The World Bank gave Bangladesh $130 million in new credit to help develop new economic zones as the country seeks to attract foreign and domestic investment and create more jobs in the manufacturing sector.
The government signed an additional financing agreement with the Washington-based lender at the Economic Relations Division in Dhaka yesterday. With this additional financing, the WB's support to the project stands at $170 million.
The additional financing to the “private sector development support project” will help develop new economic zones through identifying, licensing, and negotiating public-private partnership, the WB said in a statement.
In the last two years, the project helped with the licensing of 16 economic zones and hi-tech parks, and with the assessment of 33 new sites for development as economic zones over the next several years.
“Bangladesh needs to create more and better jobs in the manufacturing sector to accelerate growth and poverty reduction. The economic zones play a critical role in attracting private investment and creating jobs, as the benefits are many,” said Rajashree Paralkar, acting WB country director for Bangladesh.
The official said the financing would directly contribute to the government's vision of establishing 100 zones over the next 15 years and promoting socially and environmentally responsible industrial growth for the country.
“Both the sixth and the seventh five-year plans considered establishing new economic zones as a cornerstone to strengthen the manufacturing sector and promote efficient use of skilled labour, land, and other resources," said Kazi Shofiqul Azam, additional secretary of the ERD.
“The new economic zones and high-tech parks will be important to achieve the government's poverty alleviation goals.”
The WB said the financing would promote female participation in the manufacturing sector, and provide facilities such as childcare centres and counselors to address workplace safety, labour, and environmental issues inside the zones. Furthermore, independent semi-annual audits will ensure that all structures comply with building codes. The financing will also expand support to environmental standards compliance and certification for local firms even outside the zones.
Azam and Paralkar signed the agreement.