CPEC: Pakistan’s industrialization starts in a big way

by Mian Saifur Rehman

Editor’s note: The writer is a senior Pakistani journalist who has visited China on a number of occasions. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.

As many as nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have already been envisaged under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework, Rashakai SEZ has practically become a center stage of growth and prosperity not only for the people of province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also for the whole of Pakistan.

This is not wishful thinking or a dream. Concrete work, combined with well-calculated offers of investment from a good few countries and their investors in Rashakai SEZ, has brightened the prospects of SEZs’ speedy success in Pakistan under the banner of CPEC. In this context, substantial number of applications have been received from several entrepreneurs for establishment of more industries in this SEZ besides the requests for allotment of industry-specific plots. The authorities concerned say that if this pace of interest in SEZs continues, more zones will have to be planned with the cooperation of China.

However, the pioneer in this area of regional or Pak-China cooperation, which has taken the lead, is Century Steel (Private) Limited which is owned by the Fuzhou Julitaihe International Company of China, a renowned steel and iron giant which also owns steel mills in Cambodia, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Indonesia, with the production capacity of approximately three billion tons. In Rashakai, the steel plant is expected to produce 0.25 million tonnes. Responding positively to Fuzhou Company’s initiative, the SEZs’ Committee has sanctioned the allotment of 40 acres of land to this venture.

Pakistan’s prime investment supervision body, Board of Investment (BoI) that works under the umbrella of Government of Pakistan, has stated that investment coming from Century Steel will be in the proximity of $ 50 million dollars. BoI sources are confident that this first-ever China-Pakistan industrial cooperation project, Rashakai Zone, would provide jobs to 1,000 people in the initial phases whereas the overall benefits accruing out of Special Economic Zones are going to be tremendous in many perspectives including employment sector as these zones have the capacity to provide direct and indirect jobs to more than 200,000 people besides attracting a huge investment of Rs 347 billion while some industries have already prepared plans to start construction very soon.

In the business world, steel production is considered to be a harbinger to any country’s optimal economic growth. In the past, some decades ago, Pakistan was able to get former Soviet Union’s (now Russia) cooperation at a large scale in the establishment of Pakistan Steel Mills at Karachi, the port city of Pakistan.

It was a game-changer of those times as it brought about a big boost to Pakistan’s economy in addition to generating thousands of jobs and creating skills. However, in the following years, mismanagement, favoritism, nepotism and expedient political decisions turned Pakistan Steel Mills into a white elephant, devouring Pakistan’s resources to the tune of billions of rupees with no solid benefits accruing during the last three, four decades or so.

In the framework of CPEC and China-Pakistan economic cooperation, there is no likelihood of such adverse things happening, given the Chinese government’s and companies’ successful experience of failsafe management that does not allow loose handling of things or decision-making based on considerations of expediency. China, by all economic standards, is a success story which is acknowledged in the East as well as in the West, even in the so-called advanced western world that has been expressing reservations about China’s peculiar models of governance and economy.

A broad cross section of the public opinion in Pakistan including, inter alia, businessmen, industrialists, politicians, state functionaries and media persons, have most often been expressing their gratitude and delight over China’s wholehearted cooperation with Pakistan which means a lot to the people of Pakistan. China’s cooperation is viewed here not only as a business deal that gives a lot of benefits or profits. Instead, Pakistanis collectively and invariably view CPEC as a highly valuable gift from Pakistan’s Iron Brother, i.e China, which has always come to Pakistan’s prompt help whenever Pakistan solicited China in any matter whatsoever. Even in this area of international connectivity, connecting the continents through roads, rails, joint trade and industrial ventures, under the greater BRI (Belt & Road Initiative) framework which encompass construction of six intercontinental corridors according to President Xi Jinping’s vision, China has received requests from 60 plus countries. However, Pakistan was the first and the foremost to get practical cooperation of China in this colossal mission of shared global prosperity.

As regards the industrial clusters that will be set up in the Rashakai SEZ, they include garments’ and textiles products, home building materials, general merchandise, electronics, electrical appliances and automobile and mechanical equipment.

Source: China Economic Net