Bangladesh is now undergoing a major transformation.
Since 2011, the economy has been growing at a rate of over 6 percent every year, and gross national income (GNI) per capita was pushed up from $420 in 2000 to $1,940 in 2019 (World Bank Atlas method). In 2018, Bangladesh has satisfied the criteria for graduation from Least Developed Countries (LDC) defined by United Nations, and will officially graduate from the LDC category in 2024. The country's poverty rate has also fallen by less than half, from 48.9 percent in 2000 to 21.8 percent in 2018. Primary education enrollment, gender equality and infant mortality rates have also improved significantly.
Bangladesh is bordered by India to the north and west and Myanmar to the southeast, making it a truly a nodal point linking both South and Southeast Asia. Its economy is already larger than Vietnam's, and the country's credit rating is comparable to that of Brazil. In addition to the main export industry of readymade garments, Japanese companies continue to invest into the pharmaceutical, motorcycle manufacturing, construction and other fields, targeting the large domestic market; now there are currently nearly 300 Japanese companies operating in Bangladesh. In Dhaka, the construction of an elevated urban railway (MRT) line, supported by JICA, is underway in the midst of this vibrant city. The construction of the country's first underground (metro) will also begin soon. Bangladesh is just taking off towards a middle-income country.
JICA's longstanding and successful relationship with Bangladesh started from the success of the first three volunteers dispatched in 1973. Since then, JICA has provided Bangladesh with technical cooperation, Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans, grant aids, volunteers' dispatch, and collaboration with NGOs. We have cooperated in many sectors such as the power and transportation sectors, disaster prevention, rural and regional development, health, education and governance. For developing large scale economic and social infrastructure, more than 2 trillion Japanese yen (USD 19 billion) has been provided through ODA loan program in total, and JPY 500 billion (USD 4.7 billion) through grant aid. In the fiscal year of 2019, we provided JPY 275.8 billion (USD 2.6 billion) in ODA loan, which made Bangladesh the third largest development partner for JICA. In terms of technical cooperation, a total of approximately 4,500 experts have been dispatched to the various development fields. In addition, nearly 14,000 Bangladeshi people have joined training programs. 1,265 volunteers have been dispatched through Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) program. One of the great achievements made by the volunteers is contribution to the eradication of Polio in the country. In addition, the number of projects funded by JICA's another window of assistance ‘Private Sector Investment Finance' (PSIF), in partnership with private companies, is also increasing.
Bangladeshi people are gentle and compassionate, and above all, they are pro-Japanese. Japan recognized the independent Bangladesh in February 1972 earlier than most of countries, just after its independence. They often tell us that a deep friendship between the two countries has begun at that time. Japan has been the largest bilateral aid donor in Bangladesh for many years, and its cooperation with the people of Bangladesh have been appreciated much.
JICA Bangladesh Office is committed to taking advantage of the trust that has been built up over a long period of cooperation. We want to continue being a bridge between Bangladesh and Japan on the ground, to help the country achieve sustainable development and improve the lives of Bangladeshi people. Having always in mind the passion of many people devoted themselves to this country's development, including the seven Japanese victims on the horrific terrorist attack in July 2016 who were dedicated their lives to the planning of Dhaka urban transport development, we JICA Bangladesh Office are fully committed to better cooperation for the bright future of this country.
I arrived in Dhaka in June 2020 as the Chief Representative of JICA's Bangladesh office amid the rise of Covid-19 infection nationwide. While the spread of Covid-19 continues around the world, Bangladesh, as well as other countries including Japan, is also facing a difficult situation, and keep fighting to contain the spread of the disease and to maintain the economy. Rabindranath Tagore wrote that if no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone. Now, we all stand together here.
JICA Bangladesh Office