Government passes Special Economic Zones Bill
By: Qamar Zaman
ISLAMABAD: Despite the opposition’s concerns, the government managed to pass the Special Economic Zones Bill, 2011, aimed to attract domestic as well as foreign direct investment in the country.
Passed by Senate in March this year, the 40-clause bill will be sent to the president for approval to officially make it an act of parliament.
According to the statement of objectives and reasons of the bill, the changed scenario of globalisation has shackled the economies of developing countries and has forced them to adopt liberalised policies to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Therefore, to meet the challenges of global competitiveness efficiently, the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) had become an acute necessity.
In this regard, the process was initiated by the Economic Council of Pakistan in 2009. Following consultation with stakeholders, the federal cabinet approved it for legislation in 2010, while the Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved the bill in August 27, 2011.
The bill allows the establishment of SEZs anywhere in the country over a minimum area of 50 acres. Benefits for developers defined in clause 36 of the bill include: “(a) one-time exemption from customs duties and taxes for all capital goods imported into Pakistan for the development, operation and maintenance of SEZs; (b) exemption from all taxes on income accruable in relation to the development and operation of the SEZ for a period of 10-years, starting from the date of signing of the development agreement.”
However, Khurram Dastgir Khan from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Advocate Parvez Khan from the Awami National Party raised concerns over the bill, saying that following the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the Centre cannot pass any such direction to the provinces.
PML-N’s Dr Nelson Azeem presented two amendments in the bill but the House rejected them.
Committee formed to probe government loans
Meanwhile, a brief tirade against the government by the PML-N over the deteriorating economic conditions of the country resulted in the constitution of a special committee to investigate use of loans taken by several governments during the last three decades.
After a unanimous adoption of the motion on the subject, which was moved by PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, the National Assembly authorized Acting Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi to constitute the committee.
The committee will investigate the utilization of domestic and foreign loans by all governments since 1985, and will submit its report within two months.
Earlier, Iqbal had hit out at the government, saying that economic threats are actually threats to the sovereignty of the country. He said that public debt has reached up to Rs12 trillion during the rule of incumbent government.
In response, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Khursheed Shah suggested the formation of a commission to probe the utilization of loans.
Deputy PM’s post questioned
Earlier, Riaz Hussain Pirzada, a disgruntled member of the PML-Quaid, questioned the legal status of the post of deputy prime minister saying there was no constitutional provision for the post.
Criticizing the new appointment of his party’s senior leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as Deputy PM, he said the appointment could not be made following the 18th constitutional amendment and urged the government to avoid announcing ‘tailor-made’ positions.
However, Syed Naveed Qamar from the PPP justified his government’s decision saying, “It was just to recognize the seniority of a person.”
The Express Tribune