Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dressed to impress

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Dressed to impress

The readymade garments sector is vital for Bangladesh's regional commerce, which will increase by more than 9 percent annually through to 2016. Photo: HSBC

Noel Quinn

When I tell people in Hong Kong, London or New York that Bangladesh is a land of untapped business opportunities, there are usually some who’ll raise their eyebrows in incredulity or admiration. For those who haven’t visited in person, it’s a country they only know from media headlines as a place of natural calamities and social pressures as the population expands.

Fortunately, I’m finding that the sceptics and uninformed are increasingly in the minority. As the global business community focuses its attention on Asia, there’s mounting interest in Bangladesh for its skilled workforce, its thriving economy and the impressive export industry it’s built in just over 40 years.

While acknowledging that Bangladesh still has much to do to realise the government’s long-term vision, I believe the prospects here are quite bright. So does HSBC Commercial Banking, which handles over 8 percent of the country’s international trade, and which recently showed Bangladesh to be the Asia-Pacific’s second fastest-growing trade partner after Vietnam. In fact, our research indicates that Bangladesh’s regional commerce will increase by more than 9 percent annually through to 2016.

Our confidence stems from what we see on the ground, in the cities and in the export processing zones, and from our expectations that Asia will increasingly sit at the heart of the global economy. Bangladesh now ranks higher than India, Indonesia and the Philippines in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ report, and it has nurtured companies producing goods for household brands including Levis, Nike, Raleigh and Sony.

Some have suggested that Bangladesh could become like Mexico, which has established itself as a low-cost manufacturing hub for its enormous neighbour to the north. In some ways the analogy is insufficient in that Bangladesh borders India and is also close to China – two economies HSBC thinks will become the world’s third-largest and largest respectively by 2050. In other ways, the analogy exaggerates because by 2050, even after a seven-fold increase, we expect China’s income per capita will only be 32 percent of that in the US.

What we know today is that Bangladesh is a competitive place to do business when benchmarked against its emerging market peers. It has clear cost advantages, and a committed young workforce that’s keen to learn. With an increasing number of international companies relying on Bangladesh for the timely delivery of quality garments, the country has a medium-term opportunity to win manufacturing investment in this vital export sector. With economic austerity in the West making consumers there more cost-conscious, companies here have an opportunity to promote sales of affordable clothing while investing to rise up the value chain.

The challenge, of course, is that Bangladeshis want to increase their earning power. They want economic diversification that will bring new job opportunities while reducing the nation’s reliance on apparel and expatriate remittances. This will require effort to build the infrastructure businesses need to capitalise on Bangladesh’s location, and it will require effort to attract new industries and the skills transfer that comes with them.

Though the garment industry is likely to provide the backbone of the economy for some time to come, it’s encouraging to see that companies making goods as diverse as camera lenses, shoes, mobile phone components and car parts have chosen to set up plants in the EPZs. Local entrepreneurs and investors from Canada to Taiwan are starting to recognise Bangladesh’s potential as a location for light engineering, shipbuilding, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals and ICT. Samsung’s recent opening of a research and development centre in Dhaka is a good case in point.

Like many local businesspeople, HSBC is watching with great interest as the governments of India and Bangladesh negotiate greater access to each other’s road, rail, sea and air transport networks. For India, a deal will improve domestic links to its north-eastern states. For Bangladesh, it could help the country become a regional centre for trade and manufacturing, a gateway to the sea for Nepal and Bhutan, and the hub of a trans-Asia highway connecting India to China and South-East Asia.

Looking eastwards, Bangladesh is positioning itself to boost trade with China as China rebalances its economy from exports to sustainable domestic demand. Last year, HSBC helped a customer in the Dhaka EPZ to buy yarn from China in Chinese Renminbi. This deal was another sign of things to come, as Bangladeshi firms seek to cement relationships with Chinese partners, cut transaction costs and hedge foreign exchange risk in what is set to be the next global currency.

Clearly, I have to be balanced in my conversations with overseas companies. Bangladesh must ensure power supplies and communications networks are robust, for example, and it must recognise the competitive strengths of neighbours such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Pakistan.

As I also tell them, however, it’s clear to me that there are few people who can match Bangladeshis for their resilience in the face of a challenge. If this country continues to reinforce its links with the developed world, while deepening relationships in the emerging markets, it has every reason to demand attention in biggest corporate boardrooms.

Noel Quinn is the head of commercial banking for HSBC Asia-Pacific and group general manager for HSBC Holdings.

Jute exports thrive on new markets

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Jute exports thrive on new markets

Workers carry bundles of jute sacks at a factory in Bogra. Thailand and Vietnam have emerged as new markets for jute sacks. Photo: STAR

Sohel Parvez

A recently-created demand for jute sacks in Thailand has come as a boon for the jute industry in Bangladesh, raising hopes for a recovery in exports that fell 13 percent during July-February of the current fiscal year.

Also, India has recently increased import of jute and jute goods after its currency started to gain against the US dollar.

Prices have also increased.

“Exports of jute goods to our traditional middle-eastern and African markets have fallen amid political unrest in Libya, Syria, Iraq and other countries,” said Md Shamsul Haque, director (marketing) of state-owned Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation that has 21 jute mills running.

“But our exports increased in the last three months as we got some new markets,” said Haque, “Thailand has emerged as a new market for our jute sacks along with Vietnam.”

The market in Thailand has widened after the current Thai-government started buying a huge quantity of rice in jute sacks to fulfil its pledge of providing a guaranteed price to farmers.

“We have received orders for supplying two crore (20 million) pieces of jute sacks from millers in Thailand,” he said.

“Thailand has opened up a new opportunity for us. It has come as a blessing as our stocks were piling up due to a fall in exports. Now all our mills are booked for the next four months,” said the BJMC official.

Private jute mills will also be benefited due to the decision of Thailand, which is the largest exporter of rice and forecasts to produce 30 million tonnes of rice in 2011-12.

“Demand for jute sacks is high in Thailand,” said Mahmudul Huq, deputy managing director of Janata Jute Mills Ltd, a leading jute yarn and jute goods exporter.

