Vol. 5 Num 400 Tue. July 12, 2005  

Expedite licensing process for private EPZ
BEI roundtable urges govt

Coming down heavily on the authorities for dilly-dallying awarding licence to the country's biggest private export processing zone (EPZ), speakers at a roundtable yesterday urged the government to expedite the licensing process.

They said the government is intentionally dawdling the licence awarding process and punishing both the economy and the investor.

Although the government signed an agreement with Youngone Corporation of Korea in 1995 to issue licence for setting up a Korean EPZ, the industrial zone could not come into operation until now. The government later suspended the licensing without showing any concrete grounds, said Mahbub Jamil, president of Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

"It is a national shame, which will surely impact negatively on foreign direct investment in the country," he went on.

He was addressing a roundtable on 'Development of Private EPZs in Bangladesh: Potential and Constraints' organised by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) in Dhaka.

Kihak Sung, chairman and CEO of Youngone Corporation, said by not issuing licence to Korean EPZ, the government is not only losing foreign currency but also depriving the probable local workers and employees of their earnings.

He alleged Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) is not concerned about the development of private EPZs.

The speakers estimated that if the Korean EPZ starts operation, it will create 100,000 direct jobs and 200,000 indirect employments.

Former commerce minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury said most of the world economic zones are built with private investment.

"As our government has a limited resources, private sector can invest in this thriving area," he added.

He said if the private sector is allowed to set up EPZs, it will trigger competition between private and public sectors. Even, private-public joint venture can be a good option for setting up EPZs, he said.

"I think there is no problem in private sector EPZs rather, they will create competition among the entrepreneurs," said Bepza Executive Chairman Mohammad Zakir Hossain.

He said the now defunct Adamjee Jute Mills area has already been turned into a special EPZ and 65 industrial plots have already been allotted to private investors.

A Canadian and an Australian companies will set up factories there, which will employ more than 5,000 people, Hossain said.

Former secretary Shawkat Ali presented the keynote paper at the roundtable where he identified a number of factors that are retarding the development of private EPZs in the country.

He said lack of continuity and harmony between policy and action is a matter of concern. The existing laws relating to FDI are attractive on paper, but the realities are different. "The cost of doing business here erodes away the competitiveness of investors," he observed.

He also suggested formulating an easy and clear policy-framework based on the best practice to encourage private investors in private EPZs. The government will have to ensure continuity of policy and level-playing role to create a fair competition between private and public sectors.

British High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury and BEI President Farooq Sobhan also spoke at the function.