10 more economic zones get the nod
Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) has approved setting up 10 more economic zones, taking the tally of such areas to 101, out of which work on 28 are currently underway.
The approval came at a virtual meeting of the Beza Governing Board yesterday with its chairperson, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in the chair through videoconferencing from her Gono Bhaban residence.
The new zones are Nawabganj Economic Zone, Nawabganj; Tangail Economic Zone, Bhuapur; Sapahar Economic Zone, Sapahar, Naogaon; Dinajpur Economic Zone, Dinajpur Sadar; Noakhali Economic Zone, Companiganj; Sandwip Economic Zone, Chattogramme; Sunamganj Economic Zone, Chhatak, Sunamganj; Pabna Economic Zone, Bera, Pabna; Charmegha Economic Zone, Hijla, Barisal; and Manikganj Economic Zone, Shibalaya, Manikganj.
Beza officials said now they would conduct feasibility studies and start acquiring necessary land for setting up the zones.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked Beza to promote small entrepreneurs, particularly the young generation, alongside attracting foreign investment, reports the UNB.
"It (Beza) will have to work in a way so that foreign investment comes on one hand and local people can invest on the other, or we can promote small investors. That means we need to attract and promote our young generation."
The young generation should not only run after jobs as they could do something themselves such as taking up ventures.
"We will have to work keeping eyes on these."
Hasina said the government was setting up special economic zones across the country to attract investment, create jobs and protect arable and forest lands.
"There's no doubt our economy is an agriculture-dependent one but we need industrialisation at the same time. Because, no country can make progress without industrialisation."
The premier said the government has been on all-out efforts to gear up industrialisation to create jobs, enhance production, raising the purchasing power of people, fulfilling local demands and boosting exports.
"While going for industrialisation, we have to keep it in mind that arable lands must be protected to ensure food security for the growing population in a small country like Bangladesh."
The prime minister said if 100 economic zones could be established as per the target of the government, poverty would be alleviated in the country, production and export income would increase and the foundation of the country's economy would be strengthened.
The meeting also decided to provide export subsidy or cash incentive at the same rate as non-economic zone companies to all categories of agro-processing industries established in economic zones focusing export.
The prime minister directed all agencies concerned to take immediate steps to formulate a comprehensive strategy and future action plan to attract investors to Bangladesh as part of the trend of global relocations in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other governing body members connected from the Prime Minister's Office and the Cabinet Division.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Economic Zones Investors Association (Bezia) has sought intervention from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to address some hurdles to investment in the country's economic zones.
Potential investors were recently blindsided by the implementation of a 15 per cent value-added tax (VAT) imposed on land lease at economic zones.
Besides, investors are unable to attain bank loans against land taken on the rent due to unfavourable conditions of leasing policies, Bezia said in a statement.
"Our confidence and expectations were shattered when we unexpectedly received letters from the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) on the VAT issue," read the statement.
This will increase their outlay, they added.
"Furthermore, we are keen to enjoy a tax holiday as provided for industrial units regardless of what they produce within the economic zones."
Bezia also said investors were facing indefinite delays in the handover processes for leased lands at economic zones and were also in uncertainty about whether the infrastructure and facilities would be made available there as promised by Beza.
This includes the construction of port facilities at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar in Mirsarai, Chattogram, a project which has already far exceeded its completion deadline.
While investors had been exempted from VAT charges and were given a tax holiday for a certain period, the National Board of Revenue recently issued a notice declaring that the 15 per cent VAT would be imposed on land leasing from now on, according to Bezia.
The platform also said banks were uninterested in providing loans for investment in economic zones using leasing agreements as collateral since the potential borrowers did not own the land.