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Bangladesh needs Japan for more investments in its developmental projects

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*

PM Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone known as the Japanese Economic Zone in Narayanganj's Araihazar Upazila on Tuesday (December 6). Sheikh Yusuf Harun, the executive chairman of the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA), Masayuki Hyodo, the president and chief executive officer of Sumitomo Corporation, Ito Naoki, and many more were present on the inauguration pregame.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Japan, the establishment of the Japanese Special Economic Zone in Narayanganj on the basis of a government-to-government agreement can be considered a turning point for the growth and advancement of the nation's economy. Given the current recession brought on both the Russia-Ukraine war and the post-Covid-19 global standstill, this is undoubtedly unexpectedly excellent news. The 1,000-acre industrial city has already received investment interest from 40 foreign businesses. it is worth at least 150 billion dollars. There will be jobs for thousands of unemployed people.
The population of 25,000 and the nearby area are unsurprisingly enthusiastic and motivated. Since it will bring them luck, that is. There will be no more poverty. Bangladesh is the best investment destination in the world, as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina correctly stated during the ceremonial opening speech. due to Bangladesh's favorable geographic location, communication infrastructure, and access to ports and the sea, which allows it to be a market for 300 million people in South Asia.
When the zone is fully operating, the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) anticipates $1.5 billion in investments and employment for close to one lakh people. "The economic zone will make it easier for Bangladesh and Japan to share technologies. In addition, a distinct one-stop service hub and a center for skill development would be established in the economic zone "announced Sheikh Yusuf, executive chairman of Beza. He spoke about the collaboration between the governments of Bangladesh and Japan in the economic zone, where Beza holds a 24 percent stake, JICA holds a 15 percent stake, and Sumitomo Corporation holds a 61 percent stake.
Japanese businessmen are interested in investing in this economic zone to expand their businesses in Bangladesh, according to data from the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (BSEZ). Taro Kawachi, managing director of BSEZ, said, "This new economic zone would be environmentally benign. Several businesses will begin producing their products here before the end of the next year." Any domestic or international business may invest in this zone. He claimed that 30 Japanese corporations are among the 40 foreign businesses that have already expressed interest in investing here.
Construction on the facility owned by Singer Bangladesh Limited, a joint venture with the Turkish company Arcelik and the German company Rudolph, has already begun. Singer received 35 acres out of the 40 acres they set aside for him. The $78 million green plant is expected to begin producing goods by the end of 2023, according to the international electronics and home appliance company. They initially intend to both take use of the plant's export potential and focus on the quickly expanding local market.
Onda Corporation of Japan and Nikka Chemicals are reportedly planning to sign an investment agreement on December 6 to divide up 10 acres of property each in the area. Onda will produce gas meters, while Nikka will produce chemicals, of these.
The development of this economic zone is a cooperative effort between Beza and the Sumitomo Corporation of Japan. Talks over this area started after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's trip to Japan in 2014. Following that visit, the matter was in-depth discussed during Shinzo Abe's visit to Bangladesh as the Japanese Prime Minister at the time.
The Japanese government recommended appointing the renowned Sumitomo Corporation as the developer in 2016, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) carried out a feasibility study to construct the economic zone in the same year. JICA expressed support for the establishment of a Japanese economic zone in Araihajar in Narayanganj following a feasibility assessment in 2018.
In order to create this joint venture economic zone, Beja and Sumitomo Corporation inked a contract in 2019. Sheikh Yusuf, the executive chairman of Beza, stated that in the proposed location, Beza began land acquisition and development activities in 2019.
The first phase of the development program for 500 acres of land, which included building connecting roads, retention ponds, and electricity and water delivery systems under the infrastructure development project, is almost finished, he claimed.
Additionally, work has begun on building internal roadways, gas, power, and water delivery systems.
The Bangladesh Special Economic Zone has received 180 acres of developed land so far for the construction of industrial units. The remaining lands, according to Sheikh Yusuf, will be distributed soon.
