 1971 during the war of independence, when ten million of our people took refuge in neighboring India. I myself became a refugee. When my father and the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and eighteen members of our family were brutally killed in August 15, 1975, my younger sister, Rehana, were abroad at that time, and therefore survived. We are banned to return to Bangladesh for nearly six years by the then-military dictator, Ziaur Rahman, and had to live as refugees in foreign land. Therefore, I could feel and understand the pain/agony felt by the persecuted Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar to safety in Bangladesh. Now, while we are providing humanitarian support to the best of our ability to Rohingyas, we want a peaceful and immediate resolution to the crisis. Myanmar has created this crisis, and the solution lies there in Myanmar. The international community—particularly the USA, the European Union, China—have been extremely helpful and supportive to Bangladesh in dealing with the crisis. I want to include there are many other countries also helping and cooperating with us. The world must take all measures to compel Myanmar to create conditions enabling the Rohingyas’ safe, dignified, and voluntary repatriation to their ancestral homes. I also urge you all to visit the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. I believe while in those camps you will be shocked by their horrifying stories of atrocities at the hands of the Myanmar security forces and local resilience. I believe seeing their plight would worry your heart so much so that you would want to see the end of their painful predicament the soonest. Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to conclude here and a meaningful conversation with you all. Thank you all for listening. (Applause.) BESCHLOSS: Thank you very much, Sheikh Hasina. That was really very interesting. And I was just thinking, I’ve been to Bangladesh many times, and read about your economy and what you’ve been achieving. Particularly in the last ten years, the development of education sector, the health sector, and maternal and child health. And I was just curious if you could tell us a little bit more about how you’ve been working on the Millennium goals, then more recently in the SDGs. And of course, you were at the U.N. in the last few days and you’ll be speaking tomorrow. But I’m just curious to what—if you can give us a preview of that. HASINA: You see, when Millennium Goal was adopted I was president, and also SDG, in 2000 and 2015. So what we did in our program, like, five years in development program, we always take long-term program. So we included—which is essential for our government, for our people—those agenda we included our five-years plan, and we implemented it, and MDG very successfully we implemented. Now SDG we have also included in our seventh five-years plan so that we can implement all those, I mean, areas. And we are doing well. And we have, like, five-years plan. Side-by-side we have also long-term plan, that, what do we want to achieve? How do we want to help our people? And where we want to reach? That is absolutely clear. First thing is that the basic needs of our people—food, education, healthcare, shelter, job opportunity—those are very, very important. So we know that what is our priority. And the priority message, we prepare our plan. And as you know, that Bangladesh geographically are positioned in such a way that time and again we have to face natural calamities. It is not only natural calamities, as because in Bangladesh what happened in 1975, the killing of my father. Then Bangladesh development was hard. 1996, after twenty-one years, when we formed government, actually, we have to make many pragmatic decision(s), and also we have taken—how our plan, program, how to help people. First thing, food security. We’ll start research on it to produce more food; and not only producing food, also the distribution that the poorest of the poor, all disabled people, all older people, we started distributing free food for them. Also, our social safety net program. Oldest pension we introduced. Disabled pension we introduced. Then destitute women, we started assisting them. Then education, we survey all over the country where we need more school, like primary school. Primary education is free. My father, he has done it, the primary education. And for girls education, also free. Then we started distributing free books so that people can, you know, go—I mean, the children can go to school and with the parents. Not only that, well, in 1981, when I returned home, I travel a lot. I talked to people. I found that they don’t send their children to their schools. Sometimes I asked them, well, why you are not sending your, I mean, children to school? They said what they would do. If they want, they could answer money. Then I asked some—say about one lady, that how much your son earns? If I give you this money, will you send your child to the school? Then said, why not? Then we have started it. It’s a very humble way, very small amount, but still we give this money to the mother—in the mother’s name. Nowadays we have digital system and we have, you know, mobile phone. That tender is not much, but we started it. We open up in the private sector, the mobile phone use. So now we started sending money to the mother, then they started sending their children to school. And that’s because they are getting free books. Nowadays we have also started a school feeding program that also help us the drop out—there is no drop out in the primary section and also in the middle school. That way, the social safety net program, that also help, because when people get some money—at least the oldest people or the destitute—old and destitute—I mean, sometimes, you know, that women, they become widowed, or sometimes their husband abandon and get married other. So then where she would go? She has nowhere, neither husband’s house nor the parents’ house. And people are poor. They cannot afford to keep house. When she’s receiving some money, then that also reduce many social, you know, disputes. At least then she has some money, so always everybody look after her. Even the oldest people, also. That we have started. And sometimes when they get the money they also invest