A study by the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in fiscal year 2021-22 found that it took very little rain to cause waterlogging and mud to accumulate at its estates. This made traversing difficult and raised production costs. The photo was taken inside the Tangail BSCIC industrial estate last October. Photo: Mirza Shakil
Infrastructural inadequacies, such as potholes, are the biggest concern for businesses based in industrial estates of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), according to 67 per cent of the entrepreneurs with factories inside BSCIC areas across the country.
It takes very little rain to cause waterlogging and render the roads a muddy mess, making them difficult to traverse while driving up production costs as well, they said in a study conducted by the BSCIC in fiscal 2021-22.
Conducted to identify the challenges at BSCIC estates and their solutions, a report on the study was published in June.
The views of 400 entrepreneurs from 38 industrial areas alongside 54 officials and representatives of 36 district offices were taken at random for the research.
As per the paper, about 32 per cent of the entrepreneurs believe that less than 21 per cent of the drainage systems are usable. Most drains are not regularly cleaned while the banks of many have caved in, blocking waterflow.
In addition, about 38 per cent of the factories are unable to utilise their full capacities for financial crisis, increase in production cost and a lack of raw materials.
The respondents also highlighted a lack of skilled manpower and effective marketing as other issues.
The report says most estates do not have gas connections, prompting entrepreneurs to avail alternatives. Where connections are available, the pressure is very low, hampering production and increasing costs.
In addition, the presence of water pumps does not ensure supply. In some estates, groundwater levels have reached alarming levels, prompting entrepreneurs to set up their own arrangements.
Just 34 per cent of the respondents think the BSCIC is able to meet the bare minimum of their demands. For example, the electricity supply is not uninterrupted in many estates, hampering production.
Most estates do not have boundary walls, security gates and guards either while there is an absence of streetlights, leading to the intrusion of outsiders who have in certain cases even extorted businesses.
As such, more than 80 per cent of the entrepreneurs reported safety concerns.
A lack of manpower among the estate authorities also hampers management, such as collection of service charges, leading to losses in revenue collection.
According to the study, 15 per cent of the industries do not have firefighting facilities.
A fire recently broke out at a pesticide factory in a BSCIC estate in Dhaka's Dhamrai upazila early in the morning and was put out after about four hours. The cause and financial losses are yet to be known.
Some 44 per cent of entrepreneurs said the plots were not big enough. As many as 81 per cent of the entrepreneurs want to expand their factories but 75 per cent are unable to for a lack of space and 61 per cent for a financial crisis.
Some 27 per cent said they were facing problems in getting plot allotments and 18 per cent at getting loans. They said locally influential people were availing plots to rent those out at high prices.
The authorities, including local municipality, were informed of the problems through a letter long ago but no effective action was taken, said Jahirul Islam, president of the Narayanganj BSCIC Jamdani Plot Owners' Welfare Association.
A top BSCIC official said a five-member committee has been formed to examine the issues and submit recommendations.
Initiatives will be taken in phases, he added.
The BSCIC was set up in 1960 to develop industrial plots equipped with utility connections and connectivity to spur industrialisation.
Currently, there are 80 estates with 11,922 plots.
About 4,570 factories are in production at these estates with total investments amounting to around Tk 63,318 crore.
These units, of which 901 are export-oriented, employ more than 8.50 lakh people collectively.
Besides, about 30 per cent of the import substitute products produced in Bangladesh come from these estates, which also account for 11 per cent of the country's exports.