With quality infrastructure projects, Bangladesh now on a new frontier of economy, says Ambassador Naoki

Noting that Bangladesh is now on a new frontier of economy and investment, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki on Thursday said the country will keep growing strongly beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said Bangladesh will march forward with quality infrastructure projects which will give the country a completely different look in the next three-five years.

"Within the next three to five years, things will be completely different, the face of the nation will look so different and the landscape of infrastructure will be so different with the implementation of quality projects," he told diplomatic correspondents at DCAB Talk held at the Jatiya Press Club on December 24.

Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) hosted the event with its President Angur Nahar Monty in the chair. DCAB General Secretary Touhidur Rahman also spoke at the event.

Sharing four specific reasons why Japanese companies are looking at Bangladesh as the "new frontier of economy and investment", Ambassador Naoki said the "geographical strategic location" of Bangladesh is connecting India, East Asia, Asean countries and beyond.

"This strategic location of Bangladesh will play even a more important role not only for the sake of growth of this country (Bangladesh), but also to integrate the market and supply chain of the region and beyond," he said, adding that that is a very strong advantage that Bangladesh has.

Ambassador Naoki identified Bangladesh's growth potential as one of the reasons why Bangladesh matters today. "There's no doubt that beyond Covid-19, Bangladesh will keep growing."

He said Bangladesh has relatively strong industries to sustain its economy and it has key industries like readymade garments for growth.

Highlighting quality infrastructure projects that Bangladesh has come up with, the Ambassador mentioned Dhaka Metro Rail, modern airport, Matarbari deep seaport under Moheshkhali-Matarbari Integrated Infrastructure Development Initiative, Padma Bridge and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge that will change Bangladesh. "That's very important. Look at those quality infrastructure projects."

He hoped that Dhaka Metro will be opened partially next year and the vast people in Dhaka will have a very different life to enjoy.

The Japanese Ambassador said he is really confident that Matarbari will meet the requirements of increasing demands of port-related facilities and wider container handling in line with rapid economic development in Bangladesh.

The Japanese envoy said he feels so proud that Japan has played a very important role in terms of infrastructure development in Bangladesh.

He said the Japanese investors are looking at Bangladesh with a very positive tone as part of the common vision for the stability and prosperity; promoting quality economic development through quality infrastructure under a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The Ambassador said the joint efforts should continue and the two countries should start a joint study on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Investment Climate

The Japanese Ambassador touched upon the improving investment climate which is not much talked about by others.

"In terms of the investment climate, I must say that the government has done a wonderful job," he said recalling the importance given by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Appreciating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's leadership in this area, the Ambassador said from the next year and onwards that will have a very positive impact.

He said with the improvement of the investment climate and business environment in Bangladesh he is sure that this ease of doing business will see remarkable progress when the next report will come out next year.

The Ambassador, however, said the instructions given by the Prime Minister should be properly communicated with the officials on the grounds who are dealing with the issues regularly to get a better outcome.

He said to complement the improved investment climate; Bangladesh really needs to work on capacity building of the workforce to invite more investment.

Tokyo on Competitors

Responding to a question on the growing influence of China in Bangladesh, Ambassador Naoki said it is really significant that wider stakeholders - Japan, China, India, Korea, members of the European Union and the USA-- are showing the interest in making development possible in Bangladesh.

The important thing is that Bangladesh will provide opportunities and facilitate the participation of governments and private companies, he added.

"We're really eager to see that Bangladesh develops further. Bangladesh will truly be a model of economic development (in the world)," said Ambassador Naoki.

He, however, said it is important that all the stakeholders make sure that those projects will be economically viable and financially sustainable which will be beneficial for the common vision - free and open Indo-Pacific.

Tokyo Wants Early Repatriation

The Japanese Ambassador said his country supports the repatriation of Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine State and wants to see the process start next year.

"Rohingya is a very important issue. To see progress, we should see the start of the repatriation process in 2021. Japan will continue to help," he said.

The Ambassador said Japan will continue to cooperate with the government of Bangladesh and will spare no efforts to see a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis.

Asked about Japan's role in the UN forum, the ambassador said they are communicating directly with Myanmar's top military officials and at the government level on the Rohingya crisis as Japan sees it a proper channel to play a role.

He said Japan has a strong connection with the highest level of Myanmar military as well as the civilian government. "Japan is communicating directly on what Myanmar could do and what Myanmar should do in terms of addressing accountability as well as focusing the repatriation process. I think there, Japan can play a role."

Naoki said there may be some critical views in international arena but it needs to be looked at what Japan can do through this channel and through this communication at the very top level of the government as well as the military.

The Ambassador said this is the role Japan can play and will continue to play knowing that seeing some progress on accountability and early start of the process of repatriation is very important.

Asked about Japan's investment in Myanmar, Ambassador Naoki said Japan is part of Asia and Myanmar is also part of Asia. "Like Bangladesh, Myanmar is also traditionally a very friendly country to Japan. So, there's a good reason for us to continue making investment in a country which is under the process of democratisation."

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas who fled their homeland in Rakhine State after being persecuted by their own country.

Myanmar did not take back a single Rohingya from Bangladesh over the last three years but Myanmar, in its attempts to "mislead" the international community, claimed that a total of 397 displaced people had voluntarily returned from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Two repatriation attempts turned futile as Myanmar "failed to remove trust deficit" among the Rohingyas and there was "lack of conducive environment" in Rakhine for their return.

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