The ZEDEs: Where and When?

  • Written by  Graham Brown

Those are the two recurring questions: where in Honduras will these zones be, and, even more importantly, when will they start? I can reveal here, for the first time, the full extent of my knowledge gained through private talks and being here in Honduras: Where will the first ZEDE (Economic Employment and Development Zones) be? I don’t know. And when will they start? I don’t know that either. See, who said blogging needs to be time consuming? Okay, I know people will press me on this, so I shall expand a bit on possibilities. The Honduran government has a ZEDE website out, with a map of potential sites, and that public information is as good as any.

We can add a bit more information about when. First off, we know some of the timings of the Honduran political process. The new president and new administration takes office on January 27th, so right now we are in the transition period. President-elect Juan Orlando Hernández took up the baton for the ZEDE legislation as head of the Congress, so we might assume that, once president, he continues that charge. Once in power, he will be responsible, according to Article 11 of the organic ZEDE law, for appointing the ‘Committee for the Adoption of Best Practices’.

 

These will be twenty-one people of “known honorableness, leadership, executive ability and international prestige”, although they can begin their role when just twelve are in place. After being confirmed by a two thirds majority in the Congress, this committee then has a number of duties, including deciding the boundaries of ZEDEs, and appointing the ‘Technical Secretary’ for each ZEDE. This role, effectively the governor of a ZEDE, needs to be filled by a Honduran “of recognized honorableness, with enough capacity and merits to perform the position entrusted to him."

 

The Technical Secretary needs to put a number of things into place, appoint a judge, hire a trusted international auditor, that kind of thing, then after that we could say the first LEAP zone has started. Of course this process may already be underway: the current president could have 12 or more committee members lined up, ready to put them through the lame duck session of Congress.

 

Even then, a realistic estimate would be that it takes at least a few months. The bottle-necks would appear to be getting the approval of the Committee through Congress, and finding the right people for the Committee and other roles.

 

So that’s the political side, what about the developers and investors? Unless there is a company waiting secretly in the wings, it looks like Elevator/Haven is the only business solely set-up to develop a LEAP zone. Of course, perhaps understandably, quite what they plan, and how much they have to invest, they keep to themselves. Perhaps after previous disappointments and negative press coverage they are choosing to move softly. It’s possible that the Honduran government could move ahead without a developer, but I’d think having potential investment money waiting would spur things along.

 

So there you have it, decide what you will about where and when. Is it worth outsiders coming to Honduras, ready for when these zones happen? Well, I have, so I can hardly say no! But please consider this: the ZEDE project was started by Hondurans, for Hondurans. Best not to forget that. (12/24/13) (image courtesy Internet)

 

Note: This article was reprinted with permission of the author. Graham Brown blogs at Dreams of Cities and writes about issues related to startup cities and similar concepts. He is from the United Kingdom and currently lives in Honduras.

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