Prioritise Special Economic Zones  


TWO important decisions of the Government on Wednesday reflected its desire to make a difference as far as strengthening of the national economy is concerned, which is the only sure way to get rid of foreign loans and restore national self-respect and prestige in the face of growing blackmail and dictation by multilateral institutions and some bilateral donors. The 6th meeting of the Board of Approval for SEZs chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad approved three new SEZs – National Science and Technology Park, Islamabad,  JW-SEZ China-Pakistan SEZ, Raiwind, Punjab and  Dhabeji SEZ, Sindh, taking the total number of SEZs to 20. The Prime Minister also formed the Economic Outreach Apex Committee and the Economic Outreach Coordination Group for the promotion of economic diplomacy.
Experts argue that industrialization is key to progress and development as it   raises national income, creates employment opportunities and improves the balance of payments position both by producing exportable goods and by substituting imports besides supporting and stimulating development in other sectors of the economy. Industrial clusters are created the world over because it is far easier to provide necessary infrastructure in designated places than to do so at countless scattered places all over the country. The successive governments in Pakistan also announced plans for creation of economic zones and special economic zones with incentives for investors but these achieved limited success because of various factors including precarious law and order situation, political instability, lack of continuity of policies, inadequate infrastructure, lack of proper incentives and rising cost of doing business. In this backdrop, it is encouraging that the present Government has started focusing on removing major hurdles in this regard as the Prime Minister himself is frequently holding meetings to review progress on policies and measures announced by his Government to bring down the cost of doing business and streamline processes and procedures for investment.
Similarly, for the first time, practical measures are being taken to translate into reality the plan to establish SEZs under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The SEZs planned under CPEC are meant to attract Chinese investors, who would relocate their manufacturing establishments to Pakistan to move closer to the growing Pakistani middle-class urban consumer base and the thriving export markets of the Middle East and North Africa. In return, Pakistan would get investments and jobs, ushering in a new era of industrialisation. Despite these clear advantages and willingness of the Chinese to relocate their industries, we have been slow in setting up these zones but a good beginning has been made from the Rashakai economic zone in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Prime Minister has directed the authorities concerned to ensure provision of utilities including electricity and gas to the SEZs and also sought a report within one month on availability of facilities in the existing zones. Things move in Pakistan only on intervention from the top and hopefully the PM would continue his focus on creation of new zones and provision of all necessary facilities and incentives to prospective investors as industrialization would help overcome most of our economic woes. Progress on this front would also help realize the dream of the Prime Minister who announced to make Pakistan self-reliant and a global economic power.