Industrialists oppose Punjab govt's garment city project

The Punjab government will establish a tax-free garment city to "transform" the country's textile sector and provide modern training to women workers. However, textile industrialists and exporters do not favour the new garment city. Instead, they stress the importance of improving the conditions in the existing industrial areas in different cities, including Faisalabad. 

A couple of days ago, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif announced the provincial government was going to establish a tax-free garment city. However, she did not disclose the location of this project. She said six months of free training and scholarships would be given to women under this initiative. 

She said her government was trying to eliminate gender disparity.

Muhammad Mustafa, an activist of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, talking to WealthPK, said the garment city would be established on an area of 2,000 acres. He said it would be a state-of-the-art establishment to be equipped with modern facilities to attract both local and international investors. 

He said the Punjab minister for industries, commerce and investment, Shafay Hussain, had been tasked by the chief minister to oversee the project. He said the CM had also formed a committee to study best practices prevalent in Bangladesh and other countries to establish "Plug and Play Model" garment cities. 

When asked about the rationale behind a new project instead of improving the existing industrial areas, Mustafa explained that there would be no role of pressure groups in the proposed garment city, where entrepreneurs could set up their units without facing any legal bottlenecks. 

He said the government was committed to improving existing industrial areas as well. "A committee set up by the CM will submit recommendations regarding improvement in these areas."  

Talking to WealthPK, Aftab Ahmed, an industrialist, shared his reservations about the proposed garment city. "Why does the government want to establish a new garment city instead of improving the infrastructure in the existing industrial areas?" 

Highlighting the challenges of the Faisalabad textile sector, he said they were finding it difficult to discharge industrial effluent as the existing sewerage system was incapable of handling it. "The effluent needs treatment before landing in the drains. However, nothing is being done in this respect." 

Besides, he said industrial pollution was also a prime environmental concern of Faisalabad. "The issue needs immediate attention of the rulers." 

Anwar Malik, an exporter, told WealthPK that amid unprecedented inflation, industrialists needed incentives to meet their growing production costs and stay competitive. "Instead of protecting the existing businesses, the government is going to take initiatives that won't provide any sort of boost to the textile industry," he insisted. 

He said the government could attract foreign investment by improving the infrastructure in industrial areas like Small Industrial Estate and Garment City established in Faisalabad years ago. 
"Make these areas tax-free rather than heavily investing in new ventures. Upgrading the existing areas will surely lead to job creation and industry development," he argued. 

He said rulers tended to launch new projects for political gains but forgot about maintaining the old ones. "It's a dilemma of our society, and this approach has cost us dearly."

"Hundreds of women are working in multiple garment factories to earn livelihood for their families. We must impart the latest training to them to enhance their skills. Such women are already supporting businesses and strengthening the national economy," he demanded. 

Anwar said the government should develop a policy that ensures the modernisation of all industrial areas of the province instead of focusing on a specific location.

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