He said, as his mill alone could not meet the orders, he tied up with two other mills.

Janata ships 3.2 lakh pieces of jute sacks a month to Thailand, he said.

Huq said Thailand needs three million pieces of bags a month to package rice. It means around 36 million pieces of sacks will be required a year, he added.

“Because of Thailand, the demand for jute sacks will continue across the year. India is our main market, but its demand remains only for eight months,” said Huq.

Apart from Thailand, exporters faced an increased demand for raw jute and jute goods from India.

The Indian rupee has gained against the greenback in recent months, and so the Indian importers started to buy more jute and jute goods, said Haque of BJMC.

Mahfuzul Haque, chairman of Bangladesh Jute Association, a body of raw jute traders and exporters, also said the demand for jute goods has improved abroad.

“Prices have also gone up,” he said, “It’s mainly because of increased demand from India.”

Exporters said the increased demand and higher prices of jute goods will allow them to narrow down the losses in export receipts in the first half of the year.

But it may not be possible to offset the past fall and post a positive growth in exports by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, according to Janata Jute Mill official Huq.

Export receipts from the jute industry — the second biggest export earner — fell 13.66 percent to $615 million in the July-February period of the current fiscal year, from $712 million during the same period last year, according to Export Promotion Bureau.

sohel@thedailystar.net

Online stores get more hits

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Online stores get more hits
Sohel Parvez

Online shopping is becoming popular in Bangladesh, encouraging new entrants to open e-portals for consumer goods and household essentials.

In the past one year, nearly a dozen online shopping portals or e-trading platforms launched operations, offering products and services from vegetables, clothes, computer accessories to books and travel tickets, said IT sector insiders.

The trend started after Bangladesh Bank cleared ways for payment by debit and credit card in the local currency.

“The extent of visits and deals made through these online portals is rising,” said AKM Fahim Mashroor, chief executive of bdjobs.com, a leading online job portal.

Bdjobs.com opened an online trading platform, ajkerdeal.com, six months ago to promote client merchants’ products and services to consumers at discounted prices.

Of the portals that came into operation last year, at least 10 received good responses. Some 5,000-10,000 visitors visit these online platforms on a regular basis, said Mashroor, also the senior vice present of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).

Thanks to growing internet penetration, shopping portals have received impetus, widening scope for a buyer to purchase goods sitting at home.

An increased use of internet-enabled mobile phones also added vigour to online shopping. Some online stores have already kept provisions to place orders by mobile phone.

Now 50 lakh people use the internet daily and 25 lakh people have a Facebook account in Bangladesh, he said.

Bangladesh’s headway in online retailing coincides at a time when online portals account for a major share of daily retail trade in the developed world.

In China and India, these sites are becoming popular because of the convenience, according to IT sector insiders.

It gives customers scope to buy products at prices lower than the rates quoted in showrooms, Mashroor said. An entrepreneur can offer products at low prices because online platforms save on operational costs like showroom rent.

“So, it is a good platform for small and medium enterprises to market their products,” said Mashroor.

“Our aim is to build a platform to reduce the number of hands in the supply chain by selling producers’ goods directly to consumers,” said Ataur Rahman, director of Future Solution Business (FSB).

The company launched an online portal — amardesheshop.com — to sell vegetables, fish and handicrafts to people in urban areas earlier this year. Amardesheshop.com is a component of the Amar Desh Amar Gram e-commerce initiative of FSB, which took the step to establish an ICT based network to connect rural producers with consumers in the city and vice versa.

“The prices of vegetables and other products that we offer usually are lower than market prices,” said Rahman, adding that the firm receives orders online and over the phone and they deliver goods home on a weekly basis.

“When we started, we had 20 clients. Now we supply to 50 families in Dhaka,” he said. “Many producers are linked with us through our IT centres at production areas.”

Shameem Ahsan, chief executive of another e-commerce firm akhoni.com, said the company is registering fast growth due to rising demand.

“We offer products that are highly discounted,” he said, adding that already 10,000 people have bought products through akhoni.com since its launch in June last year.

Ahsan said the portal has the option to pay online by card or in cash for home delivery. It also provides discount coupons if clients visit the stores physically.

Some 150 merchants are linked with akhoni.com that promotes clothes, electronic gadgets, mobile phones, travel packages and restaurants.

“We receive many orders from different parts of the country,” he said.

However, some bottlenecks hinder the fast growth of e-commerce. Many banks, fearing fraud, still keep debit and credit cards inactive for online transactions for security reasons.

Mashroor said the central bank should prepare guidelines for banks and other service providers to prevent fraud in online transactions. For companies, there should be scope for insurance against frauds, he said.

At the same, the number of debit or credit card users is also lower than the current internet users, said Mashroor.

sohel@thedailystar.net

BEPZA: EPZs of Bangladesh the ideal place for the investors

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BEPZA: EPZs of Bangladesh the ideal place for the investors
March 26, 2012
MAJOR GENERAL A T M SHAHIDUL ISLAM

Socio-economic development is essential in order to reduce poverty in developing countries and to improve people’s living standards.

Investment plays an important role in the socio-economic development of a country.

The contribution of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is very significant especially in the underdeveloped and developing countries.

Private sector provides bulk of employment and contributes to poverty alleviation.

Government of Bangladesh attaches great importance to the role of foreign investment in accelerating the pace of industrial development in Bangladesh.

With this objective in view, the government promulgated Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority Act with the mandate to attract investment in the EPZs of Bangladesh.

This EPZ Act provides for the legal, institutional and incentive framework for the EPZ program and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority as the agency has been charged with the responsibility of administering the program to achieve economic objectives on behalf of the government.

EPZs are designed to further integrate Bangladesh into the global supply chain and attract export-oriented investments in the zones, thus achieving its economic objectives of job creation, diversification and expansion of exports, increasing productive investments, technology transfer and creation of backward linkages between the zones and the domestic economy.

Chittagong EPZ is the first Zone established by BEPZA.

The Chittagong EPZ is the pioneer for investors which gradually turned Bangladesh as a “New Horizon for investment”.

