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The Board of Investment (BoI) has prepared a comprehensive plan for fast-track development in notified seven Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in next two years. The Board as Secretariat of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) identified nine SEZs but notified seven which have been facing land acquisition, provision of utility services, security and other infrastructure issues. Previous Government of Pakistan Muslim League-N had notified these SEZs.

Chairman BOI Haroon Sharif told Business Recorder that the Board would take the proposed plan with a time framework for the revival of these SEZs to committee of approvals. "Initially we will focus on the development of three SEZs- Rashakai Economic Zone , M-1, Nowshera, China Special Economic Zone Dhabeji and Allama Iqbal Industrial City (M3), Faisalabad in the next two years", he said. China agreed to facilitate operationalisation of at least one SEZ under CPEC as Pakistan is yet to show progress on the remaining zones.

Among the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs)/agreements signed by Pakistan and China on the conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan's second visit to China last month, Joint Venture and License agreement was also signed between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development and Management Company (KPEZDMC) and China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) for cooperation in operationalising Rashakai SEZ in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The two are engaged in the final stages of finalizing and signing the Concession Agreement, following which the Ground Breaking of the project will take place. Though, the concession agreement has been finalized yet utility services to the zone are yet to be provided. Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform and the CEO of CRBC have both termed the Rashakai economic zone as a model SEZ for other planned SEZs.

Earlier Pakistan had requested China's cooperation in developing at least one SEZ. Rashakai Industrial Zone in Nowshera would consist of 1,000 acres of land and focus on fruit, food packaging and textile stitching/knitting. There is requirement of 209 MW of electricity and 30 mmcfd gas for this SEZ. Rashakai Economic Zone is strategically located on M1 Motorway at an intersection linking to CPEC through Burhan interchange. The first SEZ at Rashakai will be inaugurated during the current month, where 20 factories would be set up initially.

Dhabeji Industrial Zone also consists of 1,000 acres of land and would target foundries, steel, building material, petrochemical, automotive and allied, light engineering, textile and garments etc. It requires 200MW electricity and 15 mmcfd gas. The sources said that more than 790MW electricity and 200 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas will be required for nine SEZs under CPEC.

The nine SEZs include: (1) Rashakai Comprehensive SEZ, Nowshera, KP, (2) Allama Iqbal Industrial City, Faisalabad, (3) China Special Economic Zone, Dhabejji Thatta, (4) IT Park, Islamabad, (5) Bostan Industrial Zone, Balochistan, (6) SEZ Port Qasim Karachi, (7) Moondash SEZ, Gilgit-Baltistan, (8) Mirpur SEZ, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and (9) Momand Marbel City, TATA.

The government has proposed additional incentives for industrial zones, for example one window operation by Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA), bulk purchase of basic utilities and renting out of sheds for industrial use, etc, and all SEZs in Pakistan will be open for investors not only from China but also globally. There will be equal incentive structure for all investors. And no additional concession/incentive will be given to Chinese investors.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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