The year of 2014 is surely to be remembered by the people of Bangladesh and Japan as an epoch making year to step into a new dimension of the bilateral relationship with a clear vision of economic cooperation.
During their summit talk in Tokyo in May 2014, H.E. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan and H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation through the "Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership." At this occasion, Prime Minister Abe announced to provide 600 billion Yen (approximately US$6 billion), mainly in ODA loans, in 4 to 5 years.
Following the first summit, Prime Minister Abe visited Bangladesh in September 2014, and the two Prime Ministers welcomed that the two countries 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.
What is "BIG-B"?
Bangladesh is located with embracing the Bay of Bengal from the sea point of view, and in-between South Asia and South-East Asia from the land point. Under the current global economic power shift toward the Indo-Pacific Ocean region, this geographical advantage will provide a unique opportunity for the country to play a node and hub role in regional as well as inter-regional matters. This also suggests the Bangladesh's renewed focus on "Look East" policy to exploit the vibrant economic growth from Pacific to Indian Ocean.
The BIG-B initiative is to accelerate industrial agglomeration along the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox's Bazar belt area and beyond, encompassing developing economic infrastructure, improving investment environment and fostering connectivity. The two Prime Ministers also expected the initiative, with maximum use of Japan's advanced technologies and socioeconomic development experiences, to yield mutual benefits and prosperity to both countries.
BIG-B foresees Bangladesh transcending its national borders to become a heart of the regional economy and providing a gateway for both South Asia and South-East Asia to step into a closer interregional relation, so that she may reshape herself as a sparkling trading nation deeply incorporated into inter-regional and global value chains.
BIG-B is not incompatible with other existing vital frameworks for the regional cooperation. Rather, it aims to supplement and reinforce them for the maximization of the benefit for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has remarkably achieved the average of 6% growth in the last decade amid the downturn of the global economy, and is now ready to leap onto the higher growth path to become a middle income country by 2021. At this critical juncture, upon the Government of Japan's extraordinary commitment for the bilateral relationship, JICA will keep on providing the full-fledged sincere cooperation for Bangladesh in strategic project formulation and smooth implementation to realize the BIG-B initiative for the inclusive and dynamic development of the country for decades to come.
For more details on BIG-B, please have a look at the speech of Dr. Akihiko Tanaka, JICA President, titled "BIG-B toward Growth beyond Borders" at the University of Dhaka on June 16, 2014.