Additionally, there are one-stop services for utilities like power, gas, fuel, water, and special services. Overall, favorable policies and rules that encourage investment. Political stability exists in a democratic setting. affordable access to adequate labor resources. The progress and prosperity of Bangladesh would also be secured, as all the nations that invest in Bangladesh will profit.
China's reputation has suffered in the world community as a result of the spread of the global epidemic, which includes the origin and evolution of the Covid-19 or coronavirus. China and the US were already engaged in a "trade war." Corona has given it an additional dimension. Anti-Chinese nations are rapidly ending trade and commerce with China; yet, they are still doing business with India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia. In this regard, Bangladesh is comparatively advanced.
The Japanese government has offered a second round of subsidies to help businesspeople relocate their manufacturing from China to Bangladesh. It should be recalled that the Japanese government previously provided incentives to help 87 companies move their factories out of China. In addition, Japan has agreed to employ hundreds of thousands of talented people from Bangladesh in at least 15 industries over the course of the next five years. However, they must be conversant in that nation's language. This also signaled the start of Japanese investment, industry transfer, and the migration of skilled laborers to Bangladesh.
However, creating industries alone will not enough. The increase of trade and intertrade requires a good internal and external road communication network with adequate infrastructure. The Bangladeshi government has also given that the proper consideration and importance. Trade and inter-road contact have already begun with India, Nepal, and Bhutan. A recent decision was made to spend 3.5 billion Taka to build a 56 km, four-lane motorway between Sylhet and Tamabil. The establishment of a regional road connectivity network involving at least six nations by the year 2025 will boost trade and business.
Bangladesh is receiving a steadily rising amount of foreign investment. Last Tuesday, the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (also known as the Japanese Economic Zone in Bangladesh) was established (December 06). 30 Japanese businesses and 10 foreign businesses have already expressed interest in investing here. An investment contract was made between German business Rudolph and the well-known Singer.
Investment in the amount of 150 crores or 15,000 crores has been guaranteed. In the interim, activity has begun in other nations' special economic zones, including India and Korea. With Japan's help, Cox's Bazar's Matarbari is developing a power center, deep sea port, and other facilities. The jointly designed Payra power plant with China has begun operating. With the assistance of India, Rampal Power Plant manufacturing will shortly begin. The construction of the nuclear power plant with Russian assistance could begin in 2023. Operations at the Payra port are progressing. With the opening of the Padma Bridge, the southern region's commercial potential has multiplied. The Karnaphuli River's Bangabandhu Tunnel has been partially opened. Overall, the nation has finally established a favorable environment for investment. Political stability has also led to a tremendous rise in both local and foreign investment.
Bangladesh is a tiny country. However, this area has a sizable population. The scourge of unemployment confuses the youth. Numerous Bangladeshis die while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe every year. Many Bangladeshi mass graves have already been discovered in the woods between Thailand and Malaysia. Human trafficking is to blame for the deaths of many individuals in the desert. Bangladesh's job condition is currently excellent. Many young people are finding work in factories and new industries. The growth of digital schooling has also led to a rise in the number of young people working online, which now exceeds 600,000. It is understood that more than one lakh (0.1 million) Bangladeshis will work in the Tuesday's opened Japanese economic zone. The nation's economy has recently gained a lot of momentum. In other nations, this is not always true. Today, maintaining this rate of economic growth is crucial and must be done at any costs.
Recession in the global economy is feared. Economists claim that many wealthy nations are already experiencing an economic recession. Extreme inflation has taken hold. Since the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, inflation in Bangladesh has also risen and peaked in August. The good news is that over the past three months, inflation has been steadily declining. In December, a further decline is anticipated. In this case, inflation will increase once again if there is political turmoil. There will be suffering. The pace of economic development will slow. We hope that our leaders would work for the nation's and its citizens' welfare and exhibit respect for one another.
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*Independent researcher. She is interested in the Bangladesh and Rohingya refugee affairs. She is currently living in Canada

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