The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) is set to form Tk 2 billion fund to provide seed money to private economic zones to develop the sites.
BEZA Executive Chairman of BEZA Paban Chowdhury disclosed this at a seminar titled 'Attracting Investment in Economic Zones of Bangladesh'. The BEZA organised the seminar at a city hotel.
He said Bangladesh has been receiving very poor and insignificant foreign direct investment despite many moves to increase it.
"We received around US$2 billion in 2016 which is the highest FDI the country so far got but it is only one-fifth of Myanmar's foreign direct investment," he said.
He said the country has an excellent legal framework for promoting investment, but its implementation is very poor.
Under-invoicing is hurting the country's investment. This needs correction, Mr Paban Chowdhury suggested.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Abdul Matlub Ahmad said the country is lagging behind in planned industrial development.
He stressed the need for extensive skill development programme to meet the demand for skilled labour force.
He urged the government not to change investment-related rules and regulations often.
Speaking at the programme, Principal Secretary at Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury said the government is planning to set up Skill Development Authority under the PMO which will work for skill development in the country.
He said skill development is the country's future. The country needs skilled labour force to meet the needs of the EZs.
The Principal Secretary said the government has taken a holistic approach in implementing 100 special economic zones. All facilities will be ensured in the EZs taking localities into consideration.
Mr Chowdhury promised prompt, time-bound and hassle-free services to the zone developers, unit investors and other stakeholders.
He said the BEZA has been working for developing a sound automated system of One-Stop-Services (OSS). The draft OSS Act is now awaiting the cabinet approval.
Senior Secretary at PMO Suraiya Begum urged local industrialists and entrepreneurs to make partnership with foreign companies.
"The country could in this way increase foreign direct investment," she said.
Chairman of the National Board of Revenue Md. Nojibur Rahman said the Board has been pursuing an investment-friendly tax policy.
"Our concern is to create a level-playing field for all investors," he said.
He said the NBR has issued SRO so that developers or unit investors can enjoy tax holiday of different margins up to first 12 years and 10 years from the beginning of their business activities in economic zones.
"The zone developers will also get the benefit of payable import tax and VAT exemption for importing construction materials."
He said the NBR has already issued Bangladesh Economic Zones Warehousing Station Rules, 2015 for declaring all economic zones as bonded warehousing stations and under this system, the unit investors will import raw materials without paying Import Duty and VAT.
BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman said a significant involvement of the private sector is essential to propel the national economy to upper middle-income status and improve socio-economic condition of the country.
Other speakers at the seminar held lack of international-standard audit reports, poor enforcement of investment-related rules and regulations, inadequate infrastructure responsible for poor foreign direct investment trend in the country.
They said setting up of special economic zones is the only way through which Bangladesh could attain the status of middle-income country by 2021.
They also demanded allocation of government funds to help develop private economic zones.
The seminar was targeted to promote the upcoming economic zone projects of the BEZA among potential zone developers and unit investors.
CPD distinguished fellow Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Chairman of Japan Development Institute (JDI) Dr Shoichi Kobayashi, Seema Manghee of International Finance Corporation of World Bank Group and Managing Director of Abdul Monem Company ASM Mainuddin Monem participated in the business session.
Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Chairman Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad chaired the session.