THE GOVERNMENT has decided to lift the cap on the number of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), currently at 150. The empowered Group of Ministers headed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has decided not to limit the number of SEZs despite opposition from Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
The decision is a victory for Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, who has been seeking a relaxation of the cap. But Kamal Nath will have to wait for five more months before the Board of Approvals (BoA) sanctions fresh proposals. The Mukherjee panel on Wednesday said fresh proposals will be taken up only after the first 75 of the 150 approved zones became operational. In the meantime, the Commerce Ministry would process 200 pending proposals from domestic and foreign corporates to be considered by the BoA. Kamal Nath said the empowered group would meet in the next five months to "review the ground situation".
Insiders said while Mukherjee tried to play the neutral referee, those in favour of more than 150 SEZs outnumbered the rest.