The Bangladesh Special Economic Zone, also known as the Japanese economic zone, in Araihazar upazila of Narayanganj is ready to welcome investors as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to inaugurate the zone on 6 December.
Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) expects $1.5 billion in investments and employment for about one lakh people as the zone becomes fully operational, said Beza Executive Chairman Shaikh Yusuf in a view-exchange meeting with the Development Journalist Forum of Bangladesh (DJFB) at his office in Agargaon of the capital on Sunday.
Singer Bangladesh Ltd in a joint venture with Turkish company Arçelik and German company Rudolf have already started building their factories here, he said.
The multinational electronics and home appliance firm is looking forward to beginning production at the $78 million green factory by the end of 2023, primarily targeting the fast-growing local market alongside exploring export opportunities from the plant.
Shaikh Yusuf Harun said the economic zone will facilitate technology transfer between Japan and Bangladesh. Besides, a separate One Stop Service Centre and Skills Development Centre will be established in the economic zone.
According to Bangladesh Special Economic Zone (BSEZ) sources, Japanese investors are keen on investing in this economic zone to expand their business in Bangladesh.
BSEZ Managing Director Taro Kawachi said, "We are applying Japanese quality in Bangladesh. It will be an environment-friendly modern economic zone and by the end of next year, a number of companies will start manufacturing their products here."
Any local or foreign company can invest in this zone. Already 40 foreign companies have expressed interest to invest here, 30 of which are Japanese companies, he said.
At the meeting, BSEZ informed journalists that Singer and German company Rudolf secured 40 acres of land, of which Singer alone got 35 acres. On 6 December, new investment agreements will be signed with two other Japanese companies.
According to Beza sources, Japan's Onda Corporation and Nicca Chemicals are the two companies expected to sign investment agreements to secure 10 acres of land each in the Japanese economic zone. Onda will produce gas metres and Nikka will produce chemicals.
Beza and Japan's Sumitomo Corporation are jointly working to develop this economic zone which began with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to Japan in 2014. The matter was thoroughly discussed during the then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Bangladesh later that year.
In 2016, Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) undertook a feasibility study to establish the economic zone, and in the same year, the Japanese government recommended the appointment of the world-renowned Sumitomo Corporation as the developer.
After a feasibility study in 2018, Jica gave its opinion in favour of setting up a Japanese Economic Zone at Araihazar in Narayanganj.
Later, an agreement was signed between Beja and Sumitomo Corporation in 2019 to establish the joint venture economic zone.
Beza Executive Chairman Shaikh Yusuf said Beza started land acquisition and land development work in the proposed area in 2019.
Under the Japanese Economic Zone Infrastructure Development Project, the first phase of 500 acres of land development work is nearing completion, along with the construction of connection roads, retention ponds, and electricity and water supply systems, he said.
The construction of internal roads, gas, electricity and water supply lines has started. So far 180 acres of developed land have been handed over to the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone for setting up industrial plants. The remaining lands will be handed over soon, Shaikh Yusuf said.
When asked about the stakes of the Bangladesh government and Japan in the economic zone, Shaikh Yusuf said the share of Beza is 24%, Jica 15% and Sumitomo Corporation 61%.
In response to a query about the ongoing gas and electricity crises, the Beza executive chairman said "The crisis, which ensued from the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine war, is temporary. The government said the issue will be overcome within the next month."
"We have almost overcome the dollar crisis. Our Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports will begin soon after a halt. The government is also mulling whether to allow LNG import by the private sector. Once the private sector joins hands, I think the crisis will go away," he said.
DJFB President Hamid-uz-Zaman, Director of Infrastructure Development of the Japanese Economic Zone Project Saleh Ahmed, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar Development Project Director Abdullah Al Mahmud Faruk, among others, were present at the event.