Bangladesh and JICA – Efforts of 50 Years and Future Prospects (Part 2)
- Ichiguchi Tomohide Chief Representative JICA Bangladesh Office
Bangladesh is a South Asian country formed by rivers flowing from the Himalayas.
The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary since JICA initiated Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Bangladesh. Divided in two parts, I will reflect on 50 years of cooperation between Bangladesh and JICA and look ahead to future cooperation.
Click here to read the first part
I was posted to Bangladesh in September 2022. I have met many Bangladeshi government officials since then, and have been surprised at how much "trust" they have in Japan and JICA. What makes me think that this is not mere flattery is the fact that they often introduced me to specific episodes in which they said, "Japan/JICA helped us in this way at that time”.
“Trust" is not something that can be formed overnight, nor can it be built by offering something unilaterally. The current "trust" is a result of 50 years of working together, believing in a bright future for both Bangladesh and Japan, and taking serious action together to solve problems.
Let me introduce some of the voices of those who have been sent to Bangladesh as JICA’s Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV).
“When I went to the village, they took care of me asking me if everything was all right, how my family in Japan was doing, and if I was eating properly. When I told them I hadn't eaten yet, they told me to come home and eat with them.”
“When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan, students at our school gave up their own snacks and sent money to Japan.”
“Under the stars, we lit candles and discussed how Bangladesh can grow and what we can do to help. We were believing in the future.”
These words resonate with us because we, who love Bangladesh, have had similar experiences, albeit from a different standpoint and in a different place. And it is this relationship of "trust" that has been built up as the foundation of JICA's ODA cooperation.
"Photo of a JOCV’s activity"
Community Development (JICA)
We at JICA will continue addressing the challenges facing Bangladesh for its sustainable development. To this end, we will focus on "industrial development and diversification," "quality infrastructure," and "inclusive development.”
For Bangladesh, which aims to become an upper middle-income country by 2031, "industrial development and diversification" is essential for its sustainable development. The garment industry has been the driver for the country's development to date; however, it should go beyond that. JICA will promote the development of an environment in which Bangladesh can realize its potential through development of economic zones such as the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (BSEZ) in Araihazar near Dhaka, human resource development in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and manufacturing, and comprehensive development of the Moheshkhali Matarbari area based on the Matarbari Port (the first deepwater port in Bangladesh).
In addition, we have been promoting to support “Quality Infrastructure Investment” in cooperation with Japanese companies, which was agreed at G7 Ise-Shima Summit in 2016. Typical examples are Dhaka Metro (MRT Lines 1, 5 North, and 6), Terminal 3 of Dhaka International Airport, the Jamuna Railway Bridge, and infrastructure development in the Moheshkhali Matarbari area. For Dhaka residents, the long-awaited MRT Line 6 was partially opened in December 2022; and Terminal 3 of Dhaka International Airport is scheduled to be completed and opened in 2024. Infrastructure development is very important for the economic development of Bangladesh. We believe that there will continue to be a great need for quality infrastructure that utilizes Japanese technology.
Opening of the Meghna Bridge, whose construction was supported by ODA loans (JICA)
Finally, but not least, we must not forget to cooperate in "inclusive development.” Education, health, and agricultural and rural development have long been the areas of cooperation, but challenges remain. To ensure sustainable development, we need to place more emphasis than ever on reducing disparities between urban and rural areas, improving administrative capacity and public services, and combating climate change which has a significant impact on the poor. We will further promote down-to-earth cooperation for inclusive development.
The past 50 years have not been smooth: two Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) lost their lives in the 1980’s, and seven Japanese who were engaged in JICA's study lost their precious lives in the terrorist attack on a restaurant in Dhaka in 2016. We have a responsibility to carry on the will of them.
Looking back on Bangladesh's remarkable development over the past 50 years, we can say with confidence that the "nation-building," described in the words of the survey team introduced in the part 1, has been a success. And we are determined to develop the "trust" that has been nurtured between our two countries into stronger and greater, and to earnestly face the challenges that lie ahead of us for the next 50 years. I pledge this to you, recalling the sights and enthusiasm of our colleagues when they first set foot in Bangladesh 50 years ago.