Industrial boom and SEZs

PM Shehbaz Sharif recently visited the Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ), located in KP, along with high-ranking Chinese officials of the company which is developing Rashakai SEZ. At present, nine SEZs are being developed across the country. On the occasion, PM proposed the launch of roadshows in China to highlight Pakistan’s potential for trade and investment, hoping Chinese investors would come and invest in these SEZs. The PM also hoped that SEZs would boost industrialisation, and exports, and generate employment. The PM reiterated that all the problems and hurdles in the smooth execution of SEZs would be addressed on a priority basis.
However, there are many operational and policy-level problems, among others, that need deliberation and elaboration to attain the aspirations and hopes attached to SEZs, especially in the scenario of the present financial meltdown. First, cheap labour has been often trumpeted as an attraction and incentive for Chinese investors. But then the question is whether the available manpower is trained and educated enough for the industries that Chinese investors are willing to relocate to Pakistan. Second, is China ready to the transfer of technology (ToT) with Pakistan and train local manpower accordingly, or would we end up importing SKDs and CKDs kits, just like the auto sector and other consumer-oriented goods industry, of equipment for the next couple of decades, which would be a continuous drain on our foreign reserves?
Third, we are presently making efforts to populate the SEZs, something which should have been started in parallel when the first phase of CPEC was launched. This would have helped to identify the potential investors and their favoured industries, which would have helped to prioritise the infrastructural development of SEZs, instead of presently developing all the nine SEZs at the same time. Fourth, we are hoping that Chinese investors would come to populate these SEZs and roadshows are to be conducted to apprise them of opportunities in Pakistan, but should not the Chinese government be assisting Pakistan by nudging the Chinese investors to invest in Pakistan, as CPEC along with SEZs is the brainchild of China; and Pakistan has taken hard and soft loans of billions of US dollars to finance CPEC and its associated projects.
Now, moving to the policy level: what sort of policies exist at provincial levels to facilitate, populate and develop the SEZs? And if these policies exist, do these provincial-level policies treat each SEZ as a separate, disparate entity, or does the policy look at SEZs as inter-connected, supporting and feeding each other? Similarly, is there a federal level policy, which offers directions on types of industries to be facilitated, fiscal and financial incentives to be made, and help gel provincial governments develop inter-provincial level policies so that all the provinces can help each other in industrialisation, export promotion and employment generation?
Thus, federal and provincial level policies need to be developed with mutual consensus to sort out the issues and problems, and give a general direction to the development of SEZs in the country to help in general industrialisation, export promotion and employment generation.

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