Ambassador Izumi points out hindrances, suggests conducting thorough market research in Japan

Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi has said the Special Economic Zone for Japanese investors in Bangladesh and the One Stop Service Act are likely to attract more Japanese companies, especially in the fields of food, commodity products, light industry and ICT.

"Since the year 2008, the investment from Japan to Bangladesh has been expanding and the trend is getting stronger, especially after 2011," he told Dhaka Courier in an interview.

This trend, Ambassador Izumi said, is likely to continue for the coming years considering the competitive labour force and the size of the market of Bangladesh with its huge young population.

He, however, said the investment climate and doing business in Bangladesh "are not very favourable" for foreign companies.

Not only the time-consuming process of applying for launching businesses and registration, but also lack of sufficient infrastructure, intricate process of applying for working VISA, and complicated tax system, including retroactive taxation, could be named as main bottlenecks to start business in Bangladesh, he said.

In particular, Ambassador Izumi said, the insufficiency in logistics and taxation system such as "too heavy tariffs" need to be addressed.

"They're not only the hindrances for FDI from Japan but also causing drawbacks to the growth of local economy in Bangladesh," he said.

Analysing the current situation of the foreign companies and listening to their requests are essential to make the overall investment-environment more attractive, said Ambassador Izumi.

Responding to a question, the Japanese envoy said surrounded on all sides by the sea, Japan is also deeply rooted in blue economy and has a long history of utilisation of marine resources.

"I, therefore, believe Japan and Bangladesh can exchange knowledge and expertise in blue economy and marine resources," he said.

The conference was co-organised in March by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the envoy said adding, "Bangladesh Blue Economy Dialogue on Fisheries and Marine culture" was quite suggestive and meaningful."

"We would like to consider future cooperation in the field of blue economy with the government of Bangladesh," said the Ambassador.

Asked about Bangladesh's export to Japan, he said in Japan they are seeing more and more clothes manufactured in Bangladesh, but Japanese people are not very much aware that they are made in Bangladesh.

"To further encourage export from Bangladesh to Japan, I believe it is very important for Bangladesh companies to conduct thorough market research in Japan, especially focusing on the quality-oriented tendency of the Japanese consumers," said the Japanese envoy.

Other potential export from Bangladesh to Japan, he thinks, could be medicine, leather goods or agricultural (marine) products.

"For any product, however, creating additional value that attracts Japanese consumer is the key to expand and boost exports to Japan from Bangladesh," said the Ambassador.

To do so, he suggested having more opportunities to introduce Bangladeshi products in Japan, such as organising trade fairs or exhibitions, to make them familiar to Japanese consumers.

Responding to a question on people-to-people contact, he said friendship between Japan and Bangladesh started immediately after the independence of Bangladesh. "Since then, the two nations have always been very close friends."

For example, the Ambassador said, Japan has been providing scholarship for more than 4,000 Bangladeshi students for decades.

Last year alone, more than 120 students received this scholarship and went to Japan from Bangladesh. Also in the field of business, there are currently more than 260 Japanese companies operating their businesses in Bangladesh, and interaction through business is also growing in a fast pace.

Dhaka, Tokyo plan big for 2022

The year 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Japan.

"The coming years will be very important for our two countries. Toward this anniversary, we're working hard to enhance our bilateral relations even further," said the Japanese Ambassador.

In celebration of this anniversary, Bangladesh and Japan are expecting to see more and more interaction between the two countries, including cultural and people-to-people exchanges in the years to come.

The Ambassador said several cooperation projects were launched with the successful mutual visits by the two Prime Ministers -- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- in 2014.

"Apart from bridges, we're working on other projects like the Dhaka Int'l Airport Terminal, Dhaka Metro Lines, and Matarbari port and power plant, and all these projects are going well as planned with high quality. It's my tremendous joy to celebrate this anniversary with the people of Bangladesh based on this ever-growing relation," he said.

Since his arrival in 2017, Ambassador Izumi said he has been witnessing an increasing number of visits both at ministerial and other levels. "I expect our bilateral relationship to grow even closer and stronger in the years to come."

He said Japan has been the single biggest bilateral development partner for Bangladesh and the amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Bangladesh from Japan last year marked US$ 1.8 billion.

"This figure was a record, the largest-ever Japanese ODA support to Bangladesh for one year. I'm pleased to inform you that Bangladesh is now the second largest recipient of Japan's ODA in the world," he said.

Japan for safe repatriation of Rohingyas with UN cooperation

Japan has laid emphasis on safe, voluntary repatriation of Rohingyas with dignity under the cooperation of the United Nations (UN) noting that there is no "enough" support for them.

"We've tremendous tasks to help the displaced people and assist the affected host community. At the same time, it's of utmost importance to realise their safe, voluntary repatriation with dignity," said the Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh.

More than 745,000 Rohingya people have fled Myanmar's Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August 2017, escaping violence in Myanmar. Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya people.

He said they support Bangladesh's efforts to realise such repatriation "peacefully through negotiation" with Myanmar.

"We would like to continue our support to the government of Bangladesh to address this difficult situation," said the Japanese Ambassador.

Under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said, Bangladesh has been accepting and supporting a huge number of displaced people from Myanmar.

"We highly respect this humanitarian decision. There're still a lot to be done both for the displaced people and the host community, and therefore there's not enough support for them," said the Japanese Ambassador.

So far, he said, the government of Japan has provided US$ 82.9 million grant-aid through international organizations such as United Nations and Japanese NGOs.

In addition to this assistance, JICA is also working in the field of health sector, water supply, disaster-risk management and support programme for the host community through municipal government, he said.

On February 15 in Geneva, United Nations aid agencies and NGO partners launched the JRP for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis seeking US$ 920 million to meet the massive needs.

The 2018 JRP was funded at 69 per cent, or US$ 655 million received against US$ 950 million requested.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to start repatriating the first group of Rohingyas on November 15 last year but it was halted due to the absence of conducive environment in their place of origin in Rakhine.

Mentioning that the forcibly displaced Rohingya people from Myanmar are putting a considerable stress on Bangladesh's development, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, now in New York, emphasised on their sustainable repatriation to their homeland.

While addressing the general debate of the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) Forum on Financing for Development (FFD) at the UN Headquarters on Monday, also urged the international community to come forward for the permanent solution to this crisis.

One thousand origami cranes flew from camp in Cox's Bazar to Hiroshima

One thousand origami paper cranes folded by hundreds of displaced persons in Cox's Bazar flew to Hiroshima and conveyed their wish and message for peace to Japanese people.

On April 16, Japanese Ambassador Hiroyasu Izumi and Dirk Hebecker, Representative of UNHCR in Japan handed the colorful one thousand origami cranes dedicatedly folded by displaced persons who fled from Myanmar to Shiro Tani, Vice Mayor of Hiroshima City.

Displaced persons in Cox's Bazar made one thousand origami paper cranes, praying for peace.

They heard about the tragedy of atomic bombing in Hiroshima that killed many people at once in 1945, and a story of Ms. Sadako Sasaki who passed away at the age of 12, due to after-effect of atomic bombing.

"These people from Myanmar were forcibly placed in the most difficult situation, yet they still feel compassion to other people who faced difficulties.

Such sympathy they showed and wish for peace are more precious than anything else. I hope that many Japanese people will learn more about the cruel situation they are facing and feel compassion toward them," said Ambassador Izumi.

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