Observing its astounding success, Dhaka EPZ came into operation in the year 1993.

Afterwards 6(six) new EPZs namely Mongla, Comilla, Ishwardi, Uttara (Nilphamari), Adamjee & Karnaphuli have been set up and these EPZs have already started operation.

Recently The Financial Times, a London based FDI magazine, has ranked Chittagong Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) as the 3rd Best Cost Competitive Zone in the world and the 4th in the Best Economic Potential for 2010-11.

(FDI Magazine of The Financial Times, London, June-July, 2010 issue).

MODE OF INVESTMENT

BEPZA pursues an open door policy in regards to foreign or local investment in its EPZs.

It attracts investment in three categories, ie

Type – A – Investment with 100% foreign ownership,

Type-B- Joint venture between Bangladeshi and foreign investors

Type-C -100% Bangladeshi ownership.

INVESTMENT CLIMATE IN THE EPZS

(1) Geo-regional location

The comparative advantages of the EPZ in Bangladesh are it’s homogenously, large number of potential human resources, competitive wage level, and its ‘geo-regional location’.

Bangladesh is situated in close proximity to the Bay of Bengal, which has given the country with an easy access to the world through sea-way and also by air in terms of import and export.

As a result, the foreign investors are always keen to take those strategic advantages.

(2) Human Resources

The main attraction of investment in Bangladesh is the most inexpensive, productive, abundant and easily trainable workforce.

Today Bangladesh has a growing number of managers, engineers, technicians and skilled labour force.

The minimum wage of the workers in the EPZs is one of the lowest in Asia.

Changing economic and political conditions in the Asian region are prompting many international investors to reassess their investment strategies and plan for relocating their investments in Bangladesh.

Those changes are producing higher opportunities for Bangladesh to attract higher levels of FDI.

China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Philippines and even Vietnam, Indonesia & Malaysia are experiencing wages increase and rising production costs that are making them more expensive resulting the EPZs of Bangladesh have become a new field and place for foreign investment.

(3) One Window Service

BEPZA has been providing “ONE WINDOW SERVICE’ to its investors.

Operational and documentation procedures have been framed to make them easy and simple with minimum formalities.

Investors need only to deal with BEPZA for all of their investment and operational requirements.

BEPZA assists the investors with everything like import, export, and subcontract permits etc.

Apart from that, by providing on-site services such as customs clearance, logistics, international couriers, and offshore banking facilities, BEPZA provides its investors with the chance to further simplify business processes, resulting in a reduction in lead time.

BEPZA also provides same-day services to the investors.

(4) Protection of Foreign investment:

Foreign investors enjoying multiple protections in BEPZA.

The Foreign Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act secures all foreign investment in Bangladesh.

As a member of OPIC’s (Overseas Private Investment Corporation, USA) insurance and finance programmes operable in Bangladesh as well as in the EPZs.

Bangladesh is a member of Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) which provides safeguards and security under international law.

The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID) also provides an additional means of remedy, whilst copyright interests are protected through World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The World Bank has ranked Bangladesh 20th out of 187 nations for investors’ protection, making it as the best in South Asian Region.

(Doing Business, 2010).

(5)Flexibility:

BEPZA offers investment opportunities in convertible foreign currencies, providing investors with the flexibility of repatriating of both profit and capital.

The investors also enjoy GSP facility in EU countries, USA, Australia, Japan, Norway and duty and quota free access to Canada.

(6) Infrastructure Facilities:

BEPZA provides infrastructure facilities for the investors.

BEPZA provides fully serviced plots and standard factory buildings for setting up manufacturing industry.

Investor can use these plots under a 30 years lease which is renewable.

Apart from these plots, an investor may also take lease of Standard Factory Building (SFB) owned by BEPZA.

All the utility connections such as electricity, water, internet & telecommunication are readily connected in the enterprises of the EPZs.

BEPZA has also allowed setting up of hi-tech infrastructure facilities like Central Effluent Treatment Plant, Water Treatment Plant, Inland Container Deport (ICD), Internet service, Power Generation Plant as service oriented industries in the EPZs.

(7) Support Facilities:

BEPZA has allowed setting up of support service business facilities for the investors such as local and foreign banks, Off Shore Banking Units (OBU), insurance companies, C & F agents, freight forwarder and courier service in the EPZs.

Other administrative facilities, such as Customs Office, Police Station, BEPZA’s Security, Fire Station, Public Transport, Medical centers etc are available in the EPZs.

(8) Fiscal and Non fiscal Incentives:

The fiscal incentives include:

— 10 years tax holiday for the Industries established before 1st January, 2012 and Industries to set up after 31st December, 2011 tax holiday period will be:

Tax exemption period Rate of tax exemption

First 02 years (1st and 2nd Year) 100% Next 02 years (3rd and 4th Year) 50% Next 01 years (5th Year) 25%

— Income tax exemption of salaries of foreign technician for three years (For the projects approved before March 22, 2009).

— Duty free import of machinery, equipment, construction materials.

— Duty free import of raw materials

— Duty free export of finished goods.

— Relief from double taxation.

— Exemption from dividend tax for tax holiday period.

— Duty free import of two/three duty free vehicles for A & B type industries subject to certain conditions (For the projects approved before March 22, 2009).

— Full repatriation of profit, capital & establishment.

The non-fiscal incentives include:

— Investment protected under the Foreign Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act.

— BEPZA is a signatory of MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) and ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute)

— BEPZA is a Member of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation)

— 100% foreign ownership permissible.

— Enjoy GSP benefits in EU countries, Japan, Australia, USA, Canada, Norway etc.

— No ceiling on foreign investment.

— Foreign currency loan from abroad under direct automatic route (OBU facilities).

— Non-resident Foreign Currency Deposit (NFCD) allowed for ‘A’ type industries.

— Operation of FC account by ‘B’ and ‘C’ type industries allowed.

— Resident ship / Citizenship granted for foreign investors.

— 100% backward linkage raw materials, accessories are allowed to sell to export oriented industries inside and outside EPZs.

