DFID threatens to withdraw fund    

The Department for International Development (DFID) has threatened to withdraw the grants it had committed for establishing economic zones (EZ) as the government has failed to set up the much-hyped zones in four years.

The UK-based development organisation recently said it would withdraw fund of nearly Tk 15 crore committed for ‘Economic Zones Development’ project, if the government fails to spend the money by this December, Planning Commission sources said.

The World Bank, which conducted a survey on the project, and the DFID came forward to help set up EZs, making commitments of Tk 65 crore and Tk 14.34 crore respectively as grants against the said project, reports the Daily Sun.

DFIDIn 2010, the government formed Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) to set a number of economic zones in some of impoverished but potential areas to beef up economic activities, but the initiative faltered because of BEZA’s inefficiency and a flaw in its organisational structure, official sources said.

Even, the project failed to get ECNEC nod because of BEZA officials’ inefficiency and lack of capabilities, they added.

A PM-headed governing body approved five EZs in Mirersarai, Anowara, Sirajganj, Sherpur and Mongla in 2012, after analysing a survey conducted by the WB that identified 8 spots. But any of the EZs has not seen light even after the approval of the project two years ago.

BEZA attributes the delay to fund crisis, complexities linked to land acquisition, bureaucratic tangles and manpower shortage.

Meanwhile, authorities have detected a serious fault to the BEZA’s organogram which is that its structure lacks a very important position of an engineer, even though the existing law has a provision to employ 72 staff for BEZA.

Absence of an engineer in BEZA has hampered EZ’s designs and some technical aspects of the project, creating a huge problem for the body and dragging on the setting up of EZs, officials sources complained.

A BEZA high-up said, initiatives have now been taken to reform BEZA’s structure, amending the concerned law to create a position of engineer at BEZA, as the issue was mistakenly missed while the law was enacted.

A letter has been sent to the PM, requesting her to appoint engineers from the LGED or public works ministry to BEZA on deputation to temporarily resolve the problem, he added.

About the latest state of the project, another official said developer will be appointed at the proposed Mongla EZ as the necessary 204 acres of land has already been handed over to the Bagherhat DC.

On the other hand, Tk 241 crore has been sought from the finance ministry to acquire 1,041 acres of land, and for the rest of the zones surveys are now being conducted.

The country has eight Export Processing Zones (EPZs) which are meant for FDI and exports only, but the EZs have been intended to draw investments from both home and abroad to cater to local and foreign markets, besides spurring economic developments through creating jobs, enhancing productivity and exports.