ISLAMABAD: After a delay of almost five months, the Rashkai Special Economic Zone of China Pakistan Economic Corridor would finally be inaugurated in May or early June by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is planning a visit to Pakistan by mid of this year.
This was disclosed by the Board of Investment (BoI) Secretary Omer Rasul while addressing a ‘Dialogue on Industrial Cooperation under CPEC and SEZs Framework’ on Tuesday.
“Since a successful contract between the Economic Zones Development and Management Company and the state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has been signed to develop the Rashkai Special Economic Zone (RSEZ), the work on the first SEZ under CPEC will start in a month,” the BoI secretary said.
He said the government would ensure availability of utility services along with the infrastructure at the SEZ in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within next one month while practical work on the first phase of the zone would be started by the mid of this year. “We are committed to providing over 60 MW to the zone in one year,” he said, adding that the Punjab government was also doing good job on development of M3 SEZ in Faisalabad.
He said among the three priority zones, Dhabeji SEZ would be the best zone because of its location.
He admitted that bureaucratic hurdles, complicated procedures of approving the project and PC-I, involvement of multiple departments in the execution of the project and fear of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) were among the major hurdles which cause delays in the execution of any project in the country.
As per the plan, Rashakai SEZ, located in Nowshera district, will be spread over 778 acres of land and will be developed in three phases over six years. It was earlier planned to be inaugurated in November 2019 but delayed for the absence of utility services and contract with the Chinese developer.
Meanwhile, speaking on the occasion, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood said that the government’s strategy for the future of the country was being prepared considering CPEC and the Special Economic Zones being developed under the corridor.
Dawood laid out the framework of economic development strategy and stated that the future lies in export-led growth strategy, which makes the development of SEZs more vital to improve the capacity and to complement the export requirements of the country.
He explained that Pakistan’s economy faced a lot of challenges, in terms of fiscal and current account deficits, and required serious steps in terms of devaluation, control on imports and government expenditures.
He apprised the participants that export-led growth strategy has already started bearing fruits as Pakistan had posted 13.6pc growth in exports during February 2020 (in terms of value), while all other regional competitors showed a decreasing trend.
The adviser appreciated the efforts of exporters and businessmen for achieving this result and expressed his gratitude towards China for the phase-II of the Free Trade Agreement, which, according to him, was poised to further boost growth in overall exports of Pakistan.
Explaining the objective of Special Economic Zones under CPEC, Dawood informed that the SEZs were open for businessmen from all countries and nationalities, as lucrative incentives under SEZs were the same for everyone.
He added that investments in various sectors have started to pour in and that this momentum would pick up in the coming days. Dawood underscored that the second phase of CPEC was about “industrial and agricultural cooperation”, while the next phase would be about connectivity with regional and global markets, as a part of the overall Belt and Road Initiative.
Earlier, talking to the gathering, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing explained that the second phase of CPEC would include the engagement of private sector, local community and society at large.
He underlined that the current phase of CPEC would cover cooperation in industrial, agriculture, social, poverty alleviation and science & technology sectors, with an aim to boost the economy of Pakistan as well as to raise the skillset and living standards of the local population.