— Taking and offering subcontracting are allowed both inside and outside EPZ.

— 10% sale of finished products except garments.

— 10% sale of defective finished goods.

— 10% sale of surplus raw materials

Support Service Facilities include:

— Work permits issued by BEPZA.

— IP & EP issued within the same day.

— No UD (Utilization Declaration), IRC (Import Registration Certificate), ERC (Export Registration Certificate) & renewal of bond license required

— Customs clearance at factory site.

— Intra / inter zone sub-contracting & transfer of goods allowed.

— Easily available and trainable workforce.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2012

HK-based firm wants to install 950MW power plants

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HK-based firm wants to install 950MW power plants
The company wants to get work in a mutual understanding with Govt, instead of competitive tender
Shamim Jahangir

China Zhongyuan Trading Limited (CZTL), a Hong Kong-based company, has shown interest to install two power plants- one gas-fired and another coal-fired- with generation capacity of 950 megawatt (MW) of electricity in Bangladesh through mutual understanding.

Zhang Zai Tao, the general manager of the company, recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina placing a technical and financial offer for installing 300 to 450 MW gas-based combined cycle and 500 MW coal-fired power plant in the country.

The company is planning to install the two large power plants under China Exim Bank Credit facilities, the letter read.

“We come to know that BPDB (Bangladesh Power Development Board) has floated international tender for three units of 300MW-450MW gas-based power plant and one unit of 250MW coal-based power plant,” Zhang Zai Tao said.

CZTL wants to implement projects in mutual understanding instead of facing competitive bid, the official said.

“We have participated thrice in the bids for Ghorasal power plant project. Unfortunately, BPDB didn’t award the contract to anyone,” the letter read.

The official said the company alone with NEPDI, an associate of the company, is capable to undertake at least 2000 MW of power plant under the company’s technical and financial assistance.

Meanwhile, a number of retired officials of BPDB were invited on 22nd this month by Power Division to a view-exchange meeting on installing power plants. The retired officials requested the power division not to use Chinese technology in installing the power plants because of ‘poor quality’.

Abu Ishak, former managing director of West Zone Power Distribution Company, who attended the meeting said: “W!e had bitter experience of applying Chinese technical assistance in the installation of Tongi Power Plant and Barapukuria Power Plant.”

Besides, Bangladesh and China will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set up a joint venture power plant in Moheskhali, Cox’s Bazar by imported coal to generate 1320 MW of electricity by mid of this year.

BPDB and the China Hudian Hong Kong Company will ink the MoU on behalf of their respective sides, the official said.

According to the officials concerned, the ships laden with 50,000 tonnes of coal for the power plant could enter the country through Moheskhali belt.

The government has already directed the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Cox’s Bazar to acquire 5000 acres of land for the plant.

The China Hudian Hong Kong Company has so far produced 90,000 MW of power, 70 of which is based on coal. The company has coalmine sites in Cambodia, Indonesia and Australia, an official said.

Govt to lease out lands to private firms

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Govt to lease out lands to private firms
Entrepreneurs will build 257 industrial units on unused lands of state enterprises
Rejaul Karim Byron

The government will allow private entrepreneurs to build 257 industrial units on lands owned but unused by state companies.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs yesterday approved a proposal of the Privatisation Commission — the first such move in Bangladesh.

The government will lease out the public lands to the private entrepreneurs initially for 35 years.

Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser to the prime minister, will lead an 11-member committee to deal with the issue.

The committee will mark out unused lands of different state-owned enterprises and commercial institutions.

The committee will submit its recommendations to the cabinet committee in two months.

The committee members include the executive chairman of the Board of Investment, chairman of the Privatisation Commission, governor of Bangladesh Bank, Prime Minister’s principal secretary, and secretaries of Finance Division, textile and jute ministry, commerce ministry and industries ministry.

The Privatisation Commission has already conducted a survey on 39 state enterprises that have 1,288 acres as surplus lands.

If the government parcels out five acres of land to one industrial unit, about 257 new industrial units can be set up on 1,288 acres, the commission said in its proposal.

The new industrial units will see more than Tk 5,000 crore in investment in the next two years if the average investment per unit is Tk 20 crore, the commission said.

If each industrial unit creates employment for 200 persons, a total of 50,000 jobs may be generated, the commission estimated.

The commission also said, if the proposal is implemented, scope for more industrialisation will be created without affecting the existing state enterprises.

The government may also increase revenue collection without losing its lands.

The commission said gas, power and other infrastructures may be given to the new industrial units on the basis of lease or sub-lease from the existing government enterprises without creating new infrastructures.

Meanwhile, the cabinet committee on purchase gave a go-ahead to another proposal for purchasing 20,500 laptops at a total cost of around Tk 109.32 crore.

The laptops will be used in opening multi-media classrooms in 20,500 educational institutions at secondary and higher secondary levels. Each of the laptops will be purchased at Tk 48,527 from state-owned enterprise Telephone Shilpa Sangstha. The laptops will carry a three-year warranty.

Besides, the purchase committee approved a proposal for procuring 50,000 tonnes of wheat. An Indian trader, LMJ International Ltd, will supply wheat at $303.90 a tonne.

‘Bangladesh may get $14b as remittance, this year’

http://www.theindependentbd.com/business/finance/101694-bangladesh-may-get-14b-as-remittance-this-year.html

‘Bangladesh may get $14b as remittance, this year’
Author / Source : Staff Reporter

DHAKA, MAR 25: The government is contemplating to reform three-decade old Emigration Ordinance to insert more rights to the migrant workers. And, to facilitate international employment, the government is also setting up a migrants’ bank, according to Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, MP. The minister also emphasised policy support to migrant workers while speaking at a business luncheon meeting of Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI), as the chief guest at a local hotel on Sunday.

In efforts to reduce migration costs, facilitate migration loan and encourage (remittance) investments, a migrants’ bank will be set up, pointed out the minister.

“Manpower is our asset. We have received over US$ 12 billion remittance in 2011,” Mosharraf said.

