Walsh, John, “Assessing the Impacts of Positive and Negative Externalities Generated by Special Economic Zones in the Southern Mekong Region,” paper presented at the 1st International Conference on The Social and Economic Prospects of the Southern Mekong Sub-Region of Southeast Asia (July 9th-11th, 2014, Ubon Ratchathani University).
Abstract: Industrial estates, one form of special economic zones (SEZs), have been used in Thailand for several decades as a means of concentrating important economic activities in specific areas, thereby leading to decentralization of industry away from Bangkok and concomitant regional development. SEZs generally link places of production with each other and with places of consumption through different aspects of connectivity: hard and soft infrastructure; virtual and telecommunications links; inter-personal and inter-organizational connections. With the assistance of the Asian Highway Network, principally supported by the Asian Development Bank, cross-border connectivity has also been increased, through the various friendship bridges across the River Mekong and prospective connections with Dawei SEZ in southern Myanmar and with those industrial estates in the Cambodian border region and Oknha Mong port at Sihanoukville. As SEZs proliferate throughout the region, therefore, they come to have an impact on more and more communities, which are transformed as both positive and negative externalities are generated within their boundaries. This paper uses a case study approach to identify the different types of externality produced. First, SEZs in the southern Mekong region are identified and classified and then examples of each are provided. Second, the concept of the Triple Bottom Line is used to analyse the various externalities arising from the SEZs. With the impacts noted, the paper then seeks to provide means of mitigating negative externalities while trying to ensure the benefits of positive externalities are distributed equitably.