it. And then the healthcare, we started building community clinic(s) all over Bangladesh. We had a plan to—plan that every plus-minus takes six thousand people, there will be a community clinic from there. We will then get—I mean, just primary medication. Especially women or children are the beneficiary. After that, we thought that we will encourage not only the food but also the nutrition. That is also important. So we should, you know, allow people to access to the nutrition. Otherwise, you know—we want a healthy child. So that, we have to give many steps. Even the pregnant poor women, we send them some money so that she can eat properly. And then the lactating mother, working lactating mother, we also give them allowances. So that way in many way our social safety net program, it is really continuing. Side-by-side you see—I open up all our economy. As a political party, Bangladesh Awami, we have our own economic policy. And time and again, we updated it. So give more importance to the private sector. So when we form government, immediately we open up all the sectors to the private like America. You see, when I form government in 1996, I found that American investment was only twenty (U.S. million dollars) or US$25 million. When I open up our different sectors, like energy sectors, then electricity policy, the American companies started investment. Within our tenure it increased from twenty million (U.S. dollars) to US$1 billion. That way, it increased. So many area, like private bank, private—I mean, every sector I open up, because I thought that private people if they invest that will create job opportunity. Even if we had only one television, government owned, one radio, government owned, no private television, no private, you know, radio. Usually military dictator never allow that, you know that. So I opened it up. Now we have given license to forty-four television and private television, and also many radio. That creates job opportunity for people. So one hand our aim is to create job opportunity, and other hand that economy must be vibrant. And digital Bangladesh, now you see in Bangladesh the broadband connection we have started. It almost reaching everywhere. And then we launch our satellite, Bangabandhu 1, first. And side-by-side we started teaching our children that computer—because in 1996 I found people are very much shy about using the computer, so—and my digital advisor is here. So actually I also learned computer from my son. (Laughter.) So he—actually he used to give me all the idea, that we have to do this and that. We dropped all the taxes, opened it up for the children. Now even in the school we have started teaching our children. So that we open up. And our policy, mainly it is not only in the urban society. We give more importance to the rural society because I believe that we should give more attention to the rural area. Our development should come from the grass to—(inaudible). Then it can be sustainable. And that, we have taken our policy and we have started implementing it. And that we are getting good result. Like our—you know, yes, our GDP, we achieved 8 percent—8.13. Side-by-side we control our inflation, which is only 5.4 to 6. This is why it’s only 5.4 or 6, within this. So you can understand that while GDP is growing, inflation is controlled, actually the fruit of economy reach to the poor people, grassroot people. They are the beneficiary. And that way—because the food security. Now, we—and show food security—our life expectancy also increased. It was only fifty-six years; now it is seventy-two-plus. For women seventy-three, for men seventy-one, together seventy-two. I don’t know why it happened—(laughs)—why women life for long time. That I don’t know. (Laughter.) The experts or researcher can tell me. But it’s really—it is a fact. It has happened. Then our literacy rate, 1996 I found it was only 44 percent. Then we took a project, total literacy, because we want to remove the illiteracy. We started working on it and get good result: We increased literacy rate up to 65.5 percent. Unfortunately, when we—well, in 2001 I come back to power, then I found after seven, eight years, 2009, when I found government, then I found that it’s reduced to, again, the same—almost same, I mean 45 or 50 (percent), something like that. Then we took some steps, like, I mean, education for all and compulsory. That we’re now—it’ll go up—gone up to 73 percent. But we have to do more. And another thing, that for women empowerment, 1996, when I found government, I found that in higher post(s) there is no women. Not a single secretary. Nobody. But in parliament, in government, you know that from 1991 in our country, either me or opposition, prime ministership always captured by a woman, either me or my opponent. No male member could get any chance. It is true. (Laughter.) But in other side, there is—there was, you know, lapses. So what I did, I introduced that my army, navy, border guard, every sphere of life, even the higher court, there is no women judges in the higher court. No women judges. So I said, no, it cannot be. It should be there. During Pakistan rule there was a law that women cannot get any job in the judiciary service. But after liberation, my father changed that law that women can go. And then I found that no woman can get any promotion or get into—then I said, no, it should be there. I talked to our president because usually they are just, you know, appointed by the president. I said—I requested, and also the chief justice, that if he will not mention any name of any woman judge, then I will not sign the file and send it to the president. (Laughter.) So that way—you know, sometimes you have to apply, you know, force also that they should. And that now we have many judges, and they are doing very well. I much appreciate it. So this way every sphere of life. And another thing I did, usually in our society—we’re a conservative society. Our parents, they said, oh, why we should spend money for the girls? Girls will be married to another family. They’re not earning money for us, and this and that. Then what I did that—I thought that job opportunity will give them good. So I introduced that in the primary school, the teacher, 60 percent should be women. That where I started. When you create job opportunity, then the