The Initiative of BIG-B or the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt is very important for enhancing and strengthening the relations between Bangladesh and Japan; and beyond ensuring an enhanced connectivity in the region for greater economic progress, says a leading Japanese economist.

"I understand the BIG-B Initiative is very important in regard to enhancing and strengthening the relations and cooperation with Bangladesh," Daisuke Shintani, Chief Economist of Asia, China and Oceania Department of Mitsui and Co. Global Strategic Studies Institute told Dhaka Courier in an interview.

He said an enhanced connectivity in all the countries in Asian region will help bring more economic benefits to the people of the region.

The year of 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bangladesh.

Towards this milestone year, for further strengthening bilateral relations, Bangladesh and Japan want to make the utmost efforts for further promoting trade and investment with an improved business environment, as well as further deepening mutual understanding and 'exchange of people' between Japan and Bangladesh.

From this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of independence, JICA's projects of large-scale infrastructure will gradually be completed one after another to promote Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) initiative. Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 6 will be partially open in December this year.

After that, the Special Economic Zone in Araihazar, Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Expansion, Matarbari Deep Sea Port and Power Plant Stations, as well as Bangabandhu Railway Bridge will start operating, according to the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka.

Japanese economist Shintani said the development of Bangladesh's three major cities -- Dhaka, Chattogram and Cox's Bazar -- using Japanese experience and the implementation of mega projects will help Bangladesh grow further in a faster way.

Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki said the completion of these projects will change the face of the nation and profoundly contribute to the stability and prosperity of Bangladesh. "This country will move one step closer to the realisation of the Golden Bengal," he said as Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of Independence.

Economist Shintani laid emphasis on enhancing regional connectivity with an improved supply chain that will create a win-win situation for all.

He said it would be a very important point how Bangladesh can continue ensuring the investors that Bangladesh is a safe country and there is a full security as Japanese companies continue to show interest in Bangladesh.

The Japanese economist said the second point would be an improved infrastructure and there are several projects that will have a positive impact once those are implemented.

He said proper infrastructure and a special economic zone in place will attract more Japanese investors to invest in Bangladesh.

Shintani said the labour cost is relatively low in Bangladesh compared to other countries but there is scope for enhancing skills of the workers.

In addition to garment and textile industries, the Japanese economist said, Bangladesh needs to think now what kind of role it wants to play going beyond RMG and textile for greater economic benefits.

Referring to India's automotive industry, Shintani said Bangladesh can give much emphasis on cooperation with Japan in this particular area.

Sharing opportunities in the agriculture sector, the Japanese economist said Bangladesh can explore exporting agriculture products meeting domestic demands.

"As far as I know, 40 percent of agriculture products get damaged from production stage to market level. So, a cold chain and better supply chain can help improve the situation with further modernisation of the agriculture industry," he said.

Bangladesh and Japan shared a view on the direction of economic cooperation to be pursued under the initiative of "the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt," or BIG-B and agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation through the "Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership.

Over the last 50 years, Japan has always supported Bangladesh and worked together to realise the "Golden Bengal" as dreamt by Bangabandhu dreamed, according to the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka.

The largest ever annual yen loan package of JPY 338 billion or approximately US$ 3.2billion under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan to Bangladesh was signed recently.

The stability and prosperity of Bangladesh, which is located at the junction of India and ASEAN, is extremely important for the stability and prosperity of the entire Indo-Pacific region, Japan says.

Bangladesh is expected to play even a greater role in promoting regional cooperation and addressing global agenda, it says.

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