| Union commerce and industry minister Arun Jaitley with Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, state industry minister Nirupam Sen and WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee in Calcutta on Tuesday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta, Nov. 18: The Centre is contemplating special economic zones (SEZs) for the service sector, including banking, insurance, hospital and information technology, according to Union minister for commerce and industry Arun Jaitley.
Jaitley was in the city to attend the inaugural ceremony of Manikanchan Park, the country’s first special economic zone.
“We have asked the state governments to give us ideas on how to create special economic zones for different service industries,” Jaitley said.
The minister, however, added that the whole idea is currently at a conceptual stage and the Centre is seeking proposals from state governments.
Explaining the significance of such a move, Jaitley said if a special economic zone for the IT sector comes up in Bengal then it would stop the flight of professionals from the state. It would automatically lead to the return of some of the best talents to the country.
“Since the service sector forms a part of larger special economic zones, this idea must be given ample thought by state governments,” Jaitley said. “This is an indication of the changing trends in the economy,” he added.
He said the Centre is already planning to launch a huge project with such facilities in Mumbai shortly.
Inaugurating the park, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the state government is preparing a Special Economic Zone Act. “It will be enacted this year,” he said.
Manikanchan, the gem and jewellery park at Salt Lake, has been set up by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC). The park will have a total built-up area of 44,600 square metre (to be built in three phases). The first phase has been completed at a cost of Rs 25 crore.
“About 70 per cent of the first building has already been booked and we expect that the remaining will be booked in a couple of months,” WBIDC chairman Somnath Chatterjee said.
Exporters in the park enjoy offshore status with a host of financial and non-financial benefits, a simplified procedural regime and in-house customs clearance facility.
Gem and jewellery exports from Bengal stood at Rs 366 crore in 2002-03. Till October, the total exports from this part of the country is Rs 230 crore. With Manikanchan coming up, the industry feels that this figure will touch Rs 1,000 crore in the next three years.
PTI adds: Jaitley said Bengal should make a special effort to invite those investors who had deserted the state for making a real turnaround.
He was speaking at the inauguration of an international trade facilitation centre here.
He said if investors were confident of their investments in terms of safety and returns, then there was no reason why the state should lag behind.
The minister said changes were taking place in Bengal, which were clearly visible. About exports, he said exporters would have to cut down on inefficiencies, which were adding to the costs.