Mirsarai Industrial City, which spans over 30,000 acres in Mirsarai, Feni and Sitakunda, will be the country's future investment capital, said the chief of the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority.
“It will show the world that we can build big and heavy industries,” Paban Chowdhury, executive chairman of the BEZA, told The Daily Star at his office last week.
The industrial city -- which comprises three economic zones of Mirsarai, Feni and Sitakunda –- is being built as part of the government's plan to put 100 economic zones in place for foreign and domestic entrepreneurs by 2030 and create 1 crore jobs.
BEZA expects $20 billion to $25 billion to flow in to the industrial city considering the proposals it has been receiving for the last two years.
Adani Group of India, Wilmar of Singapore, Kunming Irom and Steel Group and Jindun Group of China, Sumitomo Corporation and Mitsui & Co. of Japan, SK Group of South Korea and local giants Summit, Bashundhara, ACI, PHP Family, BSRM and some other have booked their plots at Mirsarai.
The zone will also have port facilities.
The government will not limit its work within the economic zones only; it is working to build up the next generation of townships, Chowdhury said.
Construction works that will go on for years will be expanded to north of Sandeep to Hatia of Noakhali district, he said.
But the plan may remain a dream if the responsible authorities and people do not change their mindset.
“We need dedication and commitment and high level of integrity. Otherwise, it will be just a dream.”
Economic zones that operate under liberal laws and offer incentives for investors have changed the fate of many Asian nations, such as China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Bangladesh has built only eight export processing zones on 2,290 acres of land in the last 39 years. But Mirsarai industrial city is being built on 30,000 acres, Chowdhury said.
“I still remember when South Korean giant Samsung came to Bangladesh for establishing a research and development centre but went back for not getting the land in a zone.”
Later, Samsung set up the factory in Vietnam, from where it exports $20 billion worth of goods a year, which is higher than Bangladesh's apparel exports if value addition is taken into account, he said.
Economic zones are needed to check environmental damage: it is easy to monitor factories located in one place, he said.
The BEZA chief also touched upon the much-discussed one-stop service centre, which according to businesses is vital for improving the country's business climate.
An investor needs 162 types of services and information to start a business in Bangladesh. BEZA will provide the services under one umbrella once the centre is in place.
The centre will be inaugurated by March, he said.
Now, the focal officials of the concerned ministries are being trained so that they can provide services to investors efficiently, Chowdhury said.
“But the quality of services will depend largely on the mindset of the bureaucrats.”
Last but not the least, Chowdhury said Bangladesh has to go fast to develop its infrastructure if it wants to draw and facilitate foreign investment.
He went on to cite Vietnam as a case in point. “Vietnam was more backwards than us even in the 1990s.”
Africa is also coming up, so the competition for attracting foreign investment will get more intense, he added.