Although foreign workers from Bangladesh make up just 2.8 per cent of Bangladesh’s population, they contribute to more than 13 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Remittance was second-biggest source of foreign income after ready-made garments in 2010-2011, the minister added.

According to the World Bank, Bangladesh is one of the top 10 remittance recipient countries globally.

Cost to migrate from Bangladesh is still very high comparing to other countries and step should be taken to bring it lower, minister said, and added that initiative is needed for a minimum five years of job agreement for migrant workers with host countries.

To encourage migrant workers to remit money through banks, he suggested that Bangladesh Bank allows migrants to send home up to $ 500 at free of charge.

He said majority of migrants from Bangladesh, approximately 63 per cent of them, are less skilled and semi skilled. The Middle East is the largest destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers, approximately some 80 per cent. However, Southeast Asia is also emerging as an important destination. Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) has already approved Tk 1,000 crore funds for setting up another 36 institutions for skill development of migrants, he added.

The government has taken some measures to attract host countries so that they employ more Bangladeshi immigrants. To explore new markets for Bangladeshi workers, high level visits have been undertaken to Romania, Iraq, Mali and Libya to mention a few. The government is also opening Bangladesh missions in some of these prospective countries.

Similar efforts are also underway with other East European and Central Asian countries. And, conventional markets in Africa and North America are also being pursued.

Furthermore, the Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry has also started exploring and diversifying into new sectors, such as care giving, nursing and other medical professions, as well as actively promoting women labour migration.

The minister thanked Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry for organising this important meeting.

While welcoming the guests, Syed Nurul Islam, president of BMCCI highlighted the role of immigrants in the country’s economic development.

He said over 8 million Bangladeshi people are working in different countries and among them huge numbers are living outside as regular immigrants. If everything goes well, Bangladesh will get over $14 billion in this year, he hoped. This will be an enormous achievement for Bangladesh, he observed.

The programme was also addressed by the special guests–Dr. Zafar Ahmed Khan, secretary of Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas and Employment, and C M Koyes Sami, managing director, Probashi  Kallyan Bank.

Alertpay plans big for Bangladesh

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Alertpay plans big for Bangladesh
Company’s local agent speaks to The Daily Star

Jamal Shah, COO, Casada Technology

Imrul Kayes Chowdhury

Since its inception in Bangladesh, Alertpay is becoming popular among the freelancers and IT exporters.

Within a week of its launch, Alertpay got 21,000 new members and growing rapidly, said Jamal Shah, COO of Casada Technology, the sole agent of Alertpay in Bangladesh, in an interview with The Daily Star.

Alertpay is a Canada-based online payment gateway service provider which operates in 190 countries in 23 different currencies across the globe.

It came to Bangladesh in the last week of February.

In the interview Shah said the signup process is a bit time consuming in Bangladesh at present due to its verification process. If someone wants to sign up, he or she needs to go through verification process after providing all the necessary information such as proof of address, national ID, bank account and all he said.

Although it should take two to three days for Alertpay to complete the process, it is taking time for them to verify as their operation is new here and our national IDs and other information are mostly in Bangla, Shah said.

Casada as sole agent here has proposed Alertpay to authorise it to verify the information so that the signup process can be fast.

When asked about its operation, Shah said transaction has been made through Alertpay and its operation is going good and it will continue to do so. Because, Shah said, the vehicles IT freelancers use to receive payments here are either expensive or lengthy unlike Alertpay.

Alertpay offers two things that no one has offered before in Bangladesh- online transaction and cost effectiveness.

As per Bangladesh Bank’s FE Circular No. 15, IT freelancers can receive up to $ 500 per transaction. Alertpay charges only 2.50 cents (about Tk 240) for this $500. However, Shah said, governor of Bangladesh Bank said that this 500 dollar window will expand which means more money can come with fewer fees.

“Alertpay has come to Bangladesh since there was no such service for our IT freelancers. They are not here for business only, they want to help people”, said Shah.

It took Alertpay almost one and half years to come. There were some roadblocks but with the help of Bank Asia, Alertpay overcame those.

“It is not an easy thing to adopt all the requirements of Bangladesh Bank and other local banks’ policies and come here”, said Shah.

He said Bank Asia understood the importance of it and assured all our support.

Bank Asia is the local partner of Alertpay and it has no plan to partner with any other banks now. Freelancers can get their money to any branch of any bank across the country.

For example, if someone has an HSBC account, he will get his money to that account via Bank Asia. And it will happen within that Tk 240 charge.

On the fact that one cannot send money from Bangladesh through Alertpay, Shah said it is a regulation by Bangladesh Bank. Alertpay received approval to operate here based on this rule. It does not affect Alertpay’s business though it’s a roadblock, Shah said.

He hoped that situation will change and people will be able to send money too through Alertpay.

When asked how Alertpay profits from this, Shah said they profit by taking a very minimum conversion fee when dollar is converted to taka.

Alertpay takes full responsibility for secured transaction. “They have monitoring teams who work 24×7 to provide secured transaction”, he said.

Shah said ogranisations like oDesk, ifreelance.com and others should also join hands with Alertpay to make it simple for our people to get their hard-earned money.

“Majority of our IT freelancers work through such sites and to receive their income they use money brokers or other means that are costly, whereas Alertpay is cheap”, he said.

He also said Alertpay has plans to expand its services in every possible e-commerece field in Bangladesh gradually. They are already working on it.

Alertpay will also bring its debit card to Bangladesh. Bank Asia as a local partner is already working on it. This debit card can be used across the globe.

Shah said Alertpay is open for competition because only competition can help maintain a good service otherwise it is bound to go down.

Part of 4-lane highway to be ready by June

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=227539

Dhaka-Chittagong
Part of 4-lane highway to be ready by June
M Abul Kalam Azad

The communications ministry is pushing hard to speed up the upgrade of Dhaka-Chittagong highway and complete at least part of the work by June.

The upgrade of 192-kilometre two-lane highway from Daudkandi to Chittagong into a four-lane one has remained stalled for about two years due to inept consultancy, frequent change of project director and intervention in land-filling work by some ruling party men, according to ministry sources.

