Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday called Bangladesh the most ideal place for investment in the world, seeking larger foreign and local investment for mutual benefit.
"Bangladesh is the most ideal place for investment in the world as we offer maximum investment opportunities. So, I hope overseas investment will come here and local people will also invest in their own country," she said while inaugurating the Japanese Economic Zone in the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (BSEZ) at Araihazar in Narayanganj district on the outskirts of the capital.
She joined the function virtually from Ganabhaban.
The premier mentioned that Bangladesh could be a market of 300 crore people with 17 crore of its own, 50 crore in east, 150 crore in north and 50 crore in west due to its geographical location, reports BSS.
The different countries of the world can invest in Bangladesh largely to reap benefits of the vast market, she added.
She also said her government has attached topmost priority to planned industrialisation alongside agriculture by protecting the country's environment and arable lands.
The premier said her government is setting up 100 economic zones across the country aimed at eliminating indiscriminate industrialisation and protecting arable lands.
The Japanese Economic Zone is being built on 1,000 acres of land at Araihazar Upazila in Narayanganj district of Bangladesh in line with an agreement signed between the two countries during her Japan visit in 2014, she said.
The PM said, "Foreign investment is coming to the economic zones. Discussion is going on with India, China and Saudi Arabia [on setting up economic zones in Bangladesh]. Some other countries also expressed interest in this end."
She assured the interested countries, which wanted to build economic zones in Bangladesh, of providing their desired places and said they can develop it as per their need.
Bangladesh is offering special opportunities for the investors, she said, adding that foreign investors can use Chattogram, Mongla and Payra seaports and Matharbari deep seaport for transportation of their produced goods.
The prime minister said the geographical location of Bangladesh is the most important for investors as they can reach the markets with their products across the globe while her country can make a bridge between East and West.
She described various measures including enactment of investment friendly laws and rules and special stimulus packages and loans for the investors.
Describing Japan as a true friend and development partner of Bangladesh, she said Japan is currently helping the country in building metro rail, third terminal of Shahjalal international airport, Dhaka and Matharbari deep seaport.
She also recalled the Japanese cooperation in building the Rupsha Bridge and conducting the feasibility study of the Padma Bridge and Bangabandhu Bridge over the Jamuna River.
"I am extending my sincere thanks to Japan for always staying beside Bangladesh," she added.
The PM also recalled with due respect the contribution of late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the overall development of Bangladesh describing him a "true friend" and greeted the present Japanese Prime Minister also for supporting her country.
Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh, ITO Naoki and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, Masayuki Hyodo, also spoke at the function.
$1.5bn investment expected
After the PM inaugurated the first economic zone under a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement virtually from her official residence Ganabhaban, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki said the economic zone will play a role in increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) from many other countries.
"We expect 100 companies to invest $1.5 billion here," he said.
President and CEO of Sumitomo Corporation Masayuki Hyodo said, "We have a global business network through which foreign investment will be attracted here."
Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (BSEZ) Managing Director Taro Kawachi said, "It will be an environment-friendly modern economic zone."
Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) Executive Chairman Shaikh Yusuf Harun said the Beza started land acquisition and land development work in the proposed area in 2019. A thousand acres of land has been allocated for this zone.
Under the Japanese Economic Zone Infrastructure Development Project, the first phase of 500 acres of land development work is nearing completion, along with the construction of connection roads, retention ponds, and electricity and water supply systems, he said.
The construction of internal roads, gas, electricity and water supply lines has started. So far, 180 acres of developed land have been handed over to the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone for setting up industrial plants. The remaining lands will be handed over soon, Shaikh Yusuf Harun said.
According to Beza, the share of the Bangladesh government is 24%, Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica)15% and Sumitomo Corporation 61%.
Investment agreements with four institutions
Singer Bangladesh Ltd in a joint venture with Turkish company Arçelik and German company Rudolf have already started building their factories here.
On Tuesday, Japan's Onda Corporation and Nicca Chemicals companies signed investment agreements as well.
Onda will produce gas meters and Nikka will produce chemicals.
Beza Executive Chairman Shaikh Yusuf Harun said four companies have offered $100 million worth of investment, of which Singer offered the largest investment of $78 million.
Harun said 500 acres of land in the first phase will be handed over by November next year. In the second phase, development of 500 acres of land will begin in 2024.
He said Japanese investors have become interested in expanding their business in this economic zone and investors are visiting the zone frequently.
Moreover, technology transfer between Japan and Bangladesh will be smooth, he added.
A separate OSS Center and Skills Development Center will be set up in the Japanese Economic Zone with technological support from Japan International Cooperation.
Meanwhile, another 40 institutions have applied to invest in the zone. Thirty of these are Japanese companies.
"We are expecting 50,000 jobs when the entire zone is operational," said the Beza executive chairman.