Apprehensions over setting up of SEZs

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R. Ramabhadran Pillai

Kochi, a key location for establishing SEZs

KOCHI: Setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) has attracted the attention of various sections of people. While the Union Government considers it as a means to improve the growth prospects of the economy, there are detractors who believe that the policy will do more harm than good.

Kochi, a hub of commercial activities, is a key destination for setting up SEZs. Will the SEZs become islands of prosperity as some people call it? If so, what would be the implications on the society at large? Even as the debate on such issues goes on, the Government announced the setting up of more SEZs.

The SEZs are considered as ideal platforms to boost manufacturing for export. Earning foreign exchange and generating sizeable employment opportunities are worthwhile objectives. But these objectives have to be achieved in a harmonious way, without creating imbalance in society, observes P.M. Mathew, Director of Institute of Small Enterprises Development.

The policy on SEZs is framed in bits and pieces and its impact on society will have to be studied. Interestingly, the Planning Board is looking into the pros and cons of the policy.

While there will be gains on certain fronts, there are bound to be losses on some others, he notes.

For instance, the labour laws have been framed under various circumstances, with a mandate behind it. Can such laws be changed arbitrarily? he asks.

This apart, the simplification of laws in certain pockets might create a state of imbalance. Maintaining a balanced structure is of paramount importance in a democratic society, he points out. The reforms have two sides and a judicious approach is vital. Smart governance is a pre-requisite for implementing reforms. The Government should be sensitive to issues. Can our Government claim to have attained such capabilities, he asks.

The SEZs are noteworthy for the employment potential they offer, according to George Thomas Muthoot, Managing Director of Technopolis, a private IT park set up at the SEZ in Kochi.

The IT park set up at a cost of Rs.45 crore is capable of employing 4,000 people, he says.

The location of the IT park within the SEZ will enable the units at the park to derive special benefits.

It will ultimately spur growth, he says.

The Muthoot Pappachan Group which has set up the IT park is keen on setting up yet another IT venture there.

One of the apprehensions raised by the detractors of SEZ pertains to the misuse of land.

The opponents are against utilisation of cultivable land for other purposes. But the argument is baseless, according to the Government.

The total land requirement for all the sanctioned SEZs in the country reportedly would be much less than 1 per cent of the arable land in the country. Social infrastructure is part of the SEZ projects.

This apart, setting up of SEZs would be an attractive proposition to invite foreign investment, according to him.



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