Taking the helm at the ministry in December last year, Obaidul Quader has had meetings with the concessionaires and also has been paying regular visits to the project sites to monitor the progress of work.

In a recent meeting with them, the minister has set a June 30 deadline to complete the upgrade of 25-km part between Comilla and Feni districts.

Ministry officials are hopeful another 57-km of the widened highway would be ready by December.

“The minister is under pressure to perform. He is desperate to have at least a part of the upgraded highway opened by the prime minister at the earliest,” noted a senior official at the communications ministry.

Roads and Highways Department sources said expansion of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, known as the country’s economic lifeline, was essential as the road cannot accommodate around 30,000 vehicles a day.

Besides, a five-hour long Dhaka-Chittagong trip now takes around double the time.

A Tk 2,382 crore project was initiated in 2006 to upgrade the highway in three years, but successive governments had failed to finalise the scheme.

The present government in January 2010 had entered deals with Chinese Sinohydro Engineering, and Bangladeshi Reza Constructions Ltd and Taher Brothers Ltd to widen the road.

Though the project finally started early last year, it never gained any momentum as the concessionaires faced problems in removing illegal structures along the highway and collecting earth for land-filling, claimed contractors.

Ministry officials said 64 per cent of the land-filling work has been completed so far while the rest would be done by May.

The construction of 145 culverts out of a total 220 has been completed and 17 small bridges are being built.

The ministry recently has inked a deal to build three overpasses at as many level crossings on the highway. Tenders have been floated for the construction of five large bridges.

“Now we don’t have any crisis and the upgrading work has been going on in full swing,” Project Director Ibne Alam Hasan told The Daily Star.

He hoped the project will be complete by next year if the current pace of progress continues.

Use of jute geo textiles going on under UN-funded project

http://www.daily-sun.com/details_Use-of-jute-geo-textiles-going-on-under-UN-funded-project_97_1_3_1_12.html

Use of jute geo textiles going on under UN-funded project

As part of government’s plan to diversify use of jute, implementation of a project is going one to prevent riverbank erosion and mudslide from hills and renovation of rural roads with jute geo textiles.

Out of 10 field trials under the project adopted by the present government, two has already been completed while one is under implementation and sites have been selected for two more.

Project implementation agency Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC) Executive Director Khandakar Mokhlesur Rahman said this is an international project financed by UN Common Fund for Commodities.

Under the project titled ‘Development and Application of Potentially Important Jute Geo Textiles’ involves 39.62 lakh US dollars.

Under the project, the construction of a rural road in Keraniganj on both sides of the river Turag has completed successfully.

The reinforcement of 500-metre bank of the river Pathraj at Boda of Panchagar ended under the project in June last year.

Currently, the field trial is going on to prevent landslide of Chimbuk hill at Baraitala in Bandarban under the project.

Two more sites have been selected to start the field trials. The bank of Barai river in Rajbari would be repaired and a rural road in Savar would be renovated with jute geo textiles.

Khandakar Mokhlesur Rahman said more sites would be selected within the current year to complete all of the 10 field trials by 2013. In the last year of the project in 2014, the sites where field trials would be completed kept under intensive observation.

JDPC official Miah Imam Musa said use of jute geo textiles in prevention of landslide and river erosion, and renovation of rural roads is less expensive, environment friendly and more effective.

Jute geo textile is a kind of gunny sheet that gets mixed with soil after rotting and creates a kind of strength in soil that resisting landslide.

When implemented, the project will increase use of jute in the country and raise its demand in the international market. — BSS

UAE-Bangladesh trade may exceed $1b this year

http://www.theindependentbd.com/business/finance/101845-uae-bangladesh-trade-may-exceed-1b-this-year.html

UAE-Bangladesh trade may exceed $1b this year
Author / Source : STAFF REPORTER

DHAKA, MAR 26: The volume of trade between Bangladesh and the UAE is likely to cross the $1 billion mark for the financial year ending July 2012, said Nazmul Qununine, Bangladesh ambassador to the UAE, according to a Gulf News report. “Trade is fast becoming an essential component of Bangladesh’s developmental strategy over the last decade or so and Bangladesh is now not dependent on foreign aid,” he told Gulf News.

During 2010-2011, trade with the UAE reached almost $900 million, with Bangladesh’s exports reaching $125 million and the UAE’s exports reaching $770 million.

One of the key contributors to this growth is the large Bangladeshi expatriate community in the UAE. The UAE is home to over 700,000 Bangladeshi expatriates, making it the main overseas market for Bangladeshi workers.

In 2011, over 250,000 Bangladeshis got employment in the UAE, said Qununine. “They send more than $2 billion in remittances to Bangladesh and this year this is likely to increase,” he said.

Although a majority of Bangladeshi workers in the UAE are unskilled, the government has been pushing for professionals such as doctors, nurses, engineers, bankers, pharmacists, teachers and accountants to join the workforce here.

“The UAE may want to set up a Nurses Training Institute and recruit nurses from Bangladesh,” Qununine said.

Last year, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Shaikh Hasina, visited the UAE and signed two trade and investment agreements as part of the country’s plan to bolster ties with the UAE.

Back then, Shaikh Hasina urged UAE investors, both from the public and private sectors, to invest in major infrastructure projects offered through public and private partnerships and joint ventures.

Today, investments from the UAE in Bangladesh stand at about $3 billion in sectors such as ceramics, telecommunications, banking, construction and services.

Bangladeshi business groups dealing in readymade garments, ceramics, furniture and other sectors are considering opening showrooms in the UAE to boost their business activities.

Qununine said there are a number of agreements in place to boost ties such as a joint economic commission, air services agreement, agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, agreement on the promotion and protection of investment and a memorandum of understanding between the two apex federal chambers.

Yunus among 12 greatest entrepreneurs

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=227651

Fortune Magazine’s List
Yunus among 12 greatest entrepreneurs
Staff Correspondent

Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus has been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time.

This list published in the magazine’s latest issue places Prof Yunus among the band of highly exclusive individuals, all of whom are known throughout the world for their innovation, vision and ability to get things done.

