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Chief Representative's Speech

August 19, 2014

5th Workshop of Investment Climate Improvement Project

Honorable Chief Guest, Mr. Abdus Sobhan Sikder, Principal Secretary of Prime Minister's Office,
Honorable Guest of Honor, Mr. Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Senior Secretary of Prime Minister's Office and the chief member of the Investment Climate Improvement Working Group,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Assalam alaikum.

It is a great pleasure for me to attend the 5th workshop of Investment Climate Improvement Project jointly organized by the Prime Minister's Office and JICA.

Bangladesh, with its emerging domestic market and abundant low priced labors, has created lots of interest among foreign investors including Japanese who view Bangladesh as the potential "new destination" in their "China plus one" strategies.

On the other hand, Bangladesh itself needs much more investment from the current 29% of GDP to more than 33% and accelerate its GDP growth to 7 or 8% so that it achieve "Vision 2021" of becoming the "Middle Income Country" by the year of 2021.

To sustain the interest of foreign investors and attract more investment, the Government of Bangladesh should show its strong commitment by executing visible improvement in the existing systems to create enabling business environment.

JICA has been supporting improvement of investment climate in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam, other than Bangladesh. For example, Vietnam has garnered so much investor's confidence by firmly committing to provide favorable investment sites of 289 industrial parks and 15 coastal economic zones. As a result, Foreign Direct Investment from Japan to Vietnam has reached US$ 18 billion accounting for over 18% of the total capital in the parks and zones.

As for Bangladesh, a study by JICA early this year has identified the problem areas for FDI where immediate improvements are desperately needed. Let me mention some: vague conditions for entry of foreign investment to industrial sectors, weak one-stop-service function of the Board of Investment, slight availability of relevant laws and regulations in English, complex land registration system, cumbersome procedures for establishing a company, prior registration of "selling price" to the National Bureau of Revenue, restrictions of foreign currency borrowing and non-trade remittance, unwieldy bonded warehousing system, and ambiguous process of licensing.

In order to improve the investment climate of Bangladesh encompassing legal systems, procedures and bureaucratic bottlenecks, JICA started the Investment Climate Improvement Project in October 2012 in collaboration with the Prime Minister's Office and created a common platform involving twenty-one focal points from government as well as private organizations. Under this platform, four subgroups were set up to focus on the solution of issue-oriented themes, namely: Base line study on infrastructure; Law, regulation and legal matters; Financial, banking and taxation regulation and procedures; and Promotion activities and materials.

We have so far held five workshops, two trainings in Japan and third-country trainings in Vietnam and Indonesia. Besides, a FDI promotion seminar was held in Osaka, Japan on June 30 this year. The ultimate output of these activities is the "Action Plans" proposed by the subgroups. Unless these Action Plans are duly endorsed by the Prime Minister's Office and faithfully implemented by the responsible organizations, the outcome of the whole project would not only be in vain but also leave a stain on the long relationship between Japan and Bangladesh.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A new chapter of the relationship between Japan and Bangladesh was inaugurated when Honorable Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Sheikh Hasina agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a new height called "Japan-Bangladesh Comprehensive Partnership" during their summit in Tokyo last May.

Just as significantly, the two prime ministers discussed an initiative of the "Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt", BIG-B for short, a grand design for Bangladesh to promote industrial agglomeration and take full advantage of the vibrant economic growth from Pacific to Indian Ocean. BIG-B foresees that Bangladesh, taking advantage of its location just in-between South Asia and South-East Asia, 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.

A follow-up event, the first "Joint Japan-Bangladesh Public-Private Economic Dialogue" will be hosted jointly by the Prime Minister's Office and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry here in Dhaka the day after tomorrow. The event will definitely keep the momentum up for the strengthened bilateral relationship and also pave the way for BIG-B.

Finally, I hope the positive vibes created through the 1st phase of the Investment Climate Improvement Project will continue in the 2nd phase with the implementation of the Action Plans. Let us continue our earnest effort to achieve the "Vision 2021" and beyond.

Dhonnobad. Thank you.

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