“Understand the reality on the ground,” Executive Chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam said, “Because perceived risk may be much higher than the real risk, and seeing is believing. See for yourself what Bangladesh is now.”
The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority boss invited the Japanese investors to visit his country and see for themselves the situation at an investment seminar in Tokyo on Thursday.
“Bangladesh is the best kept secret,” he said, suggesting they get the real information from their peers who are already operating in the country.
The Bangladesh embassy, BIDA, and Japan External Trade Organisation, JETRO, jointly organised the event which gathered 250 Japanese companies including giants like Marubeni, Sojitz, Fujitsu, JGC, and TEPCO.
BIDA hosted the event to brand Bangladesh, dispelling “misconceptions”.
Referring to the Holey Artisan Bakery attack in which seven JICA consultants were killed, Aminul Islam said that was an “unfortunate” event and nothing of that sort happened before and after.
Japan had raised travel alert after the attack.
“The Japanese are the most liked foreigners in Bangladesh. But unfortunately that [terrorist attack] happened. Ours is a tolerant society… a secular society, a society where people of different religions, ethnicity, culture and civilisation work together,” the BIDA boss said.
Bangladesh is grateful to Japan for recognising the country soon after independence in 1971 and for helping it rebuild through development assistance.
Islam, the BIDA chief, said today Bangladesh has made impressive progress and Japan has made “commendable” contribution to its development.
He said even the JETRO study suggests that Bangladesh is the best place to invest among the peer countries.
“It’s a great place to be in and invest,” he said, citing business-friendly government, competitive skilled workforce, ever-expanding infrastructure, improving business climate, and friendly and welcoming people as some of the reasons.
“We are developing an economic corridor which will connect Bangladesh with the rest of the world.”
He said of the 100 economic zones, one is for Japan. “If needed, we will give more economic zones to Japan.”
Islam highlighted the measures of easing the process of starting a business, and said it now takes only four weeks to get electricity connections. “We are reducing the time and the cost so that businesses find it easy.”
According to him, there are many complementarities between Japan and Bangladesh.
“You have a lot of senior citizens here and an ageing population. We are in fact the youngest population. We offer investment opportunities which require billions of dollars of investment. You have trillions of dollar of investible funds.
“Bangladesh provides investment opportunities and again we are listening to what the businesses say, particularly what the Japanese businesses are saying and based on that we are improving our investment and business climate in the country. And that makes it easier for the investors to work with us.”
JICA Director Akito Takahashi, speaking at the seminar, also acknowledged that since July 1 attack such event has not happened in Bangladesh.
He said Japan is actively involved with the infrastructural development in Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh as an emerging nation has now reached the ignition point of growth,” he told the Japanese businessmen, adding that the country is strategically located between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
JETRO Executive Vice President Naoyoshi Noguchi said with the presence of a large number of companies in the seminar he sees a “stronger interest” in Bangladesh among the Japanese companies.
“Bangladesh lies in an important position between South Asia and Southeast Asia. By developing infrastructure, Bangladesh will play a crucial role,” he said.
Bangladesh Ambassador in Japan Rabab Fatima said they were encouraged to see such a large turnout.
“We see this as your clear interest in Bangladesh as a promising destination for investment and trade.”
She said the bilateral relations now stand firm on the pillar of “comprehensive partnership” agreed between the prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Shinzo Abe.
Fatima said the seminar speaks of “our seriousness and keen desire to expand economic and trade relations with Japan”.
The BIDA executive chairman-led Bangladesh delegation left for Seoul to hold a similar investment seminar there on Friday.