In the pursuit of transforming the country into a developed one by 2041 through drawing investments from domestic as well as foreign sources and thus materialising the dream of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of building 'Golden Bengal', the present government has been taking innovative measures. In its five decades long journey, Bangladesh has had to deal with many odds, ranging from natural calamities to limited resources. Despite these adversities, Bangladesh is being dubbed as the next economic miracle. Under the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country has been enjoying astounding economic growth for more than a decade. According to the forecast made by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), the UK based leading economic consultancy, the position of Bangladesh will improve considerably, with its ranking rising from 41st to 25th by 2035, in the World Economic League Table— a well-recognised study of the comparative economic success of different countries. According to the World Bank, “Bangladesh is the second-fastest growing economy in South Asia”, while ADB dubbed Bangladesh as the “Fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region”. Also, the country just got the final endorsement from ECOSOC to graduate from Least Developed Country (LDC) to Developing country after 45 years. Even during the Covid-19 onslaught, the country tackled the situation and got back on its feet pretty quickly. However, Bangladesh has been making significant strides in achieving sector-specific SDG goals. To lift the annual GDP growth to 10 per cent as stated, industry (manufacturing) value-added as a proportion of GDP to 35 per cent and significantly increase FDI inflow, the country is mobilising its resources. In that spirit, to facilitate planned industrialisation while meeting both the export and domestic demand, and at the same time moving towards high-value addition industries, the concept of Economic Zone (EZ) was adopted.
Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) aims to add $40 billion worth of export/production by 2030. It plans to set up 100 EZs of six categories namely: Public-Private Partnership EZ, Government EZ, Private EZ, G2G EZ, Special EZ and EZ in collaboration with other government entities across the country. Sites for 97 EZs have already been finalised. These zones are offering unencumbered land, adequate utility connection and state-of-the-art industrial infrastructure coupled with lucrative fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. Investors are enjoying the One-Stop Service (OSS) where all the necessary services are provided under one roof. Furthermore, uninterrupted power, political stability, growing domestic market, unrestricted entry and exit, 100 per cent foreign equity is allowed for a wide range of sectors, equal treatment between local and foreign investment, liberal visa policy and simpler procedure for profit/ dividend repatriation etc. can be attributed for the upward trend of the business climate indicators.
BEZA’s flagship project Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) is located in the south-eastern part of the country. Once completed, this city will encompass 12,500 hectares of land. Because of its proximity to the sea, this city is certainly a cut above the rest in this region. There will be a dedicated seaport for this city. This port will handle the burgeoning demand of shipping activities, the city is expected to create. To transform BSMSN into a self-sufficient industrial city, BEZA has developed a comprehensive master plan to build a ‘Smart City', incorporating seaport, rail and road connectivity, power plant, marine drive and social infrastructures like residential areas, tourism parks, medical and educational facilities. The master plan has been designed to ensure that critical infrastructure is economically sustainable and public services are interactive, transparent and responsive, i.e., to improve environmental, economic and social sustainability. The all-inclusive master plan has been designed to address five central elements of industrial development — governance, economy, ecology, resources and community. Bangabandhu Shilpanagar will pave the way for establishing a truly world-class business and industrial centre. It is expected to create employment opportunities for 1.5 million people. The city has started attracting leading companies from around the world to start manufacturing for both domestic and export markets. Local companies have also begun establishing factories to commence their operations in the city. It is expected that various types of industries, such as garments and its supporting industries, agro-products and agro-processing products, integrated textiles, leather and leather goods, shipbuilding, automobile assembly, food and beverage, paint and chemical, paper and products, plastics, light engineering including auto-parts and bicycles, pharmaceutical products, power and solar parks will be set up in the industrial city. Though the industrial city is in the development stage, BEZA has already allocated about 2,600 hectares of land among 153 business houses and their proposed investment is around $20 billion. Furthermore, BSMSN is going to be the country’s first ‘green’ or eco-industrial city harmonising with nature, energy systems, materials and waste management; water supply and drainage; effective eco-industrial park management; construction/renovation; integration with the local community. It aims to create an advanced recycling-based community in the city by developing a cooperative structure between industrial and residential areas.
In addition to that, BEZA adopted the concept of G2G EZ to host investors. BEZA has successfully negotiated with Japan, India and China for establishing G2G EZs in the country. The development works of the Japanese EZ in the suburb of Dhaka is going on in full swing. Touted as the 'Future Industrial Hub' by many, this EZ is expected to host and promote big scale investment from Japan.
In addition to all these things, a host of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives have been put in place by the government of Bangladesh. Local as well as foreign investors in EZs are eligible to get the benefit of these incentives. We are offering corporate tax waivers for up to 10 years, of which in the first three years investors will get the 100 per cent CIT exemption. Income tax on capital gain, dividend, royalty, technical know-how technical assistance fees are also waived for 10 years. The government has also exempted income tax on 50 per cent of the expatriate income.
Moreover, our investors can now access 125 different services under one umbrella. A specific time-frame for receiving services is assured to them. Standard operating procedure for each of the services has been made available online. From these documents, they can know beforehand about the requirement of their desired services. At present, 48 services out of 125 are provided online BEZA is committed to the long-term sustainability of the economic zones. It aims to enhance the sustainability, resilience and competitiveness of EZs through actions such as mitigating and avoiding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, pollutions and resource depletion; setting higher labour standards and fostering greater community development and avoiding and minimising damages and business disruptions from natural disasters and shocks. Desalination plant, rainwater harvesting system, water treatment plant, central effluent treatment plant, solid waste treatment plant, solar energy production, sewage management, flood management, plantation, creation of green belt, a recreation of facilities with beautiful lakes and water bodies remain high on the agenda. A Green Resilient Economic Zone (GREZ) guideline is being formulated to establish a new national performance standard to enhance the competitiveness of the EZs.