The Sahara shadow is getting darker


The government recently made a deal with Sahara India Parivar, allowing them to invest in the real estate sector. The government has also given them 100 thousand acres of land around Dhaka to develop a modern satellite township. In usual state of affairs, local real estate companies have protested this move. They have their grievances because the government had not been able to provide them with adequate land and other amenities for years. Why this sudden change in policy and that too for a foreign company?

Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Land Development Association asked the government to hold a meeting with them to discuss this issue before sealing the deal with Sahara India Parivar. They said that if the government can provide them with the same civic amenities and the same amount of land, they can make at least an equally good plan like Sahara India Parivar. Their reasoning is simple – why head for an Indian company when the local players are equally competent? It is somewhat outrageous because the local developers believe that they have enough manpower, skill and resources to establish the first satellite township in Bangladesh.

The REHAB and BLDA think that if Sahara India Parivar is allowed to acquire the lands in the subsidized rate than it will create a huge distinguish in the competition with the local developers. This is because local developers have to pay a larger sum for land. The anger of the local developers is justified, considering that the government did not even bother to arrange a dialogue with them before agreeing to make the deal with Sahara India Parivar.

Undeniably, after the garments sector, real estate has the most potential to flourish. If properly nurtured by the government, it can well become huge in near future. There is no reason why the government can not realize this and take steps to complement local real estate resources. Local players already showed that they are capable of putting up a good show. In fact, thousands of apartments in Bangladesh are currently at ‘finished stage’ but cannot be handed over to the owners because of lack of electricity and gas.

Local companies have been developing the real estate sector of Bangladesh for the last 25 years. To local developers’ credit, Islam Group, one of the pioneer companies of the country, has done many successful projects in the Middle East in the 1980s. Another leading company of the country – Aftab Group has gained reputation in New York as they have completed over hundreds of apartments and constructed dozens of buildings there. If the local companies are gaining reputation in other countries and successfully completing projects outside the country, why should they not be given a chance to do mega projects in the country?

In line with the land agreement with the government, Sahara India Parivar also packed a deal with the BCB. They are now the sponsor of Bangladesh National Cricket team. This move was taken only to earn trust of the common people it seems. The national cricket team is probably the only thing remaining that every Bangladeshis love unconditionally. Both the deals happening at the same time suggests something fishy.

Transparency International Bangladesh has demanded the conditions of the agreement with Sahara India Parivar to be made public. They believe that the government signed the deal without doing proper risk benefit and cost benefit assessments.

The real estate sector of the country must be strengthened rather than allowing foreign investors to take over. The government should at least ensure a level-playing field so that local developers and real estate firms can show what they are made of and fight any evil shadow that tries to ruin the future of the country.

- Wasim Subhan Choudhury & Anim Hossain

Re-published (with slight changes) from The Business Bangladesh site. 

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