Special Economic Zones roll-out

SEZ-economist.comThe roll-out of special economic zones is under way, with the first two in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State to be proclaimed shortly, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said yesterday.

The Dube trade port and the Tshiame industrial development zone in Harrismith would both be transformed into special economic zones as soon as the regulatory framework had been established, which the minister said would take place within the next 100 days.

The regulations and guidelines would be finalised. The special economics zones board would be established, as would a one-stop-shop for fast-tracked support to investors.

The Dube trade port industrial development zone will specialise in high-value, niche agricultural and horticultural products, as well as manufacturing and value-addition for the automotive, electronics and clothing industries.

The Tshiame industrial development zone at Maluti-a-Phofung near Harrismith in the Free State will focus on automotive, clothing and agro-processing activities.

Mr Davies said the department was evaluating the feasibility of special economic zones focusing on the beneficiation and value-addition of platinum in Limpopo and North West. These zones would be used to encourage investors in beneficiation to locate their plants close to the mineral deposits.

“What we know is that significant opportunities to partner with international producers of fuel cells are available, and that these partnerships have the potential for SA to become an established hub for the production of fuel-cell components,” Mr Davies said.

“This would be a very significant development because fuel cells are new technology used for back-up power generation in telecommunication masts, base-load power generation in rural areas, and fuelcell passenger vehicles.

“This technology is fast becoming the subject of intense international competition for investment and is also a technology well suited to SA’s comparative advantage in platinum mineral resources.”

The department was assessing the feasibility of a solar industrial development zone in Upington in the Northern Cape.

“We have no doubt the support available through the special economic zones programme will lead to increased investment by the private sector and contribute to building new economic infrastructure in provinces,” the minister said.

The Saldanha Bay industrial development zone was well positioned to become a hub for oil, gas and marine repair, engineering and logistics. “An application to operate as a Customs Control Area to service the West and East African offshore oil and gas industry is being finalised. To date 18 companies, nine local and nine foreign, have signed nonbinding expressions of interest.”

The Coega, Richards Bay and East London industrial development zones had together generated R3.4bn in investments and created more than 67,000 direct and indirect jobs. A number of new investments worth several billion rand were also under negotiation. Source: SAnews.gov.za

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SA identifies ten potential ‘special economic zones’

sez-figure-1The 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

IDZs to be replaced with SEZs

Department of Trade and Industry (South Africa)Heard this before? In line with the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the New Growth Path, the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) aims to continue fostering its efforts to create employment and economic growth by establishing a strong industrial base in South Africa. The new initiative aims to improve on the concept of industrial development zones (IDZs) which have enjoyed mixed success since being introduced in December 2000 through the Manufacturing Development Act. 

An IDZ is a purpose-built industrial estate linked to an international airport or seaport which is tailored for the manufacturing and storage of goods. It offers investors certain rights within the zone, in addition to incentives such as customs duty and VAT relief. One important priority of the IDZs is to boost job creation and skills in underdeveloped regions. The IDZ programme led to the establishment of five zones – Mafikeng, OR Tambo International Airport, Richards Bay, East London and Coega. The Richard’s Bay IDZ only commenced its first phase of development in September last year while OR Tambo International Airport is not yet fully operational.  The Industrial Policy Action Plan, issued by the Department of Trade and Industry in February 2011, has also identified, as a key milestone, the establishment of an additional IDZ at Saldanha Bay. 

The Special Economic Zones (SEZs) programme is one of the most critical instruments that can be used to advance government’s strategic objectives of industrialisation, regional development and job creation. Moreover, the programme can assist in improving the attractiveness of South Africa as a destination for foreign direct investment.

In order to ensure that the SEZ programme is an effective instrument for industrial development, the dti has developed the SEZ Policy and Bill. Through the Bill there will be a dedicated legislative framework for special economic zones.

The main objectives of the SEZ Bill are to provide for the designation, development, promotion, operation and management of Special Economic Zones; to provide for the establishment of the Special Economic Zones Board; to regulate the application and issuing of Special Economic Zones operator permits; to provide for the establishment of the Special Economic Zones Fund; and to provide for matters incidental thereto.

Furthermore, the SEZ Bill will enable government to move towards a broader Special Economic Zones Programme, through which a variety of special economic zones can be designated in order to address the economic development challenges of each region and address spatial development inequalities.

Although national laws may be suspended inside industrial zones, government is currently not offering regulatory incentives to derogate from labour rules, a concession which is seen by some as crucial to stimulate investment in special zones. It is however unlikely that a relaxation of labour laws will be considered under the SEZ initiative. Benefits are rather expected to come in the form of enhanced incentives for labour intensive projects and additional tax relief for investors. A further question arises – just how flexible an inventive will the customs and VAT requirements be allowed to be?

The key provisions include the establishment of a Special Economic Zones Board to advise the Minister of Trade and Industry on the policy, strategy and other related matters; establishment of the Special Economic Zones Fund to provide for a more coherent and predictable funding framework that enables long-term planning; strengthening of governance arrangements including clarification of roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. Source: Department of Trade and Industry.