Pakistan and China on Friday signed an agreement on financing a feasibility study for the Gwadar port and city master plan which envisions the port city as a regional economic hub.
Tariq Bajwa, the secretary of Economic Affairs Division, and China’s Ambassador Sun Weidong signed the letter of exchange for the feasibility study of the project on behalf of the respective governments.
The government-to-government arrangement will see China provide a The Express Tribune of Rs410 million to finance the study that is expected to be completed in one year.
Under the exercise, the existing master plan for Gwadar city will be updated and integrated with the master plan for the port there.
After the port had been included in the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, there had been a need to update existing plans of the city to reflect the new strategic direction.
According to a handout issued by the finance ministry, the Chinese side had last year agreed to finance the study under The Express Tribune assistance. Subsequently representatives of the Chinese Commerce Ministry and Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform of Pakistan had met in Beijing on August 25, 2015 to discuss details of the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan Project.
They discussed the implementation mode, objectives, scope and timeframe arrangements of the project. The feasibility study aims to identify Gwadar’s competitive advantages vis-a-vis regional ports and developing a business case for