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 The commerce ministry has initiated steps to reduce the time taken to develop Special Economic Zones (SEZs) by simplifying procedures to get the tax-free industrial enclaves notified. Developers will now be able to get their land classified as an SEZ at the initial stage of approval by submitting legal documents that prove land ownership. With exports falling sharply in the last six months, faster development of SEZs is seen as one way of increasing overseas sales of Indian goods and services, an official said. In the past, formal approval - the first step in notifying an SEZ - was based on a statement by a developer confirming possession of land. Actual documents proving ownership were not required at this level of approval. Thereafter, the developer had to submit a series of documents including proof of ownership of land, a non-encumbrance certificate and vacancy and contiguity certificates to get the zone notified. Now, all these documents will have to be submitted at the first stage. Experts point out that the move will help serious zone developers since only firms that actually own the land will now apply. “This shows that the ministry is serious about taking the SEZ policy forward,” said Tapan Sangal, senior manager, PricewaterhouseCoopers. “This move will also ensure that investments flow in to the zones quickly. Moreover, the pace of job creation in the zones will also become faster,” said L B Singhal, director general of Export Promotion Council on EoUs and SEZs. Since 2006, about 550 SEZs have been given formal approval. But the commerce ministry was concerned that only 320 were notified. This was because many of the developers adopted a wait and watch policy in the wake of the global economic crisis

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