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The inaugural session of Rashakai Special Economic Zone, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is expected to be held by the end of July, sources in the Board of Investment (BoI) said. An investment worth $138 million is expected from China in this industrial zone and it is among three SEZs which will be developed within next two years.

The BoI 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. 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 between Pakistan and China on the conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan's second visit to China in April, joint venture and license agreements were 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. While the concession agreement has been finalized however utility services to the zone are yet to be provided.

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 a requirement of 209 MW of electricity and 30 mmcfd gas for this SEZ. 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 envisaged under CPEC.

The BoI has prepared a comprehensive plan for fast-track development of notified seven SEZs in the next two years. The Board is the Secretariat of CPEC identified nine SEZs but has notified only seven which have been facing land acquisition, provision of utility services, security and other infrastructure issues.

The Board would take the proposed plan with a time line for revival of these SEZs to the committee of approvals to be headed by the recently appointed Chairman Board of Investment Zubair Gilani.

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 from all over the world.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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