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

20 Rescued After Coal Ship Runs Aground Off South Africa

More than 20 crew members were rescued by helicopter from a cargo ship carrying coal that ran aground in rough seas off of South Africa’s Richards Bay port, maritime authorities said on Monday.

Tugboats were trying to pull the 230 metre-long ship named SMART off a sandbank, National Sea Rescue said in a statement, adding that “the structural integrity of the ship was compromised”.

The single-hull, 151,279 tonne ship is registered to Alpha Marine Corp and flies a Panamanian flag. It was supposed to deliver its cargo to the Fangcheng port in China, according to Thomson Reuters data.

No injuries have been reported. The Richards Bay port is on the Indian Ocean.

This is the second cargo ship to run aground off South Africa this month. The other was the 165 metre-long Kiani Satu, which hit ground off the southern coast. Source: Reuters

SEZ – Lessons for South Africa from international evidence and local experience

A bold paradigm shift in South Africa’s economic policy is required to ensure the success of the country’s new special economic zones (SEZs) programme, according to Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) executive director Ann Bernstein.At the launch of the new CDE report on SEZs, she explained that South Africa’s current economy favoured skill and capital-intensive industry, which was not making the cut in terms of job creation.

“South Africa needs to create the right kind of environment for the emergence of businesses that can employ large numbers of unskilled people. That is what we should use the SEZs to do.“This will require bold leadership and engagement with the difficult choices on labour costs and flexibility that must be made. The alternative is to waste resources and energy yet again on a policy that fails,” Bernstein urged.

The report, titled ‘Special Economic Zones: Lessons for South Africa from international evidence and local experience’ suggested that South Africa should establish at least two large SEZs that were focused on low-skill, labour-intensive industries such as the clothing and textile sectors and enable them to compete globally. “Without reform, the only way South African companies can compete with Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian companies is by mechanisation, which results in fewer people being employed, and a greater reliance on skills,” Bernstein pointed out. “International evidence shows that the most successful SEZs were public–private partnerships,” Bernstein noted. Further, the report showed, as recognised by government, that South Africa’s industrial development zones (IDZs) that include Coega, East London and Richards Bay, had largely failed to boost economic growth, create jobs, promote industrialisation or accelerate exports.

Bernstein attributed this to the lack of a clear definition for what these zones should entail, as well as a strategy for attracting investors. “The IDZs are basically just industrial parks – it’s no wonder they have not been successful in attracting new investors and creating jobs.” Although the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had spent R5.3-billion on developing these zones, the vast majority of the 33 000 jobs created were short-term construction jobs, with only 5 000 permanent jobs created.

Bernstein said countries such as China, Costa Rica, Mauritius and Latin America countries could be viewed as benchmarks for South Africa in terms of IDZs. Rising costs in Asia, especially China, where labour-intensive firms were looking for new regional locations, were creating opportunities for IDZs in South Africa. The CDE argued that South Africa should seize the opportunity to compete for a sizable portion of the jobs that could sprout from this.

“A bold new SEZ strategy could become a platform for new companies and new investors that use unskilled labour rather than machines,” Bernstein indicated. “South Africa’s new SEZ programme needs to be a presidential priority. The DTI needs to be fully supported by all other departments of government. Unless the whole of government gets behind the effort, we’re not going to see the kind of investor uptake that would actually make a difference,” CDE research and programme director Antony Altbeker said. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is set to table the draft SEZ Bill in Parliament later this year, while Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that R2.3-billion would be allocated to the establishment of SEZs were in the 2012/13 Budget.

However, the CDE’s report warned that the Bill provided no clarity about what would differentiate SEZs from industrial parks, its envisaged governance arrangements for SEZs was confusing and said the role of the private sector was unclear. Source: Engineering News

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.