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KEPZ will create 100,000 jobs in 2 yrs, accelerate influx of FDI

image_646_148968Korean EPZ (KEPZ) can be a big hope for faster economic development of Bangladesh by accelerating influx of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) if allowed to function properly without any hurdles and provided necessary cooperation from the authority.

The KEPZ has the prospect of creating jobs for about 100,000 Bangladeshi people by raising investment to $ 1 billion in the next 2 to 3 years.

Kihak Sung, Chairman and CEO of Youngone Corporation said this while talking to journalists during a visit at the KEPZ recently. Youngone Corporation is developing and operating the KEPZ, the only private-owned EPZ in Bangladesh.

Sung said, the KEPZ has already housed a number of manufacturing units. It has set up a state-of-the-art shoe factory, the first phase of which consisting of four units is already in production and export.

“Ten factory units have so far been completed with a floor area of 106,000 sqm (1,140,975 sft). We have started another 8 factory projects to complete in the first quarter of 2014. On completion, this project will create job opportunities for 40,000 work forces. Construction of another 10 projects of Design and Development Centers and worker’s Dormitory are in the offing,??? he added.

Terming that the zone will be an ideal site for full-fledged development project with the combination of industrial setup within complete green, he said the zone has been designed creating more green in it as 1.7 million trees have been planted turning the almost barren and sand-dunes into a beautiful green zone.

“This has led to a revival of flora and fauna and wild life in the area,??? he said while having a walk with the journalists in the hilly parts of the zone.

“I planted so many trees over the last many years as I wanted to turn these barren hills to green spots as to keep the nature truly natural,??? claimed the green-loving chairman.

“The 21 kilometers of roads have been completed within the zone and more to be constructed without causing any loss but adding more beauty to the natural and just to link various parts of the zone developed over a land of 2,495 acres,??? he said.

Talking about Youngone Group, he said, it was the first foreign direct investor in garment export industry in Bangladesh in 1980. Youngone was the first to employ female workers in the sector operating in the Chittagong city.

The company then moved to CEPZ (Chittagong CEP) in 1987 to set up one of the first industries. It now operates 17 industries in EPZs in Chittagong and Dhaka investing over $ 400 million so far.

Youngone is the first company to set up industries in Dhaka EPZ in 1993. The company is developing and operating KEPZ. Youngone at present employs over 60,000 workforces at CEPZ, DEPZ and KEPZ in Bangladesh.

The KEPZ was registered in Bangladesh after passage of Bangladesh Private EPZ Act, 1996 in pursuance of a decision of a Summit meeting between the two states of the Bangladesh and Korea.

After due process of acquisition, possession of the KEPZ land was delivered in August, 1999. The Government of Bangladesh also notified and declared Korean EPZ (KEPZ) as a zone. “The land of the area was barren land and we bought the land from the government at a rate much higher than the market price of that time,??? he added.

Essential regulatory measures for operationalising the zone unfortunately delayed the implementation of the project with desired results. Operational license required under the law could be issued at the end of May, 2007, he said.

Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) was issued in November, 2009. Unfortunately this was cancelled by the Department of Environment (DOE) in March, 2012, which was restored in August 2012 on an appeal to the Ministry.

Statutory Regulatory Orders and some other essential guidelines to make the industrial zone functional came in 2010 only.

Execution of Deed of Transfer of acquired land in favor of KEPZ and mutation in its name is yet to be done making it impossible to attract foreign investment as they are not likely to take risk in investment through a lease agreement in their favor without legitimate allotment of land.

These are creating difficulties in going forward in the implementation of the zone, he said.

Seeking government cooperate for a boost to the KEPZ to go forward and implement the project as expeditiously as possible, he said the present restriction to only 14 types of industries should be lifted and all types of industries should be allowed to setup in KEPZ as are permitted under the Industrial Policy as also under the provision of section 16 of the Bangladesh Private EPZ Act,1996 and Foreign Private Investment (Promotion& Protection) Act, 1980.

Besides, the KEPZ authority should be given the KEPZ of approval to setup industries in the zone as per section 14(2) of the Bangladesh Private EPZ Act, 1996 to ensure “One Stop Service??? to investors.

He, however, appreciated the authority for restoring power connection to KEPZ.

“We invested $ 2.4 million for construction of 33Kv power supply line and a sub-station and 4.8 km transmission line, which was activated by PDB upon receipt of security deposit of Tk 8.4 million. When KEPZ project was approved, our request to the Government for providing all infrastructural facilities including utilities at the door step of KEPZ received government approval,??? he said.

“We need gas supply of 20mmcfd,??? he said adding the authority is yet to allow gas connection to the KEPZ which is also hindering the growth of the zone.

“KEPZ would soon be a busy industrial hub with large employment and become catalyst in achieving progressive development of Bangladesh economy,??? he expected.

“We will set up schools, daycare centres for the kids of the employees,??? he said adding the KEPZ is employing more workers from the Anwara and adjoining areas. About 95 percent of the present workforces of Youngone is local people, said Sung.

While visiting shoe and garment making factory units for where hundreds of workers, mostly female workers engaged in producing Puma brand shoes and Coach brand ladies handbags, Sung said the lives of young boys, girls and ladies of this locality have improved as they get job here at EPZ standard wages. We have dormitories for engineers, technicians and also started building houses for workers, he added.

Many of them have come from other companies, as we are a fully compliant industry, said the confident and promising entrepreneur.

“The KEPZ will be built as a zone equipped with all necessary facilities required for a complete life for all working here,??? he said.

Elaborating the future plan, he said several number of industries of different categories like IT Park, electronics, etc would be set up in the KEPZ area.

The KEPZ at present exports 5 million of products in a year and it brings $500 million foreign exchange from exports in a year, which would reach $1 billion in a span of 2 to 3 years, he said.


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