Govt defends SEZ as employment generation scheme

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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) Strongly defending its SEZ policy, the Government today said it is an employment and economic activity generation scheme which has so far provided jobs to more than 1.76 lakh people across the country.

Replying to the discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the Working of the Commerce and Industry Ministry, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said the government was not considering any FDI proposal in the retail sector and reiterated the commitment of securing India's interest at the next month's WTO meeting in Geneva on agricultural products.

''About 97 per cent of the retail is under unorganised sector and we don't want to disturb them. There is no proposal on FDI in retail sector,'' he assured the House.

Allaying concerns of members about India's position at the WTO talks, the Minister said India's interests will always be protected.

''The US is feeling the pinch of globalisation.... Let me assure the House that we are not accepting the new paper on agricultural products till the US drops its subsidy from the current 40 to 50 per cent,'' he said.

''The existing terms and conditions are not acceptable to us. At next month's meeting, India will completely clarify that... India is speaking for the all vulnerable economies at the forum,'' he added.

About SEZ, Mr Nath said record breaking exports-- more than 22 per cent-- had been registered since 2004.

''SEZ is a policy which has created employment and investment opportunities and at the same time, increased India's exports tremendously,'' the minister said.

''At the moment, investment in SEZ is approximately Rs 67,000 crore and the exports have grown from 83 billion dollars in 2004-05 to 126 billion dollars in 2006-007,'' he said.

He said that during 2008-09, exports under SEZ were expected to be Rs 1,24,000 crore.

Citing a report by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations about revenue loss due to SEZ, he said India was estimated to generate net revenue gain of Rs 8,800 crore.

''No loss will be registered. On the contrary, the economic activity will create net revenue gain,'' he added.

About land acquisition for SEZ, the Commerce Minister said no laws relating to land were violated and state governments were competing for investment and sending proposals.

''The Ministry is ready to look into any complaint of misuse of land under SEZ,'' he added.

EDS: Here pick up suitably from the earlier series.

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