The government has initiated the process of establishing the country's 10th export processing zone (EPZ) in Jashore with the aim of attracting $2 billion in foreign direct investment and achieving $2.4 billion in annual exports.
The projections were based on a survey conducted by the Infrastructure Investment Facilitation Company (IIFC), a government advisory body aimed at facilitating private sector investment in Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) has already submitted the project proposal to the Planning Commission for final approval, according to sources in Bepza.
According to the project proposal, 438 industrial plots will be developed with an investment of Tk1,547 crore, and the development of the proposed export processing zone will be completed by June 2026.
Once commissioned, the export processing zone, to be set up on an area spanning more than 565 acres of land in Abhaynagar upazila, will create direct employment opportunities for 1.5 lakh local people and indirect employment for another three lakh people, according to the Bepza authorities.
The proposal to set up the country's ninth export processing zone in Patuakhali is awaiting the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) after scrutiny by the Planning Commission.
Officials at the Planning Commission said the evaluation committee will meet on the project proposal on 7 September. After receiving primary approval from the meeting, the proposal will be sent to Ecnec for final approval.
In November 2019, the Bepza authorities decided in principle to set up an export processing zone in Jashore for the socio-economic development of the southwestern region of the country.
According to officials, establishing export processing zones in the south-west of the country and making use of the much-awaited Padma Bridge will contribute to the balanced development of the country.
Nazma Binte Alamgir, executive director (public relations) at Bepza, told The Business Standard that, according to the feasibility study report, readymade garments, textiles, agro- and food processing, leather products, chemicals, and pharmaceutical industries will be given priority in the proposed Jashore EPZ.
She said RMG, textiles, light engineering, pharmaceuticals, jute industrial, plastic industry, furniture, food processing, leather products, footwear, fish processing, electrical and electronics sectors, as well as IT industries, will have investment opportunities in the proposed Patuakhali EPZ.
"The establishment of the two proposed EPZs will contribute to the socio-economic development of the southwestern and southern regions of the country by attracting investments, boosting export earnings, and creating employment opportunities," said Nazma Binte Alamgir.
"Employment opportunities will be created for approximately 2.5 lakh people directly and an additional five lakh indirectly, attracting foreign direct investment of about $3,530 million and facilitating annual exports worth $4,436 million. In addition, the EPZs will make a significant contribution to the development of the two regions," she added.
According to officials concerned, the expenditure of the project will be taken from the government fund as a loan at 2% interest.
Established in 1980, Bepza, operating under the Prime Minister's Office, manages all the EPZs in the country.
Currently, there are eight EPZs in Bangladesh. The first one was set up in Chattogram in 1983, and the other seven were developed in phases over the last three decades.
Work on the Dhaka EPZ began in 1993, and the Dhaka EPZ expansion project was taken up in 1997 after receiving positive feedback from potential investors.
Later EPZs were set up in Mongla, Cumilla, Ishwardi, and Uttara (Nilphamari). Two more EPZs were set up in the Adamjee Jute Mills and Chittagong Steel Mills areas.
At present, investments in 456 industries in these EPZs amount to more than $6.04 billion. These zones produce export goods worth $9.587 billion annually.
More than five lakh skilled workers in the country's EPZs are manufacturing multi-variety products for world-famous brands.
These EPZs now have investments in 37 countries around the world.
Satellite towns have been automatically developed around various EPZs in the country. Apart from this, backward and old industrial factories and accessory industries, including transportation, food supply, markets, educational institutions and hospitals, have been developed around the EPZs.