The government plans to merge the country’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs) with the proposed 100 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in phases, sources said.
The initiative has been undertaken in a bid to encourage industrialisation, generate employment opportunities, increase production, and ensure export promotion and diversification of export items.
“The government is eyeing to generate some three crore employment opportunities and boost export earnings by around $40 billion through the establishment of 100 economic zones across the country by 2030. To reach these goals, the government is now thinking to merge the EPZs with the proposed SEZs,” an official said.
Besides, process is also underway to develop the main export earning sector – readymade garment (RMG), develop the light and medium industries, improve the quality of locally produced goods as well as diversify the exportable items. Both the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones (BEPZA) are government-sponsored investment facilitators, which help domestic and foreign investors in setting up factories in the country.
These two organisations operate directly under the Prime Minister's Office. Bangladesh has eight EPZs. They are Chattogram EPZ, Dhaka EPZ, Mongla EPZ, Ishwardi EPZ, Cumilla EPZ, Uttara EPZ, Adamjee EPZ and Karnaphuli EPZ. According to sources with the ministry concerned, at present the government has no plan to establish new EPZ or expand the existing ones.
The sources said a feasibility study is now underway to get the possible way that will help in merging the EPZs with SEZs. Due to changes of time and expansion of new ideas in business worldwide, the government is taking such initiatives. Industries insiders observed that SEZs are more supportive than EPZs for the expansion of trade and investment, as local and foreign businessmen believe that setting up industries at SEZs is more profitable for them.
As a reason for preferring SEZs, businessmen pointed out that products of EPZs cannot be sold at local market as there are legal bars in this regard. On the other hand, products that produced in the SEZs can be sold at local market besides foreign markets, which helps get more profit, they said. Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) is the official organ of the government to promote, attract and facilitate foreign investment in the EPZs. Its primary objectives of an EPZ is to provide special areas where potential investors would find a congenial investment climate free from cumbersome procedures.
When connected BEPZA general manager Nazma Binte Alamgir told Bangladesh Post, maybe the government will not allow to establish any EPZ more in the country rather the existing EPZs can be connected with SEZs. ‘The government is establishing Mirsarai Economic Zone under the supervision of BEPZA, this will be first SEZ which will run under the government rules and regulation’- she further added.
Former BGMEA president and chairman of envoy group Salam Murshedi told Bangladesh Post, this is a timely decision of the government, this will encourage more the foreign investors, country’s business people to invest and also remove unemployment problem of the country. ‘We are interest to invest in the economic zones, as it will facilitate to sale product both in local and foreign markets. Which is not allowed in EPZs. So connecting EPZs to SEZs will be sustainable and business friendly decision’- he added.
Earlier, industries minister Nurul Majid Humayun said, the government is no longer interest to establish EPZs, as it does not allow to sale product in the local markets. But products that will produce in economic zone will allow to sale in local market beside exporting. It will be much profitable for the businessmen.