GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Special (Green) Economic Zones: The Relationship between Special Economic Zones and the Green Economy in the Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
Since the 1970s, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have represented the cutting edge of economic development in states across the spectrum of the development scale. Indeed, over the past four decades the number of SEZs utilized throughout the world has jumped astronomically. The Gulf region has become adept at employing SEZs to concentrate and spur economic growth, with such notable examples as Dubai and Saudi Arabia leading the way.

The essential premise of SEZs is fundamentally simple. SEZs are specifically designated and geographically bounded areas within a state in which certain laws – notably taxation laws and labor laws – are suspended in order to attract foreign investors to the area. The intention behind the creation of SEZs is to spur the development of the local economy and also to make the state more attractive to business investment from outside the state through offering a set of incentives and a more amenable business climate than might otherwise be found within the state.

The extent of these legal suspensions and their temporal length varies depending upon the SEZ and the state policy. Similarly, the laws that apply as a general matter within individual SEZs are entirely dependent on the state’s governmental regime and the choices it makes. In this way, SEZ host states determine the level of territorial and legal control they are willing to cede in order to promote economic development and growth, as well as the forms of control that are vital for them to maintain regardless of economic growth potential.

While there has been much discussion and debate over the relationship between SEZs and labor practices, there has been less of a discussion regarding environmental practices within SEZs. It is perhaps not surprising then that the relationship between the green economy and SEZs generally, or specifically within the Gulf region, have not received a great deal of attention. And yet, as the green economy gains increased momentum and focus as a legal and economic construct, it is arguably essential that SEZs, which at their core seek to promote new and novel forms of economic growth, should embrace the green economy within their policies and regulations. This is of particular importance in context of the Gulf region due to the importance of environmental conservation to both the region and the green economy now and in the future.

This paper will examine the legal regimes currently extant in Gulf region SEZs, with a focus on Dubai and Saudi Arabia, as well as the general place of the green economy in the legal regimes of the Gulf states themselves. Necessarily, the paper will examine the concept of the green economy itself and will discuss sectors of it that will be of notable importance to the Gulf region and to the Gulf states individually. The paper will then examine ways in which existing and future legal regimes in SEZs in the Gulf region could be modified in order to ensure that the green economy is a part of the general practices of corporate entities located within the SEZs. The ultimate goal of this paper is to argue that the Gulf states have the ability to meaningfully incorporate aspects of the green economy into their SEZ governance regimes in a way that offers long term benefits to these states and establishes them as global pioneers in the green economy.