Membership of free economic zone elite
The Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park is yet to become the country’s calling card but there can be no doubt that the project will be realized, helping Belarus take its place as a location of global economic significance
An agreement has been signed in Minsk on our future Industrial Park’s joining of the World Free Zones Organization. The heads of the WFZO explain that their visit to Belarus aims to study the country’s free economic zones and investment policy. The WFZO operates as an association of free economic zones and has participants worldwide. The non-state organization registered in 2014, in line with the Geneva Canton’s legislation. Its headquarters are situated not in Europe but Dubai; the Dubai Silicon Oasis is responsible for 25 percent of its country’s GDP and 75 percent of exports. Around 19,000 companies work there.
At present, the WFZO brings together 155 representatives from over 40 countries. It states its major goal as ‘the support of states which could benefit from the free economic zone model and whose economies need direct foreign investments to support an intense economic climate’.
WFZO Chief Executive Director Dr. Samir Hamrouni explains how Belarus will benefit from joining the organization, saying, “Any free economic zone has three elements of development: infrastructure construction, quality of services and marketing. You are at the initial stage, of developing your infrastructure. Our consultations will help you enhance the quality of services. We’ll help you bring the project to global level.”
The Deputy Economy Minister, Alexander Yaroshenko, speaks of the pragmatism of Belarus’ joining the WFZO. He is convinced that we should fully utilise the organization’s international experience. The preferential terms being offered to attract investors and residents into free economic zones are important but the quality of services is also vital. “The one-stop-shop principle always prevails, from the point of view of attractiveness to an investor. Moreover, to ensure a high level of expertise within free economic zones, it’s good to offer in-house training, such as at the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park. Many companies are concentrated within the WFZO, which has its own developments and investment projects. We’d benefit from making a comparative analysis of these regimes, while introducing them to the international ‘community’,” Mr. Yaroshenko adds.
Li Haixin, the Director General of the Industrial Park Development Company
Li Haixin, the Director General of the Industrial Park Development Company, explains that the Great Stone project has already gone far beyond Belarusian-Chinese relations: investors from Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Singapore are showing interest. “We have eight Park residents and agreements have been signed with twenty; some residents are already constructing their sites and others plan to start work this year. An active campaign to promote the Great Stone Park worldwide is in full swing. Its advantageous geographical position and developing infrastructure should make it a pearl on the Great Silk Path,” he says.
By Alexander Benkovsky