Japan yesterday pledged to provide economic assistance worth $5.9 billion to Bangladesh over the next four to five years.
Japan will "extend economic cooperation amounting to about 600 billion yen ($5.9 billion) for roughly four to five years," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
Abe's announcement came at a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina after the two leaders held formal talks at the Japanese premier's office in Tokyo.
"Bangladesh has great economic potential. In order to realise its potential and expedite further growth, Japan has come up with the concept of the Bay of Bengal industrial growth belt," he said.
The economic aid will be given through implementation of the concept of the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B), proposed by the Japanese premier.
Hasina, who arrived in Tokyo on Sunday on a four-day official visit, earlier signed a 21-point joint statement with Abe.
In the statement, they agreed to strengthen ties between the two countries on a variety of fronts.
According to government officials, Abe and Hasina discussed a number of topics on bilateral cooperation and Japan, as the single largest development partner of Bangladesh, has been earmarked by Dhaka for major government projects, including the reduction of poverty, fast-tracking infrastructure and power generation projects, and the development of the country's human resources.
As well as increased FDI from Japan to Bangladesh, Japan is keen to boost and develop new trade ties with Bangladesh and see imports to Japan from the South Asian country increase.
According to reports from agencies, Dhaka and Tokyo at the official talks had agreed to build a "comprehensive partnership" to further intensify the bilateral knot.
Speaking at the joint press conference, Hasina thanked the Japanese government for approving the 35th ODA Loan Package for the execution of five important projects. "It will have an impact on socioeconomic development," she said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on March 22 in Dhaka announced providing $1.18 billion as ODA for this year to be spent on five projects.
Hasina said during the official talks with Shinzo Abe, they had discussed almost all issues of bilateral ties, including economic cooperation. "I am pleased to state that it was a very constructive discussion."
"Thereafter, we have signed a joint statement reflecting the issues discussed and convergences arrived at. And the joint statement would provide a guide for the implementation of issues we both decided to carry out for the mutual benefit of the two countries," she said.
At a press conference on May 24, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said Dhaka would discuss several mega projects at the official talks.
The projects include the Ganges Barrage project, a multi-modal and multi-lane tunnel beneath the river Jamuna, a second nuclear power plant (NPP), a rail bridge parallel to Bangabandhu Bridge over the Jamuna, Eastern bypass road and restoration of water bodies surrounding Dhaka and improvement of Mawa-Kalna-Narail-Jessore road with construction of a bridge at Kalna.
Speaking at the joint press conference, the Japanese premier said Japan had come up with a concept with the BIG-B.
"To realise the concept, Japan is expected to exchange economic cooperation amounting to about 600 billion yen for roughly 4 to 5 years," he added.
Abe said he welcomed his Bangladesh counterpart in order to further strengthen relations between the two countries over the years.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and I shared the view of building a comprehensive partnership," he added.
He also said in the areas of politics and security, Japan and Bangladesh would begin foreign secretary-level talks to enhance policy dialogue.
"In order to jointly extend cooperation to the international community, Japan will also provide its knowledge to build a peace-building centre to be established in Bangladesh," he added.
In the areas of nuclear power, Japanese premier said Tokyo and Dhaka would begin expert-level dialogue on the peaceful utilisation of nuclear power in Bangladesh to share the experience and lessons of the accident of Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Abe said they also shared thoughts on starting a joint Bangladesh-Japan public-private economic dialogue to promote trade and expand private investment.
At the official talks, he expected that democracy would be further promoted in Bangladesh under the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Hasina said she had already extended an invitation to Prime Minister Abe and Madam Abe to pay a visit to Bangladesh soon. "The people of Bangladesh, my government and I are looking forward to receiving them in Dhaka," she said.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Ambassador-At-Large M Ziauddin, PM's Principal Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder, ERD Secretary Md Mejbahuddin, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, Bangladesh Ambassador to Japan Masud Bin Momen and PM's Special Assistant Mahbubul Hoque Shakil were present, among others, during the talks.