Ensure full infrastructure facilities at EZs
Operators of private economic zones in Bangladesh should review their infrastructure and logistic masterplans to ensure the maximum utilisation of the existing facilities, according to M Masrur Reaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange of Bangladesh.
"It is also crucial to ensuring that multiple businesses have access to the facilities rather than a single large investor," he said in a recent interview with The Daily Star.
He emphasised better connectivity and warehouse management to maintain a smooth supply chain for raw materials and finished products.
Reaz, who conducted a study on economic zones in the country, went on to say the concept of private economic zones is to provide an area for planned industrialisation complete with the required utilities.
In Bangladesh, the export processing zones have been successful in this regard, but they are dedicated to export-oriented industries. So, the government developed the concept of special economic zones to address the issue.
Now, these industrial hubs are playing a vital role in catering to domestic and foreign demand while also generating employment opportunities.
But as consumption continues to grow, the government coined the idea of private economic zones to bolster production for both local and international markets.
The 12 private economic zones across Bangladesh have received $4.27 billion in investment proposals from home and abroad in the past six years. They have created 36,602 jobs so far, data from the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) showed.
The success of the initiative is already apparent as businesses are running efficiently in various private economic zones such as the Meghna Economic Zone and the City Economic Zone.
The City Economic Zone, owned by City Group, has attracted investments worth $1.6 billion, and 14 factories will be set up at the industrial hub located in Rupganj upazila of Narayanganj.
Reaz describes the private sector as the "engine of Bangladesh's economic growth".
As such, the Beza has brought the private sector to the forefront of industrial development by allowing companies such as Abdul Monem Group, Bashundhara Group, Meghna Group, and City Group to set up their own manufacturing hubs.
But despite these initiatives, businesses in certain economic zones allege that production is being hampered due to inadequate utility services and poor connectivity, among other issues.
"So, the government should ensure smooth utility services for the economic zones on a priority basis in order to reap the full benefits of these industrial hubs," said Reaz.
Citing the allegation of inadequate utility services, the former economist of the International Finance Corporation said if the authorities provide the required support and establish new economic zones, the tendency to set up industries in an unplanned manner will decrease.
He believes economic zones could play a major role in future economic transformation.
Economic zones in Bangladesh might not be able to provide the facilities offered by those in developed countries, the government should keep up its efforts in order to elevate the quality of services, he added.
"Private economic zones should accommodate investors from home and abroad instead of only their own companies in order to attract more investments."