By Mamun Islam
RANGPUR, May 31, 2017 (BSS) -The increasing investments by local and foreign entrepreneurs at Uttara Export Processing Zone (EPZ) have created good employment opportunity, which will help improve rural economy and life standard of people in the district.
Inaugurated in July 2001 by the then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 212 acres of land at Songolshi union under Sadar upazila of Nilphamari, the Uttara EPZ also helped ultra-poor people to come out of poverty.
"Fourteen companies have so far set up factories on 140 plots, creating employments for 24 thousand people, 65 per cent of them are rural women," said Deputy Manager (Commercial Operation) of Uttara EPZ Khaled Mahmud.
The 14 companies, including five from Hong Kong, one from the United Kingdom and eight locals, have invested 135.63 million US dollars at the EPZ.
The foreign companies are producing export-oriented wig, coffin, spectacle, leather bag, belts, wallet, sweater and other products for global market while local ones are producing readymade garments, other goods and accessories for foreign companies.
"The number of employed people would become 50 thousand, including 500 foreigners, after setting up factories on more 47 plots now ready for allocation," Mahmud added.
According to former president of Nilphamari Chamber SM Shafikul Alam, thousands of people used to struggle for earning living due to lack of job during the lean 'monga' periods of 'Aswin and Kartik' months in agri-economy based Nilphamari district in the pasts.
"The Uttara EPZ, however, has now changed their life by creating jobs and other opportunities of income generation," Shafikul added.
Like many other workers, Pervin Akhter, 22, and her husband Anwarul Islam, 26, of Bangmari village under Nilphamari Sadar upazila said they led miserable life before getting job at the wig-producing 'Evergreen' factory at Uttara EPZ.
"Currently, we earn over Taka 18 thousand per month," said Pervin adding that they have already built a house and purchase a motorcycle for easy movement.
Narrating their sufferings due to abject poverty before getting job at Uttara EPZ, Laksmi Rani Roy, 22, and her sister Saraswati Rani Roy, 20, of Hariballov village said they could not complete even high school education as their family was in hardship.
Both of them are daughters of poor day-labourer Babul Chandra Roy, who could not properly provide his five family members with adequate foods as his income was poor.
Few years back, Laxsmi got a job at 'Evergreen' company while Saraswati got another job at 'Majen BD Limited' at Uttara EPZ. They are now earning over Taka 20 thousand together a month.
"We are leading decent life now after purchasing land, building a house and buying furniture," said Laxsmi.
Noting the brighter prospect of Uttara EPZ, its General Manager Abdus Sobhan said the companies have so far earned 540.75 million US dollars through exporting products since 2006 to April this year.
"The high standard products of Uttara EPZ are being exported to the USA, European Union countries, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Columbia and many other countries," he said.
President of Rangpur Chamber Abul Kashem said local and foreign investments at Uttara EPZ would continue to increase following investment-friendly environment, availability of cheap labourers and peaceful law and order situation in the area.
"The investments would rise further if the Syedpur Airport, 16-kilometre off from Uttara EPZ, is upgraded to international one," he said.
Kashem also suggested ensuring uninterrupted power supply at subsidised rates to Uttara EPZ to assist entrepreneurs in manufacturing products at competitive rates like those in other regions having natural gas supply.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)