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    MOSCOW, May 20 (RIA Novosti's Maria Balynina) - The Federation Council (parliament's upper chamber) has approved the bill on special economic zones drafted by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry at the hearings on Thursday, Igor Provkin, second in charge of the Federation Council committee on financial markets, told reporters on Thursday.

    "The Economic Development Ministry-sponsored law on special economic zones will make a legal basis for establishing these zones and their operation," said Mr Provkin.

    The bill envisages tax and customs privileges, a simpler administrative, visa and currency regulations, and export-import control, according to the senator.

    Mr Provkin said there were over 2,000 free economic zones in the world today, among them over 400 free trade zones, 400 science and industry parks, more than 300 export-producing zones, 100 special purpose zones.

    "The largest number of free trade zones are found in the industrialised countries in Europe and the United States," said Mr Provkin.

    Special economic zones did exist in Russia, but experts were rather sceptical about their efficiency, added Mr Provkin.

    "The matter is that the zones were used, above all, to get tax and customs privileges, and they did not promote any technological advances or help settle grave socio-economic problems facing the regions," said the senator.

    The new draft law envisages amendments to the law on investment activities, a single legal mechanism to promote investment and economic growth on a new technological basis, emphasised Mr Provkin.

    The participants in the hearings recommended that the Federation Council and the State Duma (parliament's lower chamber) should consider the bill on special economic zones as soon as possible.

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