Syful Islam: Garment makers are making a strong plea for giving them closed and loss-incurring state-owned enterprises (SoEs) to relocate their factories by creating small-sized apparel zones.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in a recent letter to the ministry of commerce (MoC) requested the government to allocate the SoEs located near the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway in favour of the owners of garment factories.
“The apparel village in Munshiganj will accommodate only 209 factories. But we need more lands to relocate the units housed in risky buildings. So, if the closed and losing SoEs are given over to us for relocation of factories, we will be able to contribute more to the national economy,” BGMEA president Atiqul Islam told the FE.
He said these SoEs have gas-and electricity connections which will be helpful in starting apparel production immediately after relocation of units.
“The government can give us these on priority basis, considering the RMG sector’s contribution to the economy,” Mr Islam added.
In the letter the BGMEA mentioned that many of the apparel factories have been partly or fully closed because of the ongoing inspection carried out by different local and foreign agencies to check compliance factors.
Besides, many units are in dire straits to continue production after paying instalments of bank loan and house rent.
The BGMEA chief wrote that presently around 40 percent factories are housed in shared buildings, where some 1.5 million workers are involved.
Many of these have ability to ensure common safety standards, structural and electricity safety and other safety measures.
“But the risky factories need land to construct buildings, following safety standards. Construction of the apparel village in Munshiganj will take time. So, we want the closed and loss-making SoEs to relocate the factories,” he noted.
Officials said till September 30, the inspection teams of Alliance, Accord, and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) have closed down 29 factories after assessing 2,061 units.
The trio are assigned to assess fire, electricity and structural safety of 3,500 garment factories by this December.
The safety assessment is being carried out as part of the action plan forwarded by the United States and the European Union after last year’s deadly Rana Plaza collapse, which claimed 1,137 lives and injured many garment workers.
When contacted, additional director (research) of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem told the FE Sunday that lands of the closed and loss-making SoEs can be allocated for relocation of factories from all sectors, provided that the lands will solely be used for industrial purpose and not for other activities.
He said apparel units housed in risky and shared buildings can get priority in this case, considering the sector’s contribution to the economy.
Mr Moazzem, however, said the lands should be sold at appropriate prices, and the government should not be politically biased in the allocation process.
The SoEs are located in various parts of the country. Establishing apparel factories across the country may not be appropriate, he noted.
Mr Moazzem also advocated for utilising the money to be derived from selling the SoEs for repaying their bank loans and other liabilities.