Panacea or Placebo: Success and Special Economic Zones in the Developing World

Open Access
Kandziolka, Marissa Janice
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Barry William Ickes, Thesis Supervisor
  • Russell Paul Chuderewicz, Honors Advisor
  • Special Economic Zones
  • SEZ
  • Development
Within the last 30 years, the number of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) has grown exponentially from 147 Zones in 1987 to an estimated 4,000 in 2017. For developing countries in particular, SEZs have become a symbol of potential hope for rapid development and economic transformation. However, the actual efficacy of SEZs in promoting economic growth has yet to be determined. While abundant literature exists regarding the theoretical economic contributions of Zones, literature measuring actual SEZ outcomes is comparatively lacking. In fact, cursory inspection appears to indicate a discrepancy between theoretical predictions of Zone effectiveness and actual performance. This thesis examines the ongoing debate over the usefulness of SEZs from a theoretical and experiential perspective. An overview of Zone characteristics and historical experiences is first presented. Then, a synthesis and analysis of theoretical perspectives is conducted. Finally, a definition and possible measures of SEZ success are proposed as a foundation for potential future research into the actual efficacy of Zones.