Forgive me for my very late introduction, however I am finally up and connected to the CASI blog.
My name is Ben Hyman, I am a doctoral student in Applied Economics at the Wharton School in the Business Economics & Public Policy department. Prior to my current trip to Delhi this summer, I was previously a Research Associate for the J-PAL Poverty Action Lab for a year in Mumbai (2011 – 2012), where I worked on the design of a pilot program for an Emissions Trading Scheme in India, in conjunction with a team of environmental economists, engineers, and public regulators.
I am currently pursuing a new research idea related to analyzing the impact of India’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) industrial development program. Whereas conventional knowledge suggests that such zones have featured prominently in the industrial development and rise to prominence of the manufacturing sector in China (concurrently providing new job opportunities and other benefits associated with economic growth), it is unclear what the overall effect has been in India. Do SEZs encourage exports and help Indian firms access the technology frontier, help attract foreign investment, and improve the position of the Indian exchange rate vis-à-vis other countries? Or do the zones act as a tax haven for producers that would otherwise have undertaken the same production behavior in absence of such zones, suggesting that subsidies and other public concessions to SEZ firms are unwarranted? The answers to these questions have important implications for understanding what the optimal role of Indian policy should be in promoting growth in the manufacturing sector, and employment generation in urban industrial areas.
I have been in India this summer gathering data from various ministries and conducting informal interviews to understand the nuances of the SEZ project. I ultimately intend to analyze the different trade-offs involved quantitatively, and as I obtain more results will share my preliminary findings with the CASI community. Otherwise am happy to engage in discussion so please feel free to reach out if you are interested!