Golam Mostafa Jibon: Setting up economic zone, once which was a dream, is now reality in Bangladesh as most of the works of the economic zones have started to be visible erasing all speculations thanks to the government.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has turned into financial hub as the economic zones have started to see the light.
According to the sources, the plan to set up economic zones along with huge investment facilities was taken up about a decade ago.
The Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) started its journey in 2010 to take the country’s economy forward through large-scale planned industrialization. The main work of establishing economic zone started in 2014. The objective was to build 100 special economic zones on 75,000 acres of land. After that, the target of land was extended to 1 lakh acres. So far more than 60,000 acres of land have been acquired. Much progress has been made in meeting this target of attracting domestic and foreign investment. The government has already approved the establishment of 93 zones. This special initiative of the government has started in 2015 by setting up Mongla EZ as a joint venture between government and non-government.
After various initiatives and efforts, Bangladesh has now started walking throughthe path. Construction of eight economic zones has already been completed, while rests are waiting for completion. Domestic and foreign investment has startedto reach in the completed economic zones. Many companies have also started production by setting up factories.
In that dream journey, the construction of infrastructure in 28 economic zones across the country is now visible. Of them, construction work has been completed in eight regions and production activities are underway there. Most of the construction works in the remaining 20 regions is nearing completion. So far, a total of $28275 million has been proposed for investment in these regions from both the domestic and foreign investors. Of them, the domestic investment proposal is $2,5182 million andforeign investment proposal is $3094 million.
BEZA said that, the journey of industrial revolution will start in the country once the construction of all economic zones is completed. Hundreds of factories will be set up. The appearance of the country’s economy will change by 2030, when the production of goods starts. It will create employment for at least 1 crore of people. In addition, the production and export of goods worth $40 billion will be facilitated. So far, about 41,000 people have been employed in different economic zones.
Special zones have been set aside for locals and foreigners to make Bangladesh an investment hub. Two zones are being built in Narayanganj and Chattogram to increase investment from China and Japan. A part of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Industrial Zone and the Mongla Economic Zone will remain for India. Saudi Arabia has proposed to set up a region on GTZ basis in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Industrial Zone. Discussions are underway with several other countries to establish GTZ region.
So far, 20 private EZs have been given pre-qualification certificates. Final certificates have been issued against 11 regions. Of them,production activities of Meghna EZ, Meghna Industrial EZ, City Economic EZ, Abdul Monem EZ, Aman EZ, Bay-EZ and Hosseindi EZ – have already started. Preparations are underway for production in East-West, Sirajganj and Kishoreganj EZs. Some 19 industries have started production in these areas.
Six out of the 28 economic zones being implemented by the government. These are: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Industrial City, Jamalpur Economic Zone, Sabrang Tourism Park, Maheshkhali Economic Zone-3 and Shrihat Economic Zone. The rest is being done by private and public-private joint ventures.
Economists said,Thosecould play the biggest role in future economic transformation. This transformation process is accelerated by creating and facilitating industrialization and eliminating bureaucratic complexities in service delivery. Traders are more interested in the economic zones of Bangladesh than in other countries. Transparency and effective management will take the work of the economic zone a long way. If these are not ensured, the regions will not get the full benefits.
Former caretaker government adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam said, “The ongoing infrastructural development should be continued. We have to ensure investment friendly environment. The raw materials that foreign investors will import for production in economic zones need to be made easier and safer to transport. Moreover, uninterrupted gas-electricity and ancillary facilities should be increased. The most important thing is to ensure good governance at every level.” Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Industrial City has been established on over 30,000 acres of lands in Mirsarai and Sitakunda of Chattogram district and Sonagazi area of Feni district. It will be the first large-scale planned industrial zone in the country and even in South and Southeast Asia. The city is further divided into different regions for the production of light, medium and heavy goods. BGMEA Garment Village will cover 500 acres of land in this industrial city and BEPZA Economic Zone has been given 1100 acres of land.
Meanwhile, 14 local and foreign companies have started setting up industries here. Of the domestic and foreign investment proposals in the economic zones, more than $ 20 billion has come in this region alone. Initially, about 8lakhof people will be employed here. BEZA expects at least $30 billion to be invested here. It will provide direct employment to 1.5 million people. Initiatives are also being taken for the development of tourism industry.BEZA is setting up three tourism parks to take the tourism industry of the country forward. It is constructing Sonadia Eco-Tourism Park on about 10,000 acres of land in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar, Sabrang Tourism Park on 1,000 acres of land in Teknaf and Naf Tourism Park on 291 acres of land.
These parks will have five-star hotels, eco-tourism, marine aquariums, sea-cruises, floating jetties, children’s parks, underwater restaurants, floating restaurants, suspension bridges and other interesting recreational facilities. The parks have already received about $100 million in foreign investment.
Investment proposals in the economic zones are coming from India, Netherlands, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, United States, Malaysia, Thailand, Germany and Norway.
Some 38 companies from these 13 countries have proposed to invest $3094 million. Of them, the highest investment proposal of $702.7 million came from China. Thailand is in second place with an investment proposal of $490 million. The United Kingdom is in third place with an investment plan of $137.3 million.
The government is giving various benefits to domestic and foreign investors to invest in the economic zone. Traders are getting approval for various business-related documents through BEZA.
About 125 types of services including allocation of land at comparatively low prices, fast and uninterrupted supply of electricity, gas and water, construction of industrial-friendly infrastructure from 27 different organizations will be provided. There is also aplan to create 20,000 skilled workforces, from where investors will get skilled manpower. The government is offering various types of facilities including income tax exemption for investors, duty free facility on import of raw materials, land development tax exemption, local government inclusive tax, stamp duty exemption, source tax exemption as well as bonded warehouse facility and simplification of customs process.
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