Gawadar, a port city on a breathtaking and mesmerizing coastline, can undoubtedly be developed into a major tourist attraction in Pakistan. Conceived as a natural deep water port in the early nineties, its scope has increased manifold over the years. In 2015, with the launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a pilot project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gawadar assumed a crucially important strategic place in connecting Western China with the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Europe for reaping optimal benefits of shared development by easing trade, tourism and cultural ties in the region.
Rightly dubbed as the ‘Jewel of CPEC’, Gawadar is an ideal location for industry, business and tourism to thrive, with a huge potential to generate economic activities with numerous employment opportunities. According to a conservative estimate, once developed fully, the Gawadar free economic zones may generate economic activities worth US$ 13 billion annually.
The Gawadar South Free Zone covers 66 acres of land; whereas the North Free Zone, inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan during his visit to Gawadar on 5th of July 2021, is planned to be developed over more than 2200 acres of land, making it almost 35 times larger than the South Free Zone. It would offer huge investment opportunities to the business community, both local and foreign. Notable Chinese investors have expressed their commitment via a video link to tap Pakistan’s huge economic potential by investing more than US$ 100 billion in the Gawadar Free Zones in various labor and investment intensive projects.
On that occasion, other projects inaugurated by the Prime Minister under the CPEC framework included the establishment of an Agriculture Industrial Park, the Gawadar Expo Center, the Gawadar Animal Vaccine Plant, a Lubricants Plant and the Gawadar Fertilizer Plant. Moreover, two MOUs were also signed between the Government of Pakistan and Chinese companies for the installation of a desalination plant and a powerhouse to provide clean drinking water and affordable clean energy to address two of the major issues plaguing the area.
Besides all this, the construction of the East Bay Expressway would go a long mile in improving upon connectivity of Gawadar port with Karachi, the leading industrial and business center of the country, for the promotion of economic activities in the region.
Foreign direct investment is expected from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Kenya.
A One Window Facilitation Process to ensure ease of doing business is the need of the hour to lure in foreign investors. Cognizant of the fact, the federal Government is taking practical steps to clear hiccups in the process by developing a robust mechanism with the help of Balochistan’s provincial government. Besides, the government is mindful about developing the Baluchistan province, especially its southern part.
Last year’s historic package worth Pakistan Rs. 654 billion for the development of Southern Baluchistan is a clear evidence of the government’s commitment to the socio-economic development of this long-neglected region. 53 development projects for Baluchistan worth PRs 100 billion have been included in the Federal PSDP portfolio of FY 2021-22. These include projects in transport, infrastructure, provision of clean drinking water, agriculture and livestock, information technology, energy, industry and trade, education and development of human resources. Moreover, besides the provision of LPG, efforts are underway to increase supply of electricity to the region from 12% to 57%, which will further ramp up economic activiries.
Under the digital Baluchistan program, internet connectivity will be improved besides the provision of high speed internet connectivity around major transport arteries of the province. Moreover, 35,000 youth of Baluchistan would be trained in digital skills under Ignite Programme of Ministry of IT and Telecommunication. These measures would provide many online employment opportunities to the tech-savvy and talented youth of the region.