Exploring embeddedness in the development of special economic zones

Authors: Sina Hardaker*, University of Würzburg
Topics: Economic Geography, Business Geography, Regional Geography
Keywords: Economic Geography, Business Geography, Special Economic Zones, Embeddedness, Myanmar
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 11:50 AM / 1:05 PM
Room: Beverly, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Terrace Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Special economic zones (SEZs) are demarcated geographic areas contained within a country’s national boundaries where the rules of business are different from those that prevail in the wider national territory. Despite the fact that SEZs are often perceived as enclaves of industry having little effect on the national economic landscape, their success in practice depends to a large extent on their interdependence with the surrounding economy. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to initially apply the embeddedness concept to SEZs and therewith attempts to discuss probable implications. This study discusses the role of SEZs in the economic policy of Myanmar. The development of SEZs entails a number of weaknesses when assessed on their ability to enhance economic development, mainly because the quality of employment opportunities created is low and the quality of sustainable and lasting development in general, is questionable. Although initial findings suggest that Thilawa SEZ, one of three planned zones and currently the only zone being in operation, has made some positive attempts to create jobs, transfer knowledge and strengthen the country’s industrial infrastructure; there are some limits to positive external benefits flowing from SEZs in general. It is argued that consideration of the embeddedness concept proves helpful in gaining a more nuanced understanding of the interlinkage processes involved. More importantly, despite the perception of SEZs as enclaves, the specifics of their embeddedness reveal numerous directions for future research. These findings have important policy implications for Myanmar’s attempt at bringing about structural change and enhanced economic development

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