Dhaka, Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Promote EZs to Attract More Investment

2019-07-02

Bangladesh government is not interested to establish Export Processing Zones, or EPZs anymore. We think it’s a wise decision. We hope government will promote existing EZs to attract more investment. The government feels that to expand investment, economic areas are more important, where local and foreign businesses can co-exist. This is because; products manufactured at EPZ factories cannot be sold at local markets. On the other hand, goods produced at economic areas can be sold at local markets and exported.

Bangladesh has received Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth $3.61 billion in last year, registering 67.94 percent year-on-year growth, mainly because of major investment by Japan Tobacco Inc. Last November, the Japanese tobacco company completed the agreement of acquisition of Akij Group’s tobacco business with an investment worth $1.47 billion, the biggest ever single FDI in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) revealed the compiled investment data of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at a briefing in Dhaka last week. Bangladesh is the highest recipient of the FDI in 2018, among its South Asian peers, it said.
The government feels economic areas are more important, where local and foreign businesses can co-exist. The government is not thinking about setting up new Export Processing Zones, or EPZs anymore. Instead, assessment is underway to find how existing EPZs can be linked to different economic areas.
The Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (Bepza) was established to work as a catalyst for swift development and inspire foreign investment. The primary objective of Bepza is to establish an export processing area which will ensure favourable investment environment for foreign investors. Bepza was formed as per the Export Processing Zone Authority Act, 1980 and is being directed from the PM’s office. In the beginning of the 80s, EPZ construction began in South Halishahar of Chattogram.
The EPZs are divided in three categories: A, B and C. In ‘A’ 100% investment is foreign, in ‘B’, the ratio is fifty foreign and fifty percent local while ‘C’ features full local investment.
The eight EPZs are: Chittagong, Dhaka (Savar), Adamjee, Cumilla, Ishwardi, Mongla, Uttara in Nilphamari and Karnaphuli (Korean) EPZ. The work for two more EPZs are ongoing. One is in Munshiganj, which is Meghna EPZ, and the other is the Feni EPZ. The only agro-based EPZ is Uttara EPZ in Nilphamari. The first EPZ is the Chittagong based one and it was built in Halishahar in 1983. Over 453 acres, this area has 501 industrial plots with an investment of $21,327.91 million. The Dhaka EPZ was built in 1987 over 356.22 acres with 451 industrial plots with an investment of $17,941.60 million. Mongla EPZ is the third and was constructed in 1998 over 255.41 acres with 190 industrial plots and a total investment of $350.29 million.

BEPZA officials said that the government won’t give permission for the construction of new EPZs but the existing ones may be linked to economic zones. The government is not interested in EPZs since their products cannot be sold in the local markets. In case of economic areas, export plus local sale are possible.
The government has already attached the biggest EPZ in Chittagong to an economic area though the issue has not been finalised as yet. Industry owners who invest in economic areas will be able to take their total profit to their own country.

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