Going beyond its initial plans to lease out 1,700 acres of unused land belonging to 39 state-owned enterprises that it has already identified, the Privatisation Commission (PC) plans to carry out a survey on 111 more SOEs in an effort to uncover even more unused land, officials said on Wednesday.
As per the PC’s estimates, the total area of unused lands in the 150 industrial units could be more than 5,000 acres – equivalent to 14 times of Dhaka EPZ having 361 acres of land or enough to accommodate over 6,000 industrial plots of Dhaka EPZ standard.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs in its recent meeting asked the commission to go for the survey and submit details within six months.
The commission in its earlier survey identified 1,288 acres of unused land of 39 out of 150 industrial units, of which six were found in full operation, nine partially and the rest remain closed. In the second phase, 400 acres of land was identified, making the total unused land of 1,700 acres.
“The commission is now taking preparation to identify unused lands of 111 SOEs,” said a PC official.
He said it will delay in the process of leasing out already identified unused land. The instruction of the cabinet committee on economic affairs clearly reflects that the government does not want to rush into such decisions at the fag end of its tenure.
“If the government does not immediately lease out unused lands, the liabilities of the sick SOEs will increase beyond repair,” he said.
Total liabilities of the loss-making SOEs soared to about Tk52bn as of last year, which is more than 38% higher from little over Tk37bn in 2011, according to the finance ministry.
Last year, the PC initiated a project to lease out the unused land to private investors.
An 11-member committee, headed by Executive Chairman of Board of Investment Syed A Samad, was formed to deal with the issue.
The committee members include chairman of Privatisation Commission, governor of Bangladesh Bank, Prime Minister’s principal secretary, and secretaries to finance division, textile and jute, commerce and industries ministries.
Earlier, the commission had proposed to set up 257 industrial units through leasing out the unused or additional land. According to the plan, the government will lease out the public lands to the private entrepreneurs initially for 35 years.
If the government leases out five acres of land to one industrial unit, about 257 new industrial units could be set up on 1,700 acres, the commission said in its proposal.
The new industrial units will see more than Tk50bn in investment in the next two years if the average investment per unit is Tk200m, 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 SOEs.
The commission said gas, power and other infrastructure 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.