“His desire to do something to help the local citizens led to a simple but powerful gesture: Yunus loaned $27 to destitute basket weavers in a village next to his university’s campus,” the magazine says.

“He could not believe the excitement the small amount of money caused. For people living on pennies a day, just a few dollars could transform their lives — and in many cases it did. The gift was used to support and expand these very small businesses, and that helped many overcome their poverty.

“Much to Yunus’ surprise, the basket weavers actually paid off the loans — and on time too. He then moved from one village to the next, finding all sorts of entrepreneurial projects to fund,” Fortune says.

While the bank could not eradicate poverty, it lifted many lives, the magazine adds.

“No less critical, Yunus’ idea inspired countless numbers of young people to devote themselves to social causes all over the world.”

The Fortune places the 12 individuals in the following order:

1) Steve Jobs of Apple, 2) Bill Gates of Microsoft, 3) Fred Smith of FedEx, 4) Jeff Bezos of Amazon, 5) Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, 6) Howard Schultz of Starbucks, 7) Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, 8) John Mackey of Whole Foods, 9) Herb Kelleher of SouthWest Airlines, 10) Narayana Murthy of Infosys, 11) Sam Walton of Wal-mart Stores, 12) Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank.

Ten of these entrepreneurs are American and one is an Indian.

The list was prepared considering economic and social impact, world changing vision of the entrepreneurs, ability of the entrepreneurs to inspire and motivate their employees, their record of innovation and their actual results, Yunus Centre said in a statement yesterday.

The companies that they have created have benefited hundreds and thousands of people and other businesses, while creating employment for millions of people, according to the statement.

Prof Yunus was chosen by Wharton School of Business for PBS documentary, as one of the 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years.

In 2006, Time magazine listed him under 60 Years of Asian Heroes as one of the top 12 business leaders.

In 2008, in an open online poll, Yunus was voted the second topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine of the UK and Foreign Policy of the United States.

He was also voted second in Prospect Magazine’s 2008 global poll of the world’s Top 100 Intellectuals.

The news has enthralled leading economists and businessmen.

Former caretaker government adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman said his inclusion in the top 12 is a recognition of his philosophy and social responsibility.

“We are very proud of his achievement in two senses; first, he has been recognised as a Bangalee and secondly, he is a great role model for us,” he told The Daily Star.

Besides, the honour would uphold the image of the country, maintained Zillur. “We have many problems and weaknesses. It is an example of how creative thinking can take an individual to a new height amid many problems.”

Syed Nasim Manzur, a leading entrepreneur, said, “Of course, it is a great inspiration for us. It is a great thing that Fortune magazine has honoured a Bangladeshi and a social entrepreneur.”

He said the Banker to the Poor has shown that business can have a conscience. “Business does not mean that it should ignore society’s welfare to be successful. Dr Yunus is an example for this.”

“It will inspire us to do business with a social conscience and become successful,” said Manzur, managing director of Apex Adelchi Footwear Ltd, one of the top footwear brands of the country.

Annisul Huq, a former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said Prof Yunus had really established some good institutions. “There is no doubt about his entrepreneurial credibility.”

Internet infrastructure starts taking shape

http://www.theindependentbd.com/paper-edition/frontpage/129-frontpage/88696-internet-infrastructure-starts-taking-shape.html

Internet infrastructure starts taking shape
Author / Source : FAISAL MAHMUD

DHAKA, JAN 7: The Awami League-led Grand Alliance government has started taking steps to establish an internet infrastructure across the country, to fulfil its electoral pledge of creating a “digital nation”.

For an even expansion of such internet facility, the government has, in the past one week, reduced internet prices in districts by 50 per cent. It also asked six companies to lay out International Terrestrial Cable (ITC) to ensure uninterrupted internet service and re-chalked the roll-out target for a nationwide telecommunication transmission network (NTTN).

From the beginning of 2012, the state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd (BTCL) is offering broadband connection with speed of up to 256 KB at Tk. 300 in districts. Previously, the price of the same amount of bandwidth was Tk. 600.

The BTCL divisional engineer (internet), Sunil Kumar Adhikari, told The Independent that the BTCL has been providing this package under its leased internet service. “We offer three types of internet connections, namely leased, broadband and dial-up services,” he said.

Adhikari also said that under the leased service, the BTCL uses gigabit Ethernet to connect to the NTTN network. “Under this arrangement, we use the NTTN to provide our services”, he added.

He said the BTCL has also taken other steps to ensure internet service to all. “We’ve already established landphone internet facilities under our dial-up service in 50 districts. Soon, all districts will be brought under this facility,” he affirmed.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on January 6 handed over licences to six private companies to build and operate the ITC for backing up the country’s lone undersea cable to ensure uninterrupted internet services throughout the country.

According to licence conditions, the terrestrial cables will start offering services within the next six months. In September last year, the government had selected six companies to distribute the licences. Each of the companies deposited Tk. 2 crore as licence fee and Tk 1 crore as bank guarantee.

The licensees are Novocom Ltd, Asis-AHL JV, BD Link Communication Ltd, Mango Teleservices Ltd, Summit Communications Ltd and Fibre@home Ltd.

The companies will be able to connect with all neighbouring countries through terrestrial fibre-optic cables. The six cables will pass through Meherpur, Benapole, Sylhet and Comilla borders.

Talking to The Independent, Maj Gen Jia Ahmed, chairman of the BTRC, said the government is planning to get connected with the second submarine cable, SEA-ME-WE-5, very soon. “Expansion of the internet is the present government’s top priority and we are working on it”, he remarked.

He also said that the government is trying to make internet affordable for all. He said the regulator has given 14 large internet service providers (ISP) the licence to provide fixed wi-max service. “These ISPs are allowed to expand their business under this fixed wi-max service, so that they can lucratively switch to the nationwide telecommunication transmission network (NTTN) instead of using overhead cable,” he added.

The telecom regulator, however, recently amended its licensing guideline for the NTTN and included a new provision, so that each operator, as per the amended guideline, has an obligation to deploy its network in all divisional headquarters within the first year of its licence.

