Despite adverse world trade conditions, exports from India's special economic zones have been more than able to hold their own retaining the growth levels from the pre-crisis period. According to data from the commerce ministry SEZ exports more than doubled in the first half of this fiscal even as the India's total exports slid 18.6 per cent.
After the implementation of the SEZ policy in 2006-07, exports from these tax-free zones have surged over 50 per cent annually.
According to D K Mittal, additional secretary, department of commerce, SEZ exports were at Rs1,01,265 crore in April-September this year as against Rs48000 crore in the corresponding period a year ago which shows that export growth this year exceed the initial estimate of 15 per cent. Total exports stood at Rs3,78,196 crore in H1.
However, with the squeeze on liquidity and land acquisition proving to be formidably challenging certain developers have been forced to rethink their SEZ plans. The board of approval (BoA) which met in New Delhi on Thursday under the chairmanship of commerce secretary Rahul Khullar has allowed 10 developers to exit and developers of the proposed 5,000-hectare Maha Mumbai SEZ which has been facing problems over land acquisition have been asked to re-apply through the state government. The SEZ is being developed by RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani and his associate Anand Jain.
Meanwhile the government has said it is considering relaxation in some key rules pertaining to the construction of bridges and underpasses in SEZs. Under the present rules developers are required to build over-bridges and underpasses in an SEZ across roads and railway line running through it before units can come up in the zone.
The government wants to ensure that the zones are properly sealed to ensure smuggling of goods does not happen. The 1234-hecatre Navi Mumbai SEZ had proposed that it be allowed to construct two skywalks instead of the flyovers. It had also asked for relaxation of the condition for construction of underpasses for which it suggested secured connectivity on the ground.
As per the latest figures SEZ exports account for nearly 26 per cent of Indian exports. Exports from Reliance Industry Ltd's SEZ-based refinery in Jamnagar contribute a substantial portion of the rise in exports from these tax free industrial zones. Currently there are 725 SEZs under different categories of approval with investments of Rs1,25,950 crore committed in the past three years.