Centre to soon free up untapped space in SEZs

Land, ₹30,000 cr. built area to find use

Updated - August 11, 2021 11:59 pm IST

Published - August 11, 2021 08:49 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The government will soon free up unused built-up area worth about ₹30,000 crore and idle land inside Special Economic Zones (SEZs) for other economic activity, Commerce Secretary B.V.R Subrahmanyam said on Wednesday at a CII meet.

The move to free up unutilised land parcels is likely to be operationalised by the end of August, as part of a simpler regulatory regime that the government is ringing in for SEZs, which account for about 30% of India’s exports.

“There’s a lot of space within SEZs, including land that is free. We are going to ease up the process for denotification of that land. As long as you can use that land for some industrial purposes, we will allow SEZ land to be hived out,” Mr. Subrahmanyam said, adding that a similar change would be introduced later for denotifying unused space in SEZ buildings.

“You built a building for an IT SEZ — half of it is being used and half is not. The figures are astounding. We have 10 crore square feet of space idle in built-up accommodation in over 250 SEZs. In money terms, at ₹3,000 per square foot, that is ₹30,000 crore of built-up area idle, which can be brought into play for anything else,” he pointed out.

The top trade official also said an import monitoring cell had been set up this month to track any spurts in an item’s inflows and flag it to the concerned ministries. “We are not looking at controlling imports… but these can be potential areas for manufacturing within the country,” he asserted.

The ministry has also kicked off a restructuring exercise for the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. “They should actually become a trade promotion organisation from an incentive-distribution one. I think a change in mental make-up is required,” Mr. Subrahmanyam said.

Pending ₹50,000 crore dues to be paid

The government will remit about ₹50,000 crore of pending export benefits over a two-year period and notify the RoDTEP scheme rates awaited by exporters by this Friday or the weekend, Mr. Subrahmanyam said, even as he red-flagged ‘a massive increase’ in incentives paid out on exports.

“There is something that worries the government — how are export incentives being drawn at three times the figure over five years, with exports being roughly constant. Any incentive should lead to better performance, so that genuine exports are promoted,” he said.

Exporters have been complaining about their inability to price orders effectively in the absence of the notification of rates under the RoDTEP (Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products) scheme, which replaced the earlier export incentive schemes in January.

“The old schemes like MEIS, SEIS were WTO non-compliant. Probably, by the weekend, by Friday, we should notify the RoDTEP rates, so there will be clarity. There’s a commitment from the Finance Ministry,” he said at the CII national conclave.

“There’s about ₹50,000 crore of backlog of scrips to be issued for 2018-19 and 2019-20. We will liquidate them over two years by probably issuing scrips that are post-dated so that you can get them discounted from a bank and actually encash it now,” he added.

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