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special economic zones

Why are more countries embracing industrial zones? [VIDEO]

Douglas Zhihua Zeng 曾智华's picture

A shipyard crane. Source - Matthew SullivanIn the late 1950s, a group of businessmen and politicians on the outskirts of a small town in western Ireland realized their local airport was in jeopardy of losing its international flights. Knowing how important transit passengers and the airlines were to their economy, a proposal for a special industrial area near the airport was submitted and approved, marking the inception of the world’s first modern free trade zone in Shannon, Ireland. Today, the concept has gone global with an estimated 4,300 various types of zones worldwide. 

All across the world, we have seen countries exploring and seizing the potential of these industrial zones—often also called industrial parks or special economic zones. In East Asia, you can point to the experiences of China, Singapore, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam. In Central America, we have those of the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Honduras. In the Middle East and North Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have also created zones. In Sub-Sahara Africa, Mauritius first set up an export processing zone all the way back in the 1970s, and today, countries across the region continue to experiment with modern industrial zone regimes.

The concept of the industrial zone is gaining more acceptance globally. The appeal lies in these zones’ ability to catalyze economic development and structural transformation.

Have 'Special Economic Zones' Entered the 21st Century Yet? A Tale of Two Cities

Martin Norman's picture

At the World Free Zone Convention in Izmir, Turkey, which I attended in December, an important question was asked:  Have "Special Economic Zones" entered the 21st Century?  Evidence shows that, in many ways, they have – but in many instances we are still seeing across the globe the same isolated economic enclaves with few linkages to the local market and little economy-wide impact.

More than ever, special economic zones (SEZs) are on the defensive, despite the fact that the more than 3,500 SEZs worldwide have provided employment for more than 60 million people.

I believe that two zones, in particular, can shed light on the factors of success and failure in SEZs today:  Shenzhen, China, which is almost universally considered to be a success story, and the Calabar Free Trade Zone in Nigeria, which has failed to live up to its original projections. 
 

Innovating to get things done: Lessons from an industrial park program in India

Yannick Saleman's picture


Successful industrial parks can drive economic competitiveness  (Credit: World Bank, Flickr)

Why do so many industrial park programs fail? They are popular across the developing world, inspired perhaps by China, where they are widely used as a policy tool and where their products are impressive to the visitor: functional parks with many firms and bustling activity. But horror stories abound, even in China, of empty parks, subsidized land speculation and tax erosion, and often no parks at all. This has not dampened enthusiasm, however. The theory is simply too seductive. By providing high-quality, shared infrastructure to firms in specific areas, industrial parks are meant to create pockets of competitiveness that eventually spill over onto the rest of the economy. For capacity-constrained governments, they have the further appeal of focus.

Exporting is Easy; the Challenge is Making it Sustainable

Catalyst factory in Macedonia. Source: Johnson Matthey Inc.In 2009, an EU-based chemical manufacturer opened a plant inside one of FYR Macedonia’s recently-established special economic zones. The plant began production of catalysts, a type of emissions-control component used in automobiles. Two years later, this investment drove chemical products to the third-highest spot on Macedonia’s export list, lessening the country’s reliance on metals and textiles.

In Nicaragua, low labor costs and high security compared to its neighbors have led zonas francas to expand dramatically, attracting producers of electronic wires and medical devices and expanding the country’s exports beyond an already-strong apparel sector. Between 2006 and 2008, for example, ignition wiring sets for vehicles were the country’s fourth biggest export.