When nearly a half of its 76 industrial estates still lack necessary utility services like gas and water, leaving many plots vacant and forcing entrepreneurs to struggle to run factories, the BSCIC has embarked on a massive plan to set up 100 new industrial parks.
The state-owned Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) seeks to build these industrial parks on 40,000 acres of land at a cost of around Tk1,25,000 crore in two phases over the next 21 years.
Initially, 81 industrial parks will be built in 40 districts and sites for the rest will be selected considering the needs of the entrepreneurs.
The corporation's board will decide on the proposal of building the new industrial estates this month. Once approved, a development project plan will be sent to the Planning Commission.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said the government had given consent to acquiring land for the new industrial parks.
Though created to promote small and cottage industries, the corporation hopes to accommodate large and foreign ventures into its future parks.
In these proposed parks, 40% of plots will be allotted to local medium and large-scale industries and 40% to foreign medium enterprises. The remaining 20% of the plots will be given to CMSMEs (cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises)
Meanwhile, almost half of the existing 76 BSCIC industrial estates built over more than half a century have no gas connection. Some of them do not even have water and electricity connections while some have no boundary walls.
According to a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), 2,800 plots are still vacant out of a total of 10,590 plots in BSCIC's industrial estates. Many, who had opened factories in the plots, have since closed them.
However, the corporation is upbeat with its new plan, which, it hopes, will create 2 crore new jobs at these estates – 1 crore jobs in the first 10 years.
The planned BSCIC estates will have monotype parks for similar products as well as general industrial parks for all types of industries.
Asked about the new initiative while the existing estates are not properly maintained, the industries minister told The Business Standard (TBS) that as the government is prioritising the SME sector, it has decided to set up new industrial parks.
"New industrial estates will be built so that no new factory is set up in a scattered way in the country," he said. "These new parks will be small in size," he continued.
"Industrial parks will be set up wherever SME entrepreneurs need plots," he said.
"Work is ongoing to solve problems in the existing estates," he added.
The BSCIC chairman explained to TBS why the corporation has taken up the plan.
Work on setting up economic zones under the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) is proceeding slowly requiring the corporation to step in to help small and micro businesses, he said.
"Local small entrepreneurs are suffering from a land crisis. So, the plots will be allotted to the entrepreneurs through new industrial parks being set up rapidly," he said.
"Some entrepreneurs are not interested in going to some industrial parks due to the distance," added the chairman.
He said the problems in different industrial parks will be resolved soon.
Md Abu Yusuf, professor of Development Studies at Dhaka University and executive director of Research and Policy Integration for Development, welcomed BSCIC's initiative to build new industrial parks.
However, he warned that if the project is not implemented properly, it will become a burden later.
State of existing BSCIC estates
The BIDS study last year revealed investors' frustration over the poor condition of BSCIC industrial estates.
According to the survey, nearly one-fourth of the total plots are vacant at BSCIC estates.
The report titled "An Evaluation of BSCIC Industrial Estates" conducted under the leadership of Monzur Hossain, research director of BIDS, said most industry owners and employees are dissatisfied over the condition of the roads, boundary walls, drainage system, and street lights inside the estates.
BIDS found that the majority of the estates that have serious problems of water-logging suffer this because of the poor maintenance of the existing drainage system.
None of the BSCIC estates have a boundary wall, which is a major concern for industry owners and employees who wish to protect their valuable goods.
Complaints about poor maintenance of the infrastructure inside the estates are common.
BIDS' report notes that environmental concerns are not well addressed in the BSCIC estates, with about two-thirds of firms discharging solid waste into the estate and a similar number of firms releasing liquid waste into nearby rivers or canals.
In about 37 estates, effluent treatment plants (ETPs) have been set up by individual enterprises. Only one estate has a central effluent treatment plant (CETP).
BSCIC DGM (Planning) Mohammad Rashedur Rahman told TBS that many previous plans were not sustainable so new parks will be built under a long-term sustainable plan.
He said the information that 2,600 plots are vacant is incorrect.
"Some plots are vacant in several parks. However, it is very low in number. On the other hand, we are not able to give plots in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Bogura, and Khulna industrial parks despite huge demand. That is why an initiative has been taken to set up new industrial parks," he elaborated.
Bangabandhu moved the bill in 1957
In order to expand small and cottage industries in East Bengal, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the then-labour, industries and commerce minister, introduced a bill in the Provincial Legislative Assembly in 1957 to establish the East Pakistan Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (EPSCIC).
After the bill was passed, BSCIC started lending activities for small entrepreneurs with a fund of Tk1 crore provided by the EPSCIC. The construction of BSCIC estates started in the 1960s. A total of 20 parks were built in the 1970s and currently the number of estates is 76.
BSCIC has 178 offices across the country, including 64 district offices and 76 industrial estate offices, to provide industrial assistance to entrepreneurs.
According to BSCIC, the total investment in these industrial parks till June 2019 was Tk27,689 crore. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the value of the products produced in these parks was Tk50,682 crore. Of this, goods worth Tk24,755 crore were exported.