The Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies says ten potential Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have been agreed upon with provinces. He told the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry in Parliament on Friday, that these potential SEZs must still go through a feasibility study to determine their viability. The Department of Trade and Industry was presenting the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Bill to the Portfolio Committee.
The main objectives of the SEZ Bill, amongst others, are to provide for the designation, development, promotion, operation and management of Special Economic Zones; and to provide for the establishment of the Special Economic Zones Board. The SEZs are designed to promote socio-economic benefits and creation of decent work.
The purposes of the SEZs include facilitating creation of an industrial complex with strategic economic advantage for targeted investment and industries in manufacturing sector and tradable services. This will also focus on developing infrastructure to support development of targeted industrial activities and attracting foreign and domestic direct investment.
There are different categories of the SEZs that South Africa will make use of, namely:
A free port;
A free trade zone;
An industrial development zone; and
A sector development zone.
Hopefully Trade and Industry will clarify for both public and investors the differentiation between the four options. From a Customs and Tax perspective there could be divergent legal requirements, formalities and processes. The sooner that this can be finalised all the better for the various ‘zones’ to commence with their vigorous marketing campaigns.
Davies told the Committee that the Industrial Development Zones (IDZs) will continue to be one of the elements of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The IDZ programme was initiated in 2000 and four zones were designated, with three currently operational: Coega (Port Elizabeth), East London and Richards Bay. The IDZs including the current ones are types of the SEZs and once the new the Act is passed they will form part of the Special Economic Zone programme, according to the minister.
The existing industrial development zones (IDZs) were beginning to gain traction because of the way they were managed and promoted. He cited the example of the East London IDZ, which had a private sector investment of R600 million in 2009 compared to R4bn in 2012/2013.
Work under the current IDZ regulations include the Saldanha Bay which is about to be designated. The Saldanha Bay Feasibility Study published in October 2011, found that there was sufficient non-environmentally sensitive land upon which an IDZ development could take place. Total direct and indirect jobs are expected to amount to 4 492 in the first year, 8 094 in the second year, 7 274 in the third year, 10 132 in the fourth year and 14 922 in the fifth year. From the seventh year around 14 700 direct and indirect jobs would be sustained in the province as a result of the IDZ. Saldanha Bay is an ideal location for the development of an Oil & Gas and Marine Repair Cluster. The Port of Saldanha Bay is also competitively located between the oil and gas developments on the West Coast of Africa, as well as the recent gas finds on the East Coast of Africa.
The SEZ bill would provide a legal framework for the zones and for granting special incentives for businesses operating there such as duty free inputs. He said major areas of agreement had been reached between business‚ labour and community representatives in the National Economic Development and Labour Council. Labour wanted to have three Nedlac representatives on the 15 member SEZ boards and the department had agreed to this on condition they met the criteria in terms of qualifications and knowledge. Nine representatives would be from government and there would be three independent experts.
Business argued against municipalities having the right under the bill to propose SEZs as it said this was not their core business and they lacked the capacity for this. The department however decided to retain this clause‚ October said‚ because there were municipalities which did have this capacity and in any event the applications for SEZs would undergo rigorous evaluation.
The department also decided to go ahead with the idea of these SEZs being operated on a triple PPP basis (public private partnerships) even though labour disapproved of this on the grounds that it would be a form of private ownership. Sources: Engineering News & businessnews.howzit.msn.com
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- Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Bill now in debate (parlyreportsa.co.za)