CPEC Needs Punjab Speed
by Muhammad Mehdi
Editor's note: The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.
The growing steps of Pakistan and China reflect the fact that these two countries are serious about pursuing economic interests and eradicating poverty. And all of this has been reflected in the emergence of projects like CPEC.
Now as Pakistan welcomes Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for the then Chief Minister of Punjab who put forward the idea of “Punjab Speed”, there’s a need to advance the CPEC projects with a Punjab speed. With reference to Shehbaz Sharif, it was seen that he completed the development programs on time and also managed to complete many projects ahead of time. And at that time speedy development was called Punjab Speed.
It is quite clear that one of the most important projects for industrial cooperation between the two countries was the creation of special economic zones (SEZs) under CPEC to provide vast opportunities. The idea of a special economic zone was introduced because China had to move its industry somewhere with cheap labour and Pakistan could take advantage of this opportunity.
Importantly, for this purpose, Chinese investors must have full access to business facilities. One of them is that in the zone where they invest, they should have access to electricity, gas, land and other facilities under one window, but this has not yet happened in Pakistan due to which the interest of investors is low.
Some work has been done on economic zones, but the pace has been slow. Some delays were due to technical reasons such as availability of land, electricity, gas, etc., and delays in finalising agreements. Initially, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa identified Rashkai Economic Zone, Sindh named Economic Zone Dhabeji, Balochistan named Bostan Economic Zone, and Punjab identified Economic Zone Sheikhupura, Maqpoon Das Gilgit Baltistan, Bhimber Economic Zone Kashmir. Islamabad, on the other hand, identified industrial zones and partial industrial zones in industrial zones.
The Momand Industrial Zone in FATA was under consideration, but the first four were finalized as part of plans to be completed by 2023. The Board of Investment had to provide some facilities but there has been some delay, however. Work is being done so that an industrialist can set up an industry immediately. In the industrial zone of Faisalabad, some Chinese investors have taken up space and started working on facilities.
Another important issue that needs to be addressed immediately is that many Chinese nationals in Pakistan are also facing visa issues and their business visas have not been extended by the Interior Ministry. Government officials should understand that the issue is technical, as many Chinese nationals who come for CPEC have obtained business visas because they can be easily obtained.
However, according to Pakistani law, people living on this visa cannot get a visa extension while staying in the country and the extension is given only to those coming on a work visa.
To address this issue, the CPEC Authority has requested the Home Ministry to grant a one-time concession to such persons so that the business visas of such citizens who cannot return due to corona can be converted into work visas.