Establishing economic zones for rapid industrialization

11 May 2016


Anu Mahmud :
Prime Minister Sk. Hasina has recently laid the foundation of 10 Special Economic Zones in different areas under several districts over video conference at Bangabandhu International Conference Center. In this regard on the basis of the Special Economic Zone Act of 2010 government has established the Bangladesh Special Economic Authority Zone (BEZA). Under this organization among the target of 100 special economic in all over the country, this 10 Economic Zones foundation stones have been set up. Among these 10 areas four will be established under the government initiative and the rest six will be under the Public Private partnership (PPP) program.
There is no alternative to develop the country without the support of industrialization. Economy will be so much strong with the establishment of industrial units in large scale and at the same time employment opportunity will also be expanded. Under this circumstances we welcome of those steps of creation of Economic Zone Authority. But the creation of Economic Zone is not sufficient, these zones will be created as industrial favourable and the related facilities will be confirmed. Now question arises, how much facilities have been confirmed in those proposed zones related to the industrial establishment activities. In our country since long the investment climate was not very favourable. The main reason behind this are- crisis's in gas-electricity supply, scarcity of developed infrastructure and high interest rate in bank loan. The demand for gas and electricity will increase with the expansion of new economic zones. Also requirement for developed infrastructure be expanded gradually. For these reasons necessary steps will be taken immediately to solve the prevailing problems to gear up investment activities. So, it is seriously expected, the government will take care about these with the expansion of new Economic Zones.
Prime Minister has requested the entrepreneurs to establish their industrial areas by taking under considering the three preconditions (factors), those are- (a) Provision of water reserve, (b) green belt and (c) wastage dispatch procedures in the area of industrial location . With this instruction PM has given emphasis on environment and atmosphere no doubt. So, it is necessary to take necessary steps. In fact, to establish any commercial institution including industry this policy is required to follow. Any steps, whether those may be profitable may not be accepted whether it may be  harmful to forest areas, river-cannel and human life hazards.
From the economic point of view, different areas of Bangladesh have huge prosperous. To establish Special Economic Zone is also become the demand of the time in reality. For this zones local and foreign investors will encouraged properly. Many specialists think that, due to our scarcity of capital foreign investors required to be given emphasis. In this regard it may be noted that, behind the economic development of South Korea main role played by the foreign investment. Considering this views, investment prospect will be utilized completely and properly. It is our inspiration that the present government is very cordial in this matter. But if we do not take care properly regarding some matters initially, expected result may be hampered.
The acquisition of land is the big hurdle to establish economic zones. It is not expected to wastage of time to acquire land matter. At the same time it will be taken under consideration whether the fertile agricultural land will be acquired further. After this to expedite the development and infrastructure construction activities steps will be taken speedy to release of fund. For implementation of total activities related economic zones required manpower will recruited. Now a days any steps related to industrial investment will go in vain due to scarcity of power and energy supply. For this reason proper planning is required to take for smooth supply of power. Developed communication infrastructures are required to establish in those areas. Overall political stability will also be maintained, which is very essential to attract foreign investors. A group of people though a separate Economic Zone will be created for light engineering's industries and women entrepreneurs. This recommendations are required to be taken under consideration. If the private entrepreneurs do not come forward economy of the country will not be speedy, indicating this PM has mentioned that industries will be established in a  special place in different parts of the country. if the industries are scattered all over the country in different places, environmental balance will be hampered. Ours river-environment may be polluted, considering this views government has taken this steps to locate industries in a specific area and places. Though it is appreciable, but regarding some points cautious steps will be taken.
Bangladesh have serious land scarcity problem. We are losing 1% agricultural land in every year due to our increased population. Under this situation if we block the land of 100 economic zones in this way for long time unused, it may effect negatively other way. Our previous experience regarding BISIC and EPZ are not comfortable. Land fallen vacant, but no existence of industry in those places. Proper utilization of land those were given to the private companies are required to be confirmed by the government authorities. It will also be taken into consideration seriously that, the land those were offered for creation of economic zones to China, India and Japan's fate will not be like of Korean EPZ. After all before that, there will be specific instructions related to the facilities and concessions those will be offered in those economic zones.
Experts mentioned that, it is not sufficient only to create 100 economic zones, but it be confirmed to be implemented within the stipulated time. Initially 10 economic zones will be implemented and on the basis of this achievement the creation of other economic zones will be taken into consideration in future. In this context if the steps area taken on the basis of the demand, the wastage of land and wealth be possible to reduce. Initially confirmation of investable favourable atmosphere is necessary to  ensure. Neither the steps those  were taken by the government to create economic zones to encourage local and foreign investors may be disturbed. It is also necessary to confirm that all the land and assets of our country are properly used for productive sectors. One stop service are required to provide in economic zones to solve any type of problem related to investors. It is also necessary to process the applications of investors under the policy to encourage the productive investment and corruption free process may be required to ensure here.
