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Using special economic zones to facilitate development: policy implications

Narula, R. ORCID: and Zhan, J. (2019) Using special economic zones to facilitate development: policy implications. Transnational Corporations, 26 (2). pp. 1-25. ISSN 1014-9562

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To link to this item DOI: 10.18356/d3e73f33-en


This issue of the Transnational Corporations journal is dedicated to special economic zones (SEZs) and their potential as vehicles for development. In compiling this issue, we sought to contextualise the emergence of SEZs, their evolution, and the associated policy trajectories that underpin them. This introductory paper| amalgamates observations from the broader academic literature, the findings of the World Investment Report 2019, and its associated background papers. A common theme is that a well-designed zone will evolve with the changing comparative advantages and development level of the underlying economy, in what is described as the “SEZ development ladder”. As the location advantages change, the emphasis and the objectives of the SEZ must also change. Reliance on “generic” location advantages must necessarily diminish, and greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing “specialized” location advantages. Another key finding is that the benefits of an SEZ must intentionally “leak” beyond the perimeter of the zone. The pervasiveness of the direct, indirect, and induced extra-SEZ effects beyond the geographically bounded space of the SEZ determines its success or failure. Scope remains for future research on SEZs focusing on their sustainability, the impact of the digital economy and industry 4.0, and the involvement of new financing partners for SEZ development.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:85997


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