Under the amended guideline, all district headquarters of the designated zones and all upazila headquarters of the designated zones will have to be laid out by the NTTN licensees within three and five years, respectively.

Experts, however, are sceptical about the government’s initiatives to expand the internet infrastructure. Dr Sattyaprshad Majumder, professor of telecommunication engineering in BUET, said that two-thirds of the country’s current bandwidth are being wasted because of the government’s open market approach towards distribution.

“Rather than having a policy to prioritise the potential sectors for bandwidth distribution, the government is now providing bandwidth on a random basis”, he pointed out.

He said that setting up of such an internet infrastructure is not enough to increase the number of subscribers. The government needs to form a policy to provide a level playing field for the licensed ITC operators, he added.

“The government should also reduce the 15 per cent VAT on internet usage”, he observed.

2000 mw power to be generated by biogas plants

http://thenewnationbd.com/newsdetails.aspx?newsid=27790

2000 mw power to be generated by biogas plants
banglanews24.com, Cox’s Bazar

Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr AtiurRahman Saturday said it is possible to generate 2000mw of electricity bybringing the country’s 120,000 poultry farms under biogas management plants.

The central bank chief came upwith the disclosure while addressing the inaugural function of biogas plantmanagement as a chief guest at Ramu upazila of the district.

He added: “Poultry industryis the second largest source of grameen employment.”

“With a view to encouraging the people, Bangladesh Bank has taken initiative ever first to invest in theenvironment friendly biogas plant management programme,” he said.

A poultry farmer named Mujibur Rahman said, “I made a biogas plant by using the wastage of a poultry farmwith the technical help of Rahman Renewable Energy Company.”

He added: “A total of Tk 10lakh has been cost behind the project whereas the Eastern Bank Limited gave meloan of Tk 7.35 lakh.”

“Now I am producing 3500kwof electricity from the plant sized in 50 cubic mitres of biogas plant,”he said.

Meeting my needs, I am nowplanning to supply the excess electricity to the neighbouring 15 housescommercially, said Rahman.

Khorshed Alam, SME Chief ofEastern Bank, said the bank has introduced ‘EBL-Nabadoy’ scheme for thedevelopment of sustainable business.

One can get Tk 10 lakh loanwithout deposit under the scheme, he said adding in the meantime, Tk 39 lakhhas been disbursed to six projects.

Eastern Bank Managing DirectorAli Reza Iftekhar, International Finance Corporation Regional Representative Ziba A Perumal Pillai, Programme Manager Mrinal K Sarkar, Rahman RenewableEnergy Company Managing Director Redoanur Rahman were among others present  at the function.

Industrial projects go full steam ahead

http://www.theindependentbd.com/business/finance/88560-industrial-projects-go-full-steam-ahead.html

Industrial projects go full steam ahead
Author / Source : Jasim Uddin Khan

Dhaka, Jan 6: The government has woken up, after three years of its tenure, to the bleak investment scenario and is taking steps to implement Tk 1600 crore worth of projects involving five specialised industrial zones and four BSCIC estates, by 2014. In 2011, the overall flow of investment (as percentage of GDP) came down to a standstill, compared to the first two years of the government, due mainly to shortage of industrial plots, liquidity crisis and inadequacy of gas and power, sources said.

The large specialised industrial projects including the Tk 550-crore Savar Leather Industry Park, Tk 235-crore Munshiganj Active Pharmaceuticals Industrial Park, Tk 200-crore Automobile Park at Amin Bazar, Tk 400-crore Sirajganj Specialized Industrial Zone and the Tk-150 crore Mirershari Special Economic Zone had long been facing manifold problems including legal tangle, availability of funds, land acquisition and complex bureaucracy. All the projects have got the Cabinet nod.

Industries minister Dilip Barua on Wednesday told The Independent that the government was set to launch all the mentioned industrial projects between 2013 and 2014. He hoped that the ongoing industrial projects would accommodate over 2,500 entrepreneurs with projected employment for five lakh people.

The government has projected a major investment boom that is slated to see the investment-to-GDP ratio rise by over six percentage points by 2014-15.

Barua said work order for the much-awaited Savar Leather Industry Park would be issued within the next couple of months after completing a legal process. He said land acquisition, earth filling, construction, training and loan disbursement for the project had already been completed.

The minister hoped that construction of the industrial park for manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients at Munshigonj would be completed this year.

The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) Park project will reduce dependency on imported raw materials for this industry from next year.

The project faced a land acquisition problem and now the government has asked the implementing agency, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC). to complete the construction work by this year itself. The proposed readymade garment (RMG) industrial park worth Tk 438 crore is set to be completed by 2013.

The minister said both the BEPZA and BSCIC had received applications seeking 350 industrial plots which the RMG Park could honour.

The BSCIC is putting up an automobile estate at Amin Bazar in the capital aiming to rehabilitate the automobile engineering workshops, which are scattered all over Dhaka, in a healthy and safe environment.

The industrial estate will have 187 plots of different sizes under the project and after establishment it will create employment opportunities for 20,000 people directly and for many more indirectly, the minister said.

Besides the BSCIC is constructing the largest ever industrial park in Sirajgonj worth Tk 400 crore to boost industrialisation and invigorate the rural economy. There will be 801 industrial plots and, of them, 570 will be reserved for private industrial entrepreneurs.

The project, covering 400 acres at Saidabad and Kalia Haripur in the district town, also received the go-ahead from the economic council, he added.

The Tk 384-crore project, which will have around 801 industrial plots, is expected to be completed by mid-2014. A total of 570 export-oriented, import-substitute and domestic mills and factories will be set up in the industrial park, officials said.

Another industrial plot is coming up at Mirsarai on 25 acres. According to the profile of the project which will be implemented by this year, the town will have 186 industrial plots where 125 small and medium units could be set up.

Once implemented, the project would create 6,000 direct jobs apart from several thousand indirect ones, the minister said.

Besides land acquisition for Gopalganj, Comilla, Kustia and Rangpur industrial estates under BSCIC is going on and is expected to be completed by 2013.