PM has given emphasis on some issues in this regard, like- uniform development of all over the country, proper highest utilization of land regarding the establishing of industries, not to wastage of agricultural land, not to  pollute environment, creation of facilities to dispatch the wastage and not to dispatch the wastage in the rivers. Special and excess incentives for women entrepreneurs. Secured domestic facility for laborers specially woman laborers. Target of the government is to fully activate all the economic zones within 15 years. We know comparatively it is not easy task to make ensure the infrastructural facilities in a specific area. Due to this wastages of land will be reduced, the infrastructure cost will also be minimized. Behind the tremendous economic development in Chine for last three decades great role was played by the special economic zones. There were two targets behind of this- to attract foreign investment and to increase economic growth and development. Corporate tax for foreign investors will be imposed on a reduced rate compared to other areas.
In 1980 first economic zone was located at Shenzen area in China.  Within three decade period this small town of that time become one of the important economic center of the country. India has declared the policy to create economic zones in the first phase of the year 2000. Their policy were clear like Chine to increase foreign investment and to confirm the creation of disturbance free situation for economic zones. These experiences of two main economic power of the world economy may be properly utilized by the Bangladesh government, entrepreneurs and related all parties. In the economic zones there will be government investment and also be the government- private joint investment. There will also be provision for Bangladesh government to investment jointly with the other country's government. We have a target ( Vision -2021 ) to enter into the range of middle income group country and also within the next 25 years ( Vision - 2041 ) we want to reach to the line of developed world. To achieve these goals precondition is to implement the mass industrialization program in our country within the stipulated time. If we could able to achieve the target of materialization of 100 economic zones in full swim. we are sure that will be able to reach to our goal.
Already Special Economic Zone Authority has been formed. For this organization expert and efficient man powers are required. At the same time they should have the capacity and capability to take prompt decision and to get all sorts of cooperation from any government and private organizations.
Those 100 economic zones will be setup by 2030. Among these 59 has been given approval initially and development work of 10  of them has already been opened by the PM. Economic zones those will be initiated and managed by the government authority, those are - Mirersharai economic zone of Chittagong, Shreehatto economic zone of Mouluvi Bazar, Mongla economic zone of Bagerhat and Sabrang tourist area of Technaf. Non-government economic zones will be at - Palash of Narshindhi, Munshingaj, two in Sonargaon of Narayanganj. Gazipur and Narayangonj. Implimentation and management of those economic zones will responded by - Khan group. Abdul Momen Ltd, Meghna group. Bay group and Aman group. Government has arranged land for those economic zones. But development and implementation works will be financed by the entrepreneurs. Under a continuous process those have already approved and  in future other economic zones will be implemented. These 100 economic zones will be implemented by the year of 2030. It is needless to say, for the economic development and to improve the living standard of the people it is a gigantic plan and initiative of the present government. If the economic zones area implemented within the stipulated time, there will be a revolutionary change in the production, export, earning of foreign currencies and creation of employment in our country. Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhit has expressed his expectation that, from the 100 economic zones export earnings will be 4 thousand crore US dollars and one crore people will get employment.
Bangladesh still mainly is a country of agro based economy. National expectation of any country's economic development and progress may not be achieved only on the basing of agro-economy. Now it is essential to build up strong industrial based economy simultaneously along  with the agro- economy. From the Pakistan period till the date many industries and factories were located in the different areas of the country mainly-Dhaka, Chittagong, Gazipur, Tongi, Savar, Khulna, Jessore. These industries and factories and creating civic and environmental problems in different ways. Garments factories are even located in different residential areas of Dhaka and tannery factories at Hazaribagh become the source of civic disturbance and environment pollution. This type of industries and factories create population pressure, traffic jam, accommodations crisis, scarcity of civic facilities make problems like mountain. From long days, continuous pressures are giving to shift the industries and factories in distant places from the urban city areas. Experts opines that existing many problems will be solved if separate industrial town areas be created  for different types of industries  and established in different places of the country, then will be balanced economic development. No remarkable progress has been made regarding the establishing of planned industrial area city and shifting industries in different distance areas from the urban cities.
In this regard EPZs are exceptional 'and examples are required to follow. Government has taken a plan and step to set up economic zones in every district, with the implementation of this program a balanced industrialization will occur and many of the remaining problems be solved. A balanced development atmosphere will create regarding industrial development, expansion of export, earning of foreign exchange and creation of employment in Bangladesh.

(The writer is an Economic analyst, Columnist, e-mail anumahmud@yahoo.com)

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