The Centre has given more time to 211 special economic zone (SEZ) developers during the last three years to execute their projects, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.
The letter of approval granted to SEZ developer is valid for three years within which “effective steps” are to be taken by the developer to implement the approved project.
“The Board of Approval (BoA) may, on an application by the developer, extend the validity period of the letter of approval. In last three years and current year, 224 developers have sought extension of time for the execution of their projects,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.
“Out of 224 applications, 211 developers have been granted extension of time,” she said.
The BoA, a 19-member inter-ministerial body headed by Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher, deals with SEZ related issues. It provides single window clearance mechanism to developers and units in these zones.
The high number of extensions also reflects the losing interest of investors due to reasons including global economic slowdown and imposition of minimum alternate tax (MAT) and dividend distribution tax (DDT) on these zones.
So far, 352 such zones have been notified by the BoA out of which 199 are operational.
Recently, in a BoA meeting, government approved the applications of as many as 56 special economic zone developers to surrender their projects.
Exports from these zones increased from Rs 22,840 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 4.94 lakh crore in 2013-14. The Commerce Ministry is struggling to increase exports as the country’s shipments in the last three years have been hovering around $300 billion level.
Replying to a separate question on trade deficit, the minister said that in 2013-14, the gap with China has widened to $36.21 billion.
“India’s exports to China are characterised by primary products, raw materials and intermediate products. The exports to China face tariff and non-tariff barriers for agricultural products and limited market access in other products,” she said.
In order to boost exports and address the widening trade deficit, Sitharaman said the government has taken a number of measures including market study initiatives to identify specific product lines with export potential, actively taking up issues relating to tariff and non-tariff barriers in bilateral meetings.
“The two sides agreed to take positive steps towards rebalancing bilateral trade and addressing the existing structural imbalance in trade that has a bearing on its sustainability,” she added. In 2013-14, the bilateral trade stood at $65.85 billion.