Opening Remarks by Ambassador Haas at Indo-Pacific Business Forum Infrastructure Panel

“Mobilizing Infrastructure Investment in Bangladesh and the Indo-Pacific”

January 12, 2023

As prepared

Greetings from Dhaka. To those of you joining in Tokyo and online, I’d like to welcome you virtually to the Edward M. Kennedy Center, named in honor of the late U.S. Senator. He played a critical role between the United States and Bangladesh when this country emerged 50 years ago as a new nation. The Bangladesh he encountered would be unrecognizable to visitors today. With one of the highest GDP growth rates in the Indo-Pacific region, Bangladesh is moving rapidly toward graduation from Least Developed Country status by 2026.

In Bangladesh, as in other low and middle-income countries across the region, infrastructure is critical to driving inclusive and sustainable development. Infrastructure connects workers to good jobs; allows businesses to grow and thrive, and creates opportunities for all segments of society, including underserved communities.

Infrastructure comes in many forms and sizes, from the large-scale energy systems that power inclusive economies, to the local healthcare networks that contribute to global health security, to the cellular towers and undersea cables that move our data and enable a seamless, open worldwide exchange of information.

Meeting infrastructure needs across the Indo-Pacific requires a wide range of public and private financing options. No one country can go it alone. That’s why in June 2022, President Biden announced the United States aims to mobilize an additional $200 billion in investment as part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment.

The United States has always been a strong supporter of development finance through the multilateral system. In Bangladesh, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are the two largest development lenders, followed closely by our co-host Japan. And we will continue to support their efforts to deepen their impact. During this past year’s annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called on multilateral banks and stakeholders to explore new, innovative financing structures in order to leverage private sector investment.

But delivering high-quality infrastructure takes more than just financial investment. It also requires working to support the necessary institutional and policy frameworks, regulatory environment, and human capacity to structure projects to attract private investment.  It requires strong engineering, environmental, social, governance, and labor standards to ensure positive impact.

For the past fifty years, the United States has partnered with the government and the people of Bangladesh by providing over $8 billion to tackle issues like public health, education, energy, environment, food security, natural disasters, and more.

We’re also working with the government through technical assistance programs to create more efficient logistics systems and unleash private investment in areas like clean energy, ports, and railways.

  • For instance, through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program, we provide tailored capacity building and technical assistance to enable the Public-Private Partnership Authority and other Ministries to design and implement public-private partnership schemes necessary to support infrastructure projects of any size. And at the municipal level, we’re connecting Dhaka North City Corporation with U.S. and other regional counterparts to support green infrastructure development.
  • In the logistics sphere, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing funding to foster public and private investment in cold chain infrastructure, enabling perishable goods to reach markets in Bangladesh and across the world.
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development is supporting the National Board of Revenue to improve logistical efficiencies by reducing the time and cost of clearing goods in customs through capacity-building and the deployment of new technologies.
  • And the US Trade and Development Agency is also actively working with the Government of Bangladesh on a Smart Grid Road Map, inland waterways, and railways development. I also want to thank USTDA for sponsoring today’s event and including Bangladesh as one of the showcase countries from the Indo Pacific.

These are just a few small ways we’re working together as partners on infrastructure.

Indeed, as you will note, most of my remarks have focused on attracting private investment. Sustained investments from U.S. companies for the past fifty years have made the United States the largest source of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh and contributed to developing the energy and power sectors.

Investments from companies like Chevron, GE, and Excelerate create good jobs for Bangladeshi communities and help provide reliable power supply to the Bangladeshi people.

U.S. companies are also working to expand high-speed internet access to communities across Bangladesh. For instance, U.S. company SubCom will build the next undersea communications cable from the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company. Innovative products like SpaceX’s Starlink could also help provide reliable high-speed satellite internet access to the most remote areas in Bangladesh and across the Indo-Pacific. These technologies can help support Bangladesh’s vast digital user base and expand Bangladesh’s digital economy.

Bangladesh’s economic development over the last fifty years has been remarkable, and the United States has been a proud partner in that transformation. We look forward to working with Bangladesh over the next fifty years and beyond. Thank you.