KARACHI - Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that he is actively working to introduce investment and business enabling reforms (ease of doing business) by deregulating the business environment and facilitating business by reducing procedures.

He said this on Saturday while speaking as a chief guest at Pakistan South East Asia Business Forum organised at a local hotel.

He said that his government had executed 15 procedural reforms and eliminated the need to take NOCs from SEPA and SBCA for certain categories. “We have reduced time for water and electricity connections and have also digitalised more than 90 percent of land record and more than 50 percent of land record archives,” he said.

Murad said that his government was working on plans to urgently review provincial taxation collection system distributed across different agencies for new businesses and make them online and rationalise their collection procedures and points. “We are set to open business facilitation centres in Karachi and then in other big cities in the province,” he said and added, “We are launching an online business registration portal, which will be available in all departments, business facilitation centres and then on mobile apps.” Elaborating it further, he said the portal would allow a new business to register with industry, labour, excise, SECP and FBR through a single application.

The chief minister said that Karachi’s weight in the World Bank’s Doing Business index is 60 percent and the government of Sindh was committed to improving Pakistan’s ranking, which was currently at 147. He said that he was also committed to developing new and bigger business in Hyderabad, Sukkur and other resource rich cities in the province. “One of the important factors for the success of ease of doing business reforms is communication and awareness,” he said and added “we are working closely with the private sector, which is suggesting improvements and helping in projection of our efforts.” He said that a very capable private sector Advisory Committee has been formed for guidance. Being chief minister he said he was committed to re-industrialising Sindh and unleashing prosperity through business.

Murad said the provincial government significantly contributed to resolving Pakistan‘s energy crisis by building power plants based on renewable and indigenous fuel (Thar coal, wind, etc). He said the road network throughout Sindh under the CPEC and connecting Sindh to Punjab and Balochistan created opportunities for new industries and trade by providing business access to domestic markets.

He said that agriculture business is a priority of his government and “we support it financially and strategically. Warehousing, logistics, food processing, aquaculture along the 300km coastline of Sindh, value added exports of agri produce, better farming and water usage, technology inputs and support for rice milk modernisation are some of the areas we are working in,” he said. “We work on research for better crops, trading produce on the mercantile exchange and collateralised is in progress,” he said. Talking about textile, the chief minister said that textiles have been the major export earner and “we are focused on encouraging value added textiles and garment manufacturing. Since Karachi is the city where auto manufacturers do business and the provincial government is keen to support auto parts manufacturing”. He said his government was facilitating large investments in refineries, steel, cement and petrochemicals as demand for these essential growth components in Pakistan continued to rise. He said that his government had earmarked funds for development of a marble city on 300 acres to mobilise marble and stone refining and processing industry on a large commercial scale and increase export revenues.

Talking about tourism industry, the chief minister said that tourism and commercial hospitality was supported and encouraged. He disclosed that his government had plans to develop modern tourist resorts and entertainment centres at Keenjhar, Gorakh Hill in Karachi and other parts of the province. He said that there were tremendous opportunities for hotels in Sindh secondary cities and all possible support was available for these projects. “Sindh should be a place to do more business and also a place to go for tourism given its history, culture and beauty,” he said. Murad said that Special Economic Zones (SEZ) were being established Dhabejji under CPEC projects. “Pakistan’s first three SEZs are in Sindh and the first SEZ at Khairpur,” he said and added that the provincial government has invested more than Rs50 billion to develop the SEZ.

The chief minister said that development of Dhabejji SEZ under CPEC was scheduled to begin by the end of this year. “It is spread over 1500 acres and is located within 40km of two ports and the airport, and 20km from one of Pakistan’s oldest industrial estates at Landhi. It is set to be Pakistan’s best connected and most viable SEZ in Pakistan. The zone will have steel mills, a petrochemical factory, a logistics park in collaboration with NLC, a food processing park, an auto parts centre, and garment manufacturing factories, etc,” he said.

Murad said that his government welcomed all industries from all partner countries to do business at Djabejji SEZ. “Dhabeji SEZ will also have a five star hotel, a state-of-the-art vocational centre and 1.5km train line station. For this purpose, a request for a dedicated cargo terminal has been submitted to the Ministry of Railways,” he concluded.