parents, voluntarily they allow their girls for education. That way, even in the schools, at the beginning it was very difficult for us. Even some—even some stays that were about to happen, that women cannot participate in the football or kick it. Oh, women, what should they do, how they will play this and that? But then I thought there what to do. The second time we started that from the school. Now we have, you know, competition is school versus school, college versus college, that way. Now from their childhood, when they started, no one can say no. Now they are doing very well. We have women cricket team, woman football team, women sports. So they are now in the—it means that create confidence and also job opportunity. That really gives. Our digital center, at first we open 5,275 digital center all over the country. But they are one girl, one boys should be the initiator, that way. He give me this policy, my son. (Laughter.) So what happened, the girls are getting some job opportunity. Our community clinic, now eighteen thousand community clinic we planned to start build, but by this time we had—already we had, you know, clinic—health clinic. And now we have around fourteen thousand community clinic, plus four thousand, I mean, healthcare, altogether around eighteen thousand. From there, we distribute thirty types of free medicine and also health service. Especially women and children are beneficiary. And we—that way, because they are getting all health service, so our mother mortality reduced, our child mortality reduced, and the women can just walk down there and get healthcare. BESCHLOSS: That’s really impressive. HASINA: So that way in the past what happened, the women have to wait for a male member to take her to the hospital also, and now they don’t need any help. They can go by themselves. Side-by-side we have created job opportunity. We have thirteen thousand health provider, and it is increasing. Then, beside that they can—different type of job like digital center, community clinic. And also women for their, you know—this is also another kind of social safety net. Like my house, my home, my—you know, when I was on farm, like, we give training to the women sitting in the house what they should do. Then I said, they can involve in some kind of production, whatever they want. We provide some money, a lump sum, training, and they can produce whatever type they want. They can do it through cooperative. We give them market facilities. That way they can earn some money that also give them from—come out from the poverty level. That will reduce our poverty. It was more than 40 percent. Within one decade we reduced our poverty level to 21 percent. Now it is 21.3 (percent), but we’re very much hopeful that within a few years, two or three years, we can reduce more. I have given target to program that within two to three years—that means—well, our tenure is up to ’24, 2024. So within this period it should come down to 16 or 17 percent, the poverty level. BESCHLOSS: That’s wonderful. HASINA: And that we’ll achieve. I can tell you we will achieve. Even earlier we will achieve. So every program we are taking we have our—when we were in opposition, that time we prepare our plan. The moment we then took power, we started implementing it. And time and again differently we just updated it. And that way we made this achievement. Thank you very much. BESCHLOSS: Thank you very much. Really, really impressive. If I may, I wanted to turn it to the audience. Our members here would like to join the conversation. And I wanted to see if any of the members have any questions. Just reminding all members that we are on the record, and that when you stand up if you could wait for the microphone and introduce yourselves, mention your name and your affiliation before you ask your question. Q: Madam Prime Minister, thank you so much for being here with us. My name is Ella Gudwin and I’m the CEO of VisionSpring. I have a colleague in Cox’s Bazar right now, so thank you for having the international community be so welcome there. I want to thank your ministry of labor and employment for increasing the minimum wage for the garment workers. It was such an important step. Additionally, your ministry of health has been very effective in rolling out vision centers in order to increase access to eyeglasses and to vision correction. We have screened the vision of thirty-five thousand garment workers, and we have found that 25, 35 percent of the workers, mostly women, do not have the glasses they need to thread their needle. And they are falling out of the workforce as their near vision gets blurry. And so my question, as the garment sector is so critical to your exports and to the growth of the economy, and these women have fought so hard for the jobs that they have earned, how might the nonprofit sector, and especially the corporations who are purchasing from your country, contribute and collaborate with your government so that we can make sure that this strategic workforce has the wonder of clear vision? HASINA: (Speaks in a foreign language.) MR.     : (Speaks in a foreign language.) HASINA: Garment sector. (Speaks in a foreign language.) Actually, what you mention actually I have a good connection with the labor force because during my time, you know, we increased their wages. In ’96, I found it was only eight hundred taka. Then we increased to sixteen hundred in our country currency. But second time when we came back to power we increased it about five thousand. Now it is eight thousand. Actually, we give more facilities. But about this problem, well, we have our—all facilities, if anybody has any problem they can go to doctor. And all our garments owner, they are facilitating all the facilities for them. So this is the first time I heard that they had eye problem and they’re not getting proper—or they’re leaving job. Sometimes what happened for a few years when they earn some money they get married. Then they start their own life in their village. They don’t want to work. That also happened. But what you mentioned I must inquire about it. (Speaks in a foreign language.) Garments owner? Is there any— BESCHLOSS: Maybe if we just move on to other—maybe if you move on to other questions, if we may? HASINA: OK. Sure. (Speaks in a foreign language)—garments— BESCHLOSS: