Special Economic Zones: The Role of Dialogue

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Special Economic Zones: The Role of Dialogue

A Special Economic Zone in Sylhet may soon be a reality. Parliament passed the Bangladesh Economic Zone 2010 Bill on Tuesday, 20 July 2010. This issue was raised in Parliament by Mr. Mahmud Us Samad Chowdhury, M.P. after he chaired a Task Force on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Public Private Dialogues (PPDs) organized by the Asia Foundation and the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF).

Public Private Dialogues have been regularly held in Sylhet since 2009. They have proven to be a valuable way for the local public and private sectors to share their views with one another and work together towards constructive solutions to district level problems. PPDs have also had success with resolving local issues with trade licenses and access to finance for female entrepreneurs.

The passing of the Bangladesh Economic Zone 2010 Bill, however is a landmark achievement for PPDs. This is the first time that these dialogues have been used to address a local level demand which required a national level solution. The demand for a SEZ in Sylhet was raised by participants at a PPD, where Mr. Mahmud us Samad Chowdhury was present. The dialogue convened a taskforce on SEZs which he chaired. After the reviewing the findings of this taskforce, the M.P. raised the issue in Parliament and the Bangladesh Economic Zone 2010 Bill was subsequently passed. In the highly centralized governance structure of Bangladesh this is a remarkable achievement. It demonstrates the value of PPDs to local communities as an effective means to be heard by national law makers.

Stakeholders in PPDs, such as Chambers of Commerce and Industry, City Corporation, Members of Parliament, District Commissioner’s Offices and civil society organizations have been very enthusiastic about participating actively in PPDs and deserve credit for making these dialogues a success. Their enthusiasm will be all the more critical in future, when the sustainability of...
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