Bangladesh's time-tested friend Japan sees its high growth potential in the coming 20 years, but noted that Bangladesh's growing economy needs to be backed by timely development of infrastructure and further improvement in investment climate.
"There's no doubt in Bangladesh's high growth potential in the coming 20 years," Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki told UNB in an interview mentioning that Bangladesh has been achieving remarkable economic growth in recent years.
The Ambassador believes such growth will be taking hold when the economy is backed by timely development of infrastructure and improvement in investment environment, including reform of taxation system to attract FDI (foreign direct investment) and enhancement of governance entailed with capacity development and institutional building.
"Japan always stands with Bangladesh and we're more than happy to extend any assistance in this regard," said Ambassador Naoki who spent almost three months in Dhaka.
He recognised that the government of Bangladesh has been carrying out a number of mega infrastructure projects to accelerate such growth, aiming to join middle-income countries by 2021 and advanced countries by 2041.
To create a more business-friendly environment, Ambassador Naoki, suggested watching carefully the difficulties that the Japanese companies are already facing in Bangladesh, especially in the segments of tax and financial system.
It would also be important to prepare efficient facilities in the EPZs, which is the fundamental for attracting more foreign investment, he said.
"In the end, I believe, taking good care of the companies already operating in Bangladesh will connect to the next step," said the Japanese Ambassador.
The total annual private investment amount from Japan to Bangladesh in 2018 marked US$ 58 million, and in 2019 at least 25 Japanese companies newly extended their business to Bangladesh.
To further accelerate such an investment trend, the improvement of investment climate to provide potential investors with tax incentives and needy infrastructure is crucial, said the Japanese Ambassador.
As of 2019, the population of Bangladesh was over 163 million, which ranked the country the 8th largest in the world.
From the economic perspective, the Ambassador said, Asian Development Outlook (supplement) projects Bangladesh's GDP grows by 8.1 percent in 2019 and 8.0 percent in 2020.
"These trends imply rapid expansion of domestic market with increasing purchasing power of the people in Bangladesh," he said.
Priorities to Make Ties Stronger
"My first priority here is to make our two countries and peoples even closer to each other, in many fields," said the Japanese envoy.
In the year 2022, Bangladesh and Japan will celebrate 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, which, the Japanese envoy says, will be very good opportunity to further deepen friendship and partnership.
"I hope, more and more Bangladeshi people get interested in Japan and its culture. I'll do my best to promote interactions between Japan and Bangladesh at various levels and fields," he said.
Since being appointed as Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh in October, he said, he feels very much honoured and humbled to represent Japan in this country, full of energy and potential of development.
Ambassador Naoki said it was beyond his expectation that people in Bangladesh are overwhelmingly sympathetic with Japan, calling them "time-tested friend".
Peaceful Global Order
Bangladesh and Japan have been enjoying friendly bilateral relations since the independence of Bangladesh.
In 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina exchanged their visits in the same year, and in May 2019 the Prime Ministers affirmed their determination to further develop the bilateral relationship through initiatives and actions, including high-level mutual visits.
"Speaking of Japan-Bangladesh relations, I would like to share the fact that Japan is one of the earliest countries that recognised Bangladesh and has been the most committed and largest development partner," said the Japanese Ambassador.
He said peaceful and rule-based international order is becoming increasingly important for the sustainability of the further development.
The two leaders of Japan and Bangladesh shared the ideas of 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific' based on common values such as freedom, the rule of law and market economy.
Based on this vision for prosperity, he said, Japan will support the sustainable development of Bangladesh and promote quality infrastructure building in this region to take our relationship to the next level.
Made in Bangladesh
The Japanese Ambassador said the number of Japanese companies in Bangladesh has increased over the past years. "It's my great pleasure to share with you the number of Japanese companies currently operating in Bangladesh reached 305."
He readymade garments industry has been one of the major destinations of Japanese investment to Bangladesh, and nowadays garments with "Made in Bangladesh" is getting more recognisable in Japan.
Other areas attracting Japanese companies will be for example food processing, pharmaceutical, light engineering and ICT, said the Japanese envoy.
He said recently Japanese companies are also showing interest in providing financial services such as life insurance targeting domestic market with the middle class.
Readymade garments have been a longstanding import items from Bangladesh to Japan, said the Ambassador adding that apart from RMG, Japanese companies are gradually seeing Bangladesh as a quality source of fisheries.
In fact in recent years, the Ambassador said, the import of prawns and crabs from Bangladesh to Japan has been increasing.
50th Anniversary in 2022
The Ambassador said Japan has been the most committed partner of Bangladesh and he is convinced it would not change no matter what.
The coming 50th anniversary in 2022 is the best opportunity to further strengthen the bonds between the two countries and its nationals, he said, adding that they will promote more and more interactions in various fields in the coming years towards 2022.
"I sincerely hope, the people of Bangladesh get interested in, and take part in the anniversary events and festivities," said the Ambassador.
Ambassador Naoki said what impresses him very much so far is the hospitality and kindness of the people of Bangladesh. "I would like to appreciate that everyone I met in Bangladesh welcomed me so warmly and made me feel at home."
Another thing that astonished him is the energy and vitality of Bangladesh, said the Japanese envoy mentioning that it is in its historic stage of development and is literally growing day by day.
"We're happy to see that Bangladesh has satisfied all the criteria for graduation from LDC in 2018, and Japan supports every effort of Bangladesh to become the role model of development," he said.
The Ambassador feels very much honoured to witness this historic stage of development in Bangladesh, and looking forward to seeing how this young, growing country will progress during his tenure.