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State backs special zones

Despite the slowdown, the state wants to assure developers that the Special Economic Zones in the state are on track, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2009 00:48 IST
Dharmendra Jore
Dharmendra Jore
Hindustan Times

Despite the slowdown, the state wants to assure developers that the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the state are on track.

And it has empowered senior bureaucrats to take policy decisions that will help the investors in approved SEZs stay back, while attracting more investors in the future.

The state took this step as it was concerned that recession and issues like complex taxation policies might delay development of proposed Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

In the country, the state has the highest number of 132 formally approved SEZs — 91 of which have got a final nod from the Centre.

The expected investment would be to the tune of Rs 1.32 lakh crore and the jobs created would be about Rs 70 lakh.

However, the state fears that the economic slump might force investors to rethink and revise their original investment plans.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who also heads Industries Department, on Wednesday appointed an empowered committee of senior bureaucrats to be headed by Chief Secretary Johny Joseph.

“The committee would not only work to encourage investors to set up SEZs here (in Maharashtra) but also guide authorities concerned on issues that the proposed SEZs are now facing,” Chavan said.

“Our prime motive would be to encourage existing investors to go ahead with their original plans even during the economic slump. We will try remove all obstacles,” said a member of the committee requesting anonymity for protocol reasons. “At this time, we cannot afford to lose investment commitments. The economy would recover gradually and hence we want investors not to abandon the state.”

As per the policy, the Industry Development Commissioner has the right to give all state-level approvals, licences, clearances and registration. Under such approvals, the SEZ developer is also offered relaxation in value-added tax (VAT), sales tax and profession tax.

However, the investors found taxation issues confusing, and hence wanted the state to revise the guidelines. The committee will now devise new taxation policy for SEZs. It would also ensure that single window licensing system is adopted for any new SEZ.

Ironically, the Industries Department’s proposal that was tabled on Wednesday before Chavan for forming the committee did not include the finance secretary in it. The error was duly corrected after realising that finance secretary could only deal with taxation issues.

The departmental secretaries of industry, home, urban development, environment and labour, development commissioners of any two SEZs and commissioner of any notified area proposed SEZ would be other members. The Industry Development Commissioner would be a member secretary.

First Published: Jan 30, 2009 00:47 IST