CPEC entering the industrial development phase

WITH several energy and infrastructure projects nearing completion, the multibillion dollar CPEC is now entering the crucial phase of industrial development. Three prioritized Special Economic Zones are set to take off, as during the second meeting of the joint working group the other day, Beijing agreed to cooperate in the development of Faisalabad, Hattar and Dhabeji industrial areas.

Development of the SEZs is the most critical part of the Long Term Plan of CPEC that promises industrialization of Pakistan, creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs and enhanced economic and trade activities via the Gwadar port. Therefore, there should not be any delay in the construction of the zones equipped with all the required facilities. The provincial governments need to fulfil their responsibilities vis-à-vis completing their feasibility studies on the remaining six sites of SEZs – the approval of which was given in principle by the 6th JCC held in December last year so that they could also see dawn of a new day at the earliest.

Whilst we have no doubt that the Chinese side will be more forthcoming to facilitate and encourage its companies to establish iconic projects in the zones to strengthen the Pak-China bilateral relations but simultaneously there is also need for our private sector to review and exploit the opportunities of launching joint ventures with the Chinese and other foreign friends interested to invest in the SEZs as this will provide them an opportunity to take advantage of their technology and expertise in different sectors, enabling higher productivity to meet the global standards. In fact such a mechanism needs to be developed and incentives are offered that attract more and more foreign investors in diverse fields ranging from processing of fruits, vegetables, minerals etc to the manufacturing sector.

In fact bringing value addition to our commodities including those relating to agriculture and textiles are very vital if we really want to give a major push to our {if not dwindling but stagnant} exports and address most of our economic woes and end reliance on foreign assistance. SEZs and industrial clusters are two important drivers of China’s remarkable economic development as they have contributed significantly to the GDP, employment, exports and foreign investment. The SEZs have also played role in bringing new technology to China and adopting modern management practices. Above all, the SEZs have successfully tested the market reforms in China and become role models for the rest of the world to follow. By using the Chinese experience, we are confident that the SEZs in our country will also bring a marked change and contribute to the overall development and wellbeing of the people. Definitely, for this, the government will have to provide the enabling environment and incentives to the industrial clusters to grow without any roadblock.