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JICA: A Key Development Partner

In an interview with Mr. Ziaul Karim, Head of Communications at Eastern Bank Limited, Ichiguchi Tomohide, Chief Representative of JICA Bangladesh Office, discusses JICA's crucial role in aligning with the Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative and supporting Banglades's economic growth.

JICA’s activities in Bangladesh were started in 1973, the same year as the visit of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Japan, and the first Japanese ODA (Official Development Assistance) loan to Bangladesh was made in the next year, 1974. As Bangladesh stands at the crossroads of economic growth and social development, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) emerges as a crucial ally, working in tandem with the government’s vision and development plans. Under various programs (power and energy, transport, etc.) JICA aims to support the vitalization of economic activities of the country and measures to overcome social vulnerability to back the country’s efforts to achieve economic growth and to bring people out of poverty through sustainable growth with equity. ICHIGUCHI Tomohide, Chief Representative in the JICA Bangladesh Office, delves into the intricacies of JICA’s strategies, priorities, and the collaborative efforts that underpin its mission in Bangladesh.

ICHIGUCHI Tomohide, Chief Representative, JICA Bangladesh Office
Free and Open Indo-Pacific

In navigating the geopolitical complexities, JICA aligns its strategies with the Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative. Free and Open Indo-Pacific is an umbrella term that encompasses Indo-Pacific-specific strategies of countries with similar interests in the region. The concept, with its origins in Weimar German geopolitics, has been revived since 2006 through Japanese initiatives and American cooperation. ICHIGUCHI Tomohide says, “JICA’s activities are aligned with the foreign policy of the Government of Japan, particularly the primary foreign policy of Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), in which Bangladesh is one of the most important partner countries.” This geopolitical positioning shapes JICA’s approach and underscores the importance of its role in fostering regional stability and prosperity.

Blueprint for Sustainable Development

With a clear roadmap in mind, JICA’s country assistance program zeroes in on three key priorities. In this aspect, the country head says “JICA program consists of three priorities: industrial development and diversification, urban development, and social inclusion.”

Navigating the Development Landscape

“JICA updated its country assistance program in March 2023, with specific strategies focusing on industrial development, quality infrastructure, capacity development, sustainability, and building trust,” remarks the JICA head. In the ever-evolving landscape, challenges are inevitable. JICA addresses these heads-on, placing a renewed emphasis on industrial development, quality infrastructure, and capacity development. The strategies include a proactive stance on sustainability, climate change, and the cultivation of trust and partnership with the people and government of Bangladesh.

ICHIGUCHI Tomohide, Chief Representative, JICA Bangladesh Office
Transformative Regional Connectivity

The BIG-B initiative, a collaborative effort agreed upon by the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Japan in 2014, unfolds as a transformative endeavor. The initiative is to accelerate industrial agglomeration along the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar belt area and beyond, encompassing developing economic infrastructure, improving the investment environment, and fostering connectivity. The two prime ministers also expected the initiative, with maximum use of Japan’s advanced technologies and socioeconomic development experiences, to yield mutual benefits and prosperity to both countries. The representative remarks “The BIG-B initiative aims to accelerate industrial agglomeration along the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar belt area and beyond. The Matarbari Moheshkhali integrated development is a flagship program under this initiative.”

Matarbari deep-sea port

The development of the Matarbari deep-sea port emerges not only as a strategic investment but as a catalyst for broader regional connectivity. Based on the Japanese ports of Kashima and Niigata, the port will be the first deep-sea port and the fourth seaport in Bangladesh. The representative says, “According to JICA’s study in 2023, the Matarbari deep-sea port may take 25% share of bulk trade and 36 to 43% share of container trade in 2041.” Prime Minister Kishida in March 2023 announced “The Bay of Bengal-Northeast India industrial value chain concept”. Projections indicate a significant share in bulk and container trade, aligning with Prime Minister Kishida’s vision for an industrial value chain in the Bay of Bengal and Northeast India.

A Synergistic Growth

“The ongoing infrastructure projects are prioritized, requested by the government, and fully aligned with Vision 2041 and other development plans of Bangladesh.” informs the JICA head. The ongoing infrastructure projects form a crucial link in Bangladesh’s growth plans. Prioritized and requested by the government, these projects align seamlessly with Vision 2041, providing the necessary foundation for economic development and progress.

JICA’s primary goal is sustainable, inclusive, and resilient development of Bangladesh, but JICA’s overall activities will serve to strengthen relations between both countries.”

ICHIGUCHI Tomohide, Chief Representative, JICA Bangladesh Office
Dhaka Metro

To implement Dhaka’s 20-year-long Strategic Transport Plan, the Government of Bangladesh invited the Japan International Cooperation Agency to conduct a primary survey and feasibility study on the transport system of Dhaka from 2009 to 2011. In 2012, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the project. A loan agreement between the Bangladeshi government and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency was signed in February 2013. “The Dhaka metro project primarily aims to alleviate traffic congestion, while the airport terminal project seeks to improve capacity, convenience, and safety at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport”, says the representative. 

Climate Challenge and JICA

JICA head remarks, “JICA has promoted quality infrastructure, integrating environmental considerations and building resilience against natural disasters. JICA’s sustainability policy aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change. It aims to help countries adapt to climate change effects, and mobilize enough finance. Under the agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on its contributions. As climate challenges loom large, JICA takes a proactive stance. Quality infrastructure, adherence to the G20 Principles, and alignment with the Paris Agreement underscores JICA’s commitment to addressing environmental considerations and building resilience against natural disasters.

HR, the Pillar of JICA’s Legacy

Through decades of collaboration, human resource development remains a steadfast pillar of JICA’s legacy. Education, health, and governance — these sectors continue to be the focal points for JICA’s technical and loan cooperation, contributing to the ongoing enhancement of Bangladesh’s problem-solving abilities. The representative says, “Human resource development has been the focus since the inception of JICA’s cooperation in Bangladesh 50 years ago.”

Collaboration with the Private Sector

In the discussion about the private sector amalgamation the chief operative regards, “JICA actively collaborates with the private sector through its cooperation to industrial development, non-sovereign lending, and supporting firms working for SDGs through business surveys. Initiatives like an accelerator program known as JICA Ninja and various JICA seminars foster future businesses.”

Relations Beyond ODA

Looking ahead, JICA envisions a future where relations between Japan and Bangladesh are diversified beyond Official Development Assistance (ODA). Facilitating business and investment, providing scholarships, sending skilled professionals to Japan, and enhancing media coverage are all integral components of JICA’s broader strategy to foster enduring and multifaceted relations. The country head states, “JICA’s primary goal is sustainable, inclusive, and resilient development of Bangladesh, but JICA’s overall activities will serve to strengthen relations between both countries.”

The symbiotic relationship between JICA and Bangladesh unfolds as a narrative of collaboration, growth, and shared aspirations. With strategic priorities, transformative initiatives, and a vision for sustainable development, JICA stands as a key partner in shaping Bangladesh’s journey toward a brighter and more prosperous future.

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