Japan’s Ambassador to Bangladesh, Ito Naoki, yesterday expressed hope that the government would do everything necessary to ensure that next year’s national elections are free, fair and better than the last one held in 2018.
The enactment of the Election Commissioners Appointment Bill is a positive step, the Ambassador told the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Bangladesh (DCAB) conference at the Jatiya Press Club.
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Naoki said Japan raised concerns about the violence in the 2018 elections and the way it was conducted, and urged government officials to hold better elections and will continue to do so.
He also said that the media should be given space so that journalists can play their part in ensuring that citizens have the opportunity to vote freely and that every vote is counted.
The diplomat said Japan was also interested in selling defense equipment to Bangladesh, and a private Japanese company visited Dhaka this year to gauge the level of interest in purchasing equipment defence, in particular radars for the air force.
Bangladesh is diversifying its defense purchases while Japan has relaxed its regulations on defense equipment sales. Japan already exports equipment to Vietnam, the Philippines and ASEAN countries, he said.
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Bangladesh has achieved impressive infrastructure development, with prime examples being the Padma Bridge, metro, Matarbari Power Station and the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, he said.
The direct flight between Dhaka and Narita is expected to start operating later this year, which will bring businessmen from the two countries closer together, he said, adding that the two countries will be more interdependent in the coming days.
Japan’s loan has increased 10-fold to about $3 billion today from $300 million a decade ago, he said, adding his country would continue its dialogue with Bangladesh.
Japanese companies are more interested than ever in investing in Bangladesh as the government here has had more consistent policies over the past decade. Bangladesh’s economy is also growing steadily, while Japan is diversifying its supply chain, he said.
Referring to a study by the Japan External Trade Organization, he said 68 percent of Japanese companies in Bangladesh want to expand their business in the next two years. Also, 80% of Japanese and Bangladeshi companies here want a free trade agreement, as LDC graduation will be completed by 2026.
The diplomat said that Bangladesh had managed to improve the investment climate over the past two years. However, there is still a lot to be done, especially in terms of customs clearance, taxation and money transfer.
The ambassador said Japan also wants more Bangladeshis, including nurses and technical trainees, to come to Japan and work.
Japan wants a free and open Indo-Pacific and the Rohingya crisis must not be allowed to become a destabilizing factor in the region.
Naoki said Japan calls on Myanmar to restore democracy and create an enabling environment so that Rohingyas can be repatriated at the earliest.
At the same time, he also said that as long as the Rohingya refugees are in Bangladesh, it is important to provide them with livelihoods, education and skills so that they can use them when they return.
Japan is ready to work with Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya crisis, he added.
DCAB President Rezaul Karim Lotus and Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke on the occasion.