Special Economic Zone (SEZs)

13/03/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

A special economic zone (SEZ) is an area in which the business and trade laws are different from the rest of the country. SEZs are located within a country’s national borders, and their aims include increased trade balance, employment, increased investment, job creation and effective administration. To encourage businesses to set up in the zone, financial policies are introduced. These policies typically encompass investing, taxation, trading, quotas, customs and labour regulations. Additionally, companies may be offered tax holidays, where upon establishing themselves in a zone, they are granted a period of lower taxation.

The creation of special economic zones by the host country may be motivated by the desire to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). The benefits a company gains by being in a special economic zone may mean that it can produce and trade goods at a lower price, aimed at being globally competitive. In some countries, the zones have been criticized for being little more than labor camps, with workers denied fundamental labor rights.

Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a specifically delineated duty-free enclave and shall be deemed to be foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations and duties and tariffs. In order words, SEZ is a geographical region that has economic laws different from a country’s typical economic laws. Usually the goal is to increase foreign investments. SEZs have been established in several countries, including China, India, Jordan, Poland, Kazakhstan, Philippines and Russia. North Korea has also attempted this to a degree.

SEZ in India

At present there are eight functional SEZs located at Santa Cruz (Maharashtra), Cochin (Kerala), Kandla and Surat (Gujarat), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Falta (West Bengal) and Noida (Uttar Pradesh) in India. Further an SEZ in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) is now ready for operation.

In addition 18 approvals have been given for setting up of SEZs at Positra (Gujarat), Navi Mumbai and Kopata (Maharashtra), Nanguneri (Tamil Nadu), Kulpi and Salt Lake (West Bengal), Paradeep and Gopalpur (Orissa), Bhadohi, Kanpur, Moradabad and Greater Noida (UP), Vishakhapatnam and Kakinada (Andhra Pradesh), Vallarpadam/Puthuvypeen (Kerala), Hassan (Karnataka), Jaipur and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) on the basis of proposals received from the state governments.

State governments will have a very important role to play in the establishment of SEZs. Representative of the state government, who is a member of the inter-ministerial committee on private SEZ, is consulted while considering the proposal. Before recommending any proposals to the ministry of commerce and industry (department of commerce), the states must satisfy themselves that they are in a position to supply basic inputs like water, electricity, etc.

Are SEZ’s controlled by the government?

In all SEZs the statutory functions are controlled by the government. Government also controls the operation and maintenance function in the seven central government controlled SEZs. The rest of the operations and maintenance are privatised.

Are SEZs exempt from labour laws?

Normal labour laws are applicable to SEZs, which are enforced by the respective state governments. The state governments have been requested to simplify the procedures/returns and for introduction of a single window clearance mechanism by delegating appropriate powers to development commissioners of SEZs.

Who monitors the functioning of the units in SEZ?

The performance of the SEZ units are monitored by a unit approval committee consisting of development commissioner, custom and representative of state government on an annual basis.

What are the special features for business units that come to the zone?

Business units that set up establishments in an SEZ would be entitled for a package of incentives and a simplified operating environment. Besides, no license is required for imports, including second hand machineries.

Will it be possible to supply to other units in SEZ?

Yes. Inter-unit sales are permitted as per the SEZ policy. A buyer procuring from another unit pays in foreign exchange.

How do SEZs help a country’s economy?

SEZs play a key role in rapid economic development of a country. In the early 1990s, it helped China and there were hopes (perhaps never very high ones, admittedly) that the establishment in India of similar export-processing zones could offer similar benefits — provided, however, that the zones offered attractive enough concessions.

Traditionally the biggest deterrents to foreign investment in India have been high tariffs and taxes, red tape and strict labour laws. To date, these restrictions have ensured that India has been unable to compete with China’s massively successful light-industrial export machine. India’s goods exports in 2004 were an estimated $68 bn compared with $594 bn for China, and the stock of inward FDI, at $42 bn, was less than a tenth of China’s $544 bn.

Real-World Example

In the case of China, mainstream economists agree that the country’s SEZs helped liberalize the once traditional state. China was able to use the SEZs as a way to slowly implement national reform that would have been otherwise impossible. Studies have also found that SEZs elsewhere increase export levels for the implementing country and other countries that supply it with intermediate products. However, there is a risk that countries may abuse the system and use it to retain protectionist barriers in the form of taxes and fees. SEZs also create an excessive bureaucracy that funnels money away from the system, which makes it less efficient.