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Chief Representative's Speech

June 28, 2014

Seminar on "Economic Zone Development for Japanese Investors"

Photo

Honorable Chief Guest, Mr. Abdus Sobhan Sikder, Principal Secretary, Prime Minister's Office,

Mr. Fakhrul Islam, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority,

Mr. Kei Kawano, Representative, JETRO Dhaka Office,

Distinguish guests,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Assalam alaikum and good morning.

First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you all for sparing your precious time on this weekend to attend our seminar.

We have been exploring possibilities of developing economic zones for Japanese investors in collaboration with BEZA for nearly a year. It is my great pleasure to co-organize the seminar with BEZA and present eleven candidate sites today.

Bangladesh has already been long to be regarded as one of the most promising investment destinations after China and ASEAN countries. It has immense potential in terms of low production cost along with abundant work force and steady economic growth along with an expanding consumer market. However, it has been so far unsuccessful in attracting Japanese investment in full-scale. We think development of economic zones of Japanese standard can be a breakthrough to turn the trend.

As you are fully aware, a new chapter of the relationship between Japan and Bangladesh was inaugurated when Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Hasina committed to further strengthening bilateral cooperation through the "Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership" in Tokyo a month ago. Prime Minister Hasina in her speeches lauded Japanese private sector enterprises in taking interest in Bangladesh and appealed for choosing Bangladesh as the next destination for investment. Her Excellency also committed to constitute a dedicated task force to support Japanese companies doing business in Bangladesh.

Just as significantly, during the summit, the two prime ministers discussed an initiative of the "Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt", or BIG-B, as a means to guide partnership activities. BIG-B is a grand design to promote industrial agglomeration and take full advantage of the vibrant economic growth from Pacific to Indian Ocean. It foresees that Bangladesh will transcend its national borders as a hub and node of the regional economy and reshape herself as a sparkling trading nation deeply incorporated into inter-regional and global value chains. No doubt economic zones for Japanese investors will be a primary trigger for the prospective industrial agglomeration and international trade under the initiative of BIG-B.

Against this backdrop, it is high time for JICA to implement a technical cooperation for development of economic zones in which we will conduct feasibility studies of a few economic zones for Japanese investors and support capacity enhancement of BEZA. Your frank opinions are most welcome so that we can make a right choice of the sites for our feasibility studies.

Upon completing the technical cooperation, we would like to proceed to support materializing the economic zones adopting the same holistic approach toward improving investment climate in other partner countries. For instance, JICA has been supporting infrastructure development in MEKONG Area including a special economic zone (SEZ) situated in the East-West Economic Corridor from Vietnam to Laos and Thailand, contributing to manifold increase of Japanese investment in that area. JICA is also to support building the infrastructural backbone, such as power, water, communication, road, and port in the surrounding areas of the recently constituted Thilawa SEZ in Myanmar, mobilizing all types of ODA schemes.

Economic Zone (EZ) is a new concept in Bangladesh. I shall be extremely happy if today's seminar gathers momentum for mutually rewarding dialogues between the Government of Bangladesh and Japanese investors.

Dhonnobad. Thank you.

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