Call for New Economic Zones Strategy to Create More Jobs in Bangladesh
The Industries Advisor underscored the need for a tripartite partnership among the government, private sector, and development partners to develop economic zones that will provide more and better jobs to lift people out of poverty, while making the best use of scarce land and protecting the environment. She was addressing a high-level workshop and report launch cohosted by the Board of Investment, IFC Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund, and the World Bank.
“The government is fully supportive of the idea to provide efficient land, infrastructure, and services to industries and should seek to build public-private partnerships in special economic zones’ development and management,” said Geeteara Choudhury, Advisor to Industries, during the launch of a World Bank Group report, Bangladesh: Piloting Reform through the Development and Management of Economic Zones.
“A good zones policy will guide and regulate balanced industrialization to attract more investment and help stop the haphazard set up of industries,” said Nazrul Islam, Executive Chairman of Board of Investment.
“Land is Bangladesh’s scarcest resource. Zoning is a good way to ensure that it is used productively and efficiently,” said Xian Zhu, World Bank Country Director. Assuring that the World Bank Group will continue to support the government and private sector, he added, “The World Bank and IFC will collaborate to provide both infrastructure assistance around zones and advice on the right policies to capitalize on those investments.”
James Crittle, Head of IFC Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund, noted that special economic zones can play an important role in ensuring a more geographically balanced industrial growth in the country. “Export Processing Zones in Bangladesh have been successful, attracting nearly $1.1 billion in total investment from 1983-2005, accounting for nearly 20 percent of annual exports, and bringing in 25 percent of total foreign direct investment,” he said. “But there is greater potential for impact on the economy.”
The report reviewed the status of the existing export processing zones and industrial estates and made recommendations for policy reforms to leverage the benefits of public-private partnerships. Under such partnership, the public sector can allocate sufficient land for development of economic zones and provide necessary regulatory oversight, while the private sector may offer expertise in zone development and management. According to the report, special economic zones account for 80 percent of exports in the Dominican Republic, while they brought 61 percent of total FDI in Malaysia.
Two panel discussions on the “Potential Impact of Zones on the Economy and the Environment” and “Modalities of Zone Operation,” involved government officials, civil society, and private sector representatives, including the head of Youngone’s Korean EPZ, the first private EPZ in the country.
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