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Survey Rates 20 Global Free Economic Zones

Posted March. 18, 2010 10:21,   


A competitiveness assessment has surveyed 20 major free economic zones among 2,301 listed worldwide by the World Bank and based on objective indicators.

The survey aims at assessing the objective competitiveness of the zones and devising new development strategies. Korea`s first free economic zone has completed its first-stage projects, such as creation of construction sites, and is ready to start the second stage.

Forty indicators were used to rate competitiveness in three categories: location competitiveness, factor competitiveness, and competitiveness of policy and operations.

The 20 zones surveyed comprise nine in Asia, five in the Middle East, Africa and India, five in Europe, and one in Latin America.

In the survey, Singapore (3.87 points out of five) topped the list and Hong Kong (3.81) came in second. The two economies ranked first and second in all three categories, showing their overwhelming superiority. Hong Kong ranked first in location competitiveness but fell slightly behind Singapore in the other two categories.

Other zones with good scores included Pudong in Shanghai, China (2.82); Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (2.56); Tianjin, China (2.52); and Shenzhen, China (2.51).

Korea`s free economic zones remained in the middle or lower rungs since they were launched relatively later. They also had a serious weakness in competitiveness of policy and operation.

Incheon got the highest score in Korea with 2.05, good for seventh place. By category, it ranked sixth in location competitiveness and factor competitiveness, and 15th in competitiveness of policy and operation. The Incheon zone could grow more attractive if it strengthens its policy competitiveness and efficiency and expertise in operational aspects.

The Busan-Jinhae Free Economic Zone ranked 12th (ninth in location competitiveness, 10th in factor competitiveness, and 17th in competitiveness of policy and operation) with 1.42. Gwangyang Bay ranked 17th (13th in location competitiveness, 11th in factor competitiveness, and 19th in competitiveness of policy and operation) with 1.23.

Busan-Jinhae had manufacturing-driven growth potential since it ranked fifth among 12 manufacturing-based zones. Gwangyang was comparable to Busan-Jinhae in economic and social aspects but fell behind in location competitiveness and competitiveness of policy and operation.

Maarten Kelder, president of the Asia-Pacific branch of Monitor Group, said, “In an era of global economic integration, a special economic zone should play a complex and strategic role beyond just attracting foreign investment. Korea should redefine its free economic zones and turn itself into a knowledge-based economy from a national competitiveness perspective.”