The southern province of Guangdong used to be the backwaters of China since time unknown. However, beginning 1979, the Chinese government introduced some serious economic reforms that included allocation of “special economic zone (SEZ)” status to couple of cities and regions – Shenzhen was the first city to be declared one.
The net result – these region have recorded some of the fastest economic growth in China - and in the world. Shenzhen is today the fourth richest city in China and a shining example of the SEZ concept. As a value-addition, millions of people got diverted here. Otherwise they would be heading for Beijing or Shanghai.
One of the recurrent debates in our country is the rural-urban migration, or more precisely rural-Thimphu migration - balanced development being a natural by-product of the discussion. We keep complaining that everything is happening in Thimphu. But on the other hand, how do we reverse the trend - even if we really want to?
One strategy would be to introduce the concept of “special economic zones” here in Bhutan too. To start with, we could have SEZ declared for dead-end towns like Dagana, Pema Gatshel, Tashi Yangtsi and Lhuntshi followed by other areas that do not attract any investments. People wishing to set up business in these areas could be granted tax holidays, income tax exemptions, power subsidies, credit facilities etc.
One of the prime considerations should be the creation of employment, which is beginning to be a major problem in our country. Driving the local economy and employment thereby releasing some pressure from Thimphu, in every sense, is something what we could possibly achieve with this concept. Not to even mention the balanced development and equity that will follow suit.