Can SEZ Industrial Parks Help Pakistan Become an Export Powerhouse?

Asian Tigers built their strong economies by becoming export powerhouses. China has done so in more recent decades.  How can Pakistan do the same? An answer to this question came this week from Karen Chen of China's Challenge Apparel. Here's what she said as reported by Dawn News:

“Chinese want to shift their business to a place where they can set up their operations in 3-6 months. You know when you go overseas to invest even in Africa they have industrial parks ready. You just go there and enjoy the ‘plug-and-play’ facility. No firm wants to waste two years in acquiring land and another couple of years in securing utilities to start operations. By the time you get utilities the opportunity is gone and you are already out of business. This is the biggest problem in Pakistan.”


Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation Building in Karachi



Pakistan was the original "Asian Tiger" back in the 1960s when other developing Asian economies sought to emulate Pakistan. It became an export powerhouse in the 1960s when the country's manufactured exports exceeded those of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined.  The creation of major industrial estates in Karachi under President Ayub Khan's industrial policy incentivized industrial production and exports of value added manufactured products such as textiles. Now the country's industrial output lags its neighbors'. 

History of Pakistan's Manufactured Exports


With Chinese looking to relocate some of their industrial production to low-cost countries, Pakistan has a golden opportunity to grow its industrial output and exports again. Here's Karen Chen explaining why:

“Vietnam is too crowded already and moved into automobiles and electronics. There is no space for investment in Vietnam. Myanmar doesn’t have infrastructure. India is terrible. In Bangladesh you don’t have right conditions for setting up fabric units. So Pakistan is the ideal location for such garment manufacturing because of abundance of cheaper labour. The investment and tax policies for SEZs and new projects are also good. We’ve confidence to be at here.”

Seizing the opportunity to attract export-oriented investors will help Pakistan avoid recurring balance-of-payments crises that have forced the nation to seek IMF bailouts with all their tough conditions. Focusing on "Plug and Play" Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to be essential to achieve this objective.

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Riaz Haq said…
Zhang Baozhong, the chairman of China Overseas Ports Holding Company – the firm that operates Gwadar Port – has said that the first phase of the special economic zone under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been completed in which 43 Chinese companies are going to invest while 200 more firms have been registered for the purpose.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2284513/43-chinese-firms-all-set-to-invest-in-gwadar-sez-cophc

Talking to The Express Tribune, the chairman said that besides infrastructure and energy projects, various industries, including textiles, chemicals, automobiles and mobiles, would be set up in the Gwadar industrial zone, which will create more employment opportunities.

Baozhong rejected the reports circulating in the media about hindrances in the multibillion-dollar project, saying that work on CPEC is going on in full swing and there are no impediments as the “government of Pakistan is extending full cooperation”.

“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the pace of work has not slowed down and many CPEC projects have been completed ahead of time,” Baozhong said, adding that after the completion of CPEC, Gwadar will become the largest port in the region and an important economic hub in the world, which would benefit various countries.

“The Gwadar Port is fully operational and cargo ships have started arriving,” he said, announcing that a liquefied natural gas terminal will also be established at the port.

“CPEC is a great economic project,” he said. “It is a symbol of the cohesive relationship between

Pakistan and China and a testament to our friendship.”

Donning the national dress of Pakistan, he chanted the slogan "long live Pak-China friendship".

On the attire, he said, "I like shalwar kameez as my heart beats for Pakistan."
Meanwhile, Gwadar Development Authority Director General Shahzeb Khan Kakar told The Express

Tribune that under the 2050 Master Plan, the issues of water and electricity for the “150,000 people” of Gwadar would be resolved by the end of next year (2022). However, the people of the port city claim that their population is over 300,000.

“Work is in full swing on a desalination plant, which will convert five million gallons of seawater into drinking water and a 300 megawatts coal-fired power plant,” Kakar said. “Both the projects will be functional by January 2023.”

He also announced projects worth Rs20 billion for the uplift of the people of Gwadar.
“Efforts are afoot to turn Gwadar into a tax-free economic zone and a port city,” he said, adding that a one-window system is also being introduced to facilitate investors.

He shared that they were inviting the business community to establish industries in Gwadar for the generation of revenue. “A 250-km road network has been laid in Gwadar,” Kakar said, adding that an industrial zone in Gwadar would comprise three divisions. “An education city and a diplomatic zone will also be established in the port city.”

Further, Balochistan Department of Industry and Commerce Additional Secretary Manzoor Hussain said that the provincial government has formulated rules for allotment of land in industrial zones in the province. “Land will now be allotted in industrial zones only to those industrialists who will set them up within the stipulated timeframe,” Hussain said, adding that work on development projects in Gwadar was under way under CPEC.

On the development of the port city, Gwadar Industrial Estate Development Authority Managing Director Attaullah Jogezai said that the provincial government will soon allocate 20,000 acres of land for the special economic zone.

Gwadar Club Chairman Brigadier (retd) Asif Mehmood said, “Special security arrangements have been made in and around Gwadar, which has led to peace in Balochistan.”
Riaz Haq said…
Maple Leaf Cement Mulls Expansion as Pakistan Demand Revives - Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-23/maple-leaf-cement-mulls-expansion-as-pakistan-demand-revives

Maple Leaf Cement Factory Ltd., a Pakistani maker of the construction material, is considering boosting capacity by almost a third to tap demand as the economy recovers, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Lahore-based company plans to increase its capacity by about 7,000 tons a day at its current facility, the people said, asking not to be identified citing a private matter. The proposal is in final stages and the company is discussing the plan with banks and machinery suppliers, the people said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to offer tax cheats amnesty for investing in building homes has spurred a construction boom and is helping revive economic growth. Local sales for the building material is expected to rise 17% in the year ending June, the most in five years, according to Insight Securities Pvt.

Read more: Tax Cheats Get Free Pass If They Invest in Pakistan Housing

The company’s shares rose 1.2% at 1:30 p.m. in Karachi after jumping as much as 2.3%. The stock has almost doubled in the past year compared with 14% gain in the nation’s benchmark KSE-100 Index.

The South Asian nation is witnessing a wave of expansions in the cement industry with Lucky Cement Ltd., Kohat Cement Co. and Fauji Cement Co. deciding to increase capacity, while D.G. Khan Cement Co. is expected to take a final decision by the end of this month.

Maple Leaf will use internal funds to finance the expansion and won’t sell additional shares, one of the people said. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

With cement, fuel and car sales rising to levels before the pandemic, Khan’s government is targeting a growth of 2.1% in the current financial year, after the first contraction in 68 years in the year ended June.

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