Rajya Sabha passes bill to amend SEZ law; Piyush Goyal says move will have large impact on investments, jobs

New Delhi: A Bill that seeks to allow trusts to set up units in special economic zones (SEZs) by amending the SEZ law was approved by Parliament on Thursday, with the government asserting these zones were an engine of growth and employment.

The Rajya Sabha gave its nod by a voice vote, a day after the Lok Sabha passed the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The Bill will replace the Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, which was promulgated in March.The ordinance had paved the way for trusts to set up units in these zones.

Replying to the debate on the Bill, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said: "This is a small amendment that has large impact on investment, job and growth".

 Rajya Sabha passes bill to amend SEZ law; Piyush Goyal says move will have large impact on investments, jobs

Representational image. PTI

"Until now, We have eight proposals from such trusts. Total investment proposed by these trusts comes out to be Rs 8,000 crore," Goyal said, adding that the government expects about $3 billion, which is around Rs 20,000 crore investments annually.

The minister justified issuance of ordinance saying that economic development cannot stop if some members or party in Parliament create hurdles in passage of legislations.

The previous government had withdrawn exemptions in income tax, dividend distribution tax and MAT and because of it the SEZ framework faced some stress, he said, adding that it left several investors in lurch.

"At the end of March 2019, the investment in SEZs was a whopping Rs 5 lakh crore plus and the employment was over 20 lakh in SEZs and export from SEZs was over Rs 7 lakh crore," he said.

The minister said no one can deny the role of such SEZs being "an engine of growth and engine of creating jobs." Meanwhile, an amendment moved by E Karim of CPM was negated.

Participating in the debate, D Raja of CPI, sought to corner the government about the tearing hurry to bring the ordinance on SEZs.

"We have serious apprehension on this Bill," Raja said and urged the minister to address these concerns. Opposing the Bill, TKS Elangovan of DMK also questioned the urgency to pass the ordinance, saying it's an "insult" to Parliament.

AAP member Sanjay Singh wanted to know whether the government has any policies to return unutilised land to farmers and to provide employment to local people in SEZs.

P Bhattacharya (Congress) said barren land should be used for SEZs and not agricultural land.

Swait Malik of BJP supported the Bill, saying it would boost economic growth and foreign investments.

Naresh Gujral of Akali Dal supported the Bill, saying the country needs FDI. But he asked the government to have consistent policies to give confidence to investors.

Globally, Gujral said, trusts are very common route for making investments and cited the example of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

Earlier, moving the Bill, Goyal said there is a need to introduce the legislation to assure international markets that investments can be made through Trust mechanism into special economic zones in India.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asked what the hurry was to bring an ordinance on the Bill just a week before general elections were announced on 2 March, 2019.

He sought to know quantum of investment that came through these trusts to SEZs after issuing of this ordinance. TMC leader Derek O'Brien said his party grossly opposed SEZs as this business model has not worked in India.

Supporting the Bill, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) asked about government scrutiny of the trust which invest in SEZs.

SR Balasubramoniyan (AIADMK), Prasanna Acharya (BJD), E Kareem of CPM, Manoj Jha of RJD, Narendra Jadav (nominated), Ram Kumar Verma (BJP) and Anil Desai of Shiv Sena also participated in the discussion.

Updated Date: Jun 27, 2019 20:31:12 IST