Parliament passes special economic zones bill – India

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Parliament passed the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which proposes to allow trusts to set up units in SEZs, with the government asserting these zones were an engine of growth and employment. The Rajya Sabha approved the Bill by a voice vote on Thursday, a day after it was passed in the Lok Sabha . 

The Bill will replace the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, which was promulgated in March. The ordinance had paved the way for trusts to set up units in these zones. 

Replying to the debate on the Bill, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyalsaid: “This is a small amendment that has large impact on investment, job and growth”. “Until now, We have eight proposals from such trusts. Total investment proposed by these trusts comes out to be Rs 8,000 crore,” Goyal said, adding that the government expects around Rs 20,000 crore investments annually. 

While several MPs raised concerns about the government bringing an ordinance on SEZs just before the elections were announced, Goyal justified the ordinance saying that economic development cannot stop if some members or party in Parliament create hurdles in passage of legislations. 

“At the end of March 2019, the investment in SEZs was a whopping Rs 5 lakh crore plus and the employment was over 20 lakh in SEZs and export from SEZs was over Rs 7 lakh crore,” he said. Many members also raised concerns about undue land acquisition on the name of SEZ. 

AAP member Sanjay Singh wanted to know whether the government has any policies to return unutilised land to farmers and to provide employment to local people in SEZs. P Bhattacharya (Cong) said barren land should be used for SEZs and not agricultural land. 

TMC leader Derek O’Brien said his party grossly opposed SEZs and said corporations do not run on trust based model. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also raised concerns about the trusts and said they are often distrustful. He also sought to know quantum of investment that came through these trusts to SEZs after issuing of this ordinance. 

Supporting the Bill, Naresh Gujral of Akali Dal said it will help bring foreign direct investment (FDI). He also said trusts are very common route for making investments and cited the example of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). 

Earlier, moving the Bill, Goyal said there is a need to introduce the legislation to assure international markets that investments can be made through Trust mechanism into special economic zones in India.

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