In response to the discovery that Bangladesh’s factory conditions are far worse than anyone reckoned and much harder to quickly improve than anticipated, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has decided to relocate nearly 34 percent of them.
Following the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building home to five garment factories, two different international coalitions of retailers have attempted to rehabilitate dangerously dilapidated buildings and upgrade squalid working conditions in Bangladesh. However, the scope of the problem, and the logistical complications in tow, have made this a daunting affair.
Now, with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the BGMEA will be supervising the the relocation of 1,200 out of the 3,600 factories that have been earmarked for help. “The initiative of factory relocation has been taken in a bid to improve the country’s garments sector, as we have witnessed a disaster following the Rana Plaza building collapse, which brought a wide range of criticism of workers’ safety,” said a BGMEA director.
The relocation, a massive undertaking, would progress in stages. First, the most dangerous stand-alone factories would be moved and renovated. Second, all the factories housed in commercial or residential buildings would be assessed and then moved. The JICA and the Bangladesh Bank have both announced plans to establish a Tk 1 billion fund to be drawn upon for easy loans to facilitate the relocations and the renovations. Credit for these loans are to dispensed at 10 percent annual interest rates to factory owners and will be extended for up to fifteen years, including a two-year grace period. Banks will have access to the funds at a rate of 5 percent interest per year.