Any other questions? Sorry. Sorry, there’s—Alyssa, do you have a question? Q: Hi. Alyssa Ayres from the Council on Foreign Relations. Madam Prime Minister, you spoke about the challenge of the Rohingya refugees as a problem that was created in Burma—in Myanmar—and a place where we need to find the solution in Myanmar. But I think what we are now seeing, realistically, is that there’s no solution emerging from Myanmar. So what would it take? What would be the solution for the next kind of near term for this humanitarian crisis? I mean, we all recognize the generosity of Bangladesh in being host to the refugee community. But they are challenged now what to do about higher education, about employment. Should there be a third country resettlement program put in place? Should the international community—I recognize the fundraising is always below the actual appeal. What should be the solution to help in the case that we see now where that real solution in Myanmar is not forthcoming? Q: Can I answer that question, please, because my question leads to it? BESCHLOSS: Yeah. Q: My name is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Cordoba House, New York. The prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings, said that my ummah—the ummah of Muslims is one body. Whenever part of it suffers pain the whole ummah suffers. You mentioned the Rohingya. On Monday morning, Prime Minster Imran Khan talked about the attacks against the Kashmiris in Kashmir recently. We are reading in the news daily about the Chinese minority Muslims. When will a critical mass of Muslim world leaders like yourself, like the members of OIC countries, get together to address this problem? Because, collectively, this can be done. And it’s not only a matter of Muslims, of Muslim minorities. It is also a human rights issue. And this should be something which the whole Muslim ummah as a whole, and the governments of Muslim-majority countries, collectively can wield the kind of leverage to turn the needle on this issue. BESCHLOSS: I think we’re trying to keep the questions short so that we can move on. Thank you. HASINA: You see, about the Rohingya, I can tell you, well, we—actually, we engaged dialogue with Myanmar, and we are discussing with them, and also international community are also supporting. But the problem is that these people don’t want to go back unless they feel in a secure. Myanmar, what happened in 1982, they changed their constitution and there they didn’t mention about the Rohingya, that they are—they are citizen. Sometimes they deny, that they are not their citizen; they are outsider, this and that. But, well, when Bangladesh and Myanmar started dialogue and UNHCR—(inaudible)—and other U.N. organizations—they are also active—at once they said they agreed to take them back. But somehow, in one hand when they agree then in the camp some people just instigated them that they don’t want to go back; they want to stay. They want—there they have some demands. That way, every time when we take some initiative and the time comes, then this problem arise. Now, well, I feel that all these U.N. organizations and other organizations working, what they’re doing here in Bangladesh they can help these people even in Myanmar also. They should take some initiative that way. And Myanmar should also agree and also create an atmosphere so that these people can go back and stay their own land. Now, international pressure is important about the education and, as you know, that is 1.1 million. Because for a long time—some of the Rohingya for a long time they are staying there. It has started—since 1977-78 they started, you know, inflows in our country. So we developed one area. We thought that we already built up the houses. There is a cyclone shelter. We built up the embankment. If we can ship them there, then in these cyclone shelters usually we have in our coastal belt is a multipurpose. We have the schools. We have offices. We have a healthcare center there. We just run that way. So if we can ship them in the this Bhasan Char, one island we develop, and already the houses we have building, a hundred thousand Rohingya we can accommodate. Then some people can get some job opportunity and children can get education. We can arrange the school and healthcare. And also the—we build up the warehouse where all of the materials can be preserved. That way we prepared ourselves. But somehow, it seems to me that all the organizations that are working there, they don’t want that these people should go there. They are trying to prevent. And about the Muslim ummah, I can tell you that when I attended the OIC summit in Makkah, I also raised these points—that if there is any problem, through dialogue, through discussion, all the Muslim countries then can solve their problem. But somehow it is not happening. It is—well, you know—you know where the problem lies; that many resource-full country, they cannot use their resources by their own. So those who are helping, they have some game to play, and they always divide and rule. Then so Muslim people should understand it and realize it. So it’s very—I mean, really, it is a very unfortunate situation. Every time in OIC I raise the issue that OIC should take some steps, but somehow it is not happening. And conflicts, it is not only Muslim to Muslim. What happened in New Zealand? In the mosque was under attack. So many people killed there. Well, who killed them? He was not a Muslim. He was a Christian. But he killed innocent people. Our—(inaudible)—team was there. I was so worried about them. Even some of our Bengali community people also died. When the conflict arise and when it happen, it can happen everywhere. So what I feel that, yes, you are very correct; the Muslim ummah should be united, and if they have any problem themselves they can solve it. They can sit together. Through dialogue, through discussion, through cooperation, they can solve it. Q: (Off mic.) BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Sheikh Hasina. This has been incredible. I can’t thank you enough on behalf of our members here, and we hope that you will come back before another nineteen years—much sooner. (Laughter, applause.) HASINA: Another nineteen? I don’t want to leave that—(inaudible). (END)
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