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date: 23 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Special economic zones (SEZs) are widely used across most developing and many developed economies. According to UNCTAD’s new SEZ database, there are nearly 5,400 zones across 147 economies as of 2019, up from about 4,000 five years ago. Although the performance of many zones remains below expectations, the rate of establishment of new zones is accelerating, and more than 500 new SEZs are already in the pipeline. In building new zones and revitalizing existing ones, policymakers and zone developers face new challenges in the context of a rapidly evolving global competitive landscape and the sustainable development imperative. This chapter provides an overview of the universe of SEZs and discusses their economic, social, and environmental impact—proposing an SEZ Sustainable Development Profit and Loss Statement. It highlights three key emerging challenges, points to five routes to modernizing SEZs, and outlines a pioneering idea of SDG model zones.

Keywords: special economic zones, sustainable development, foreign direct investment, industrial policies, development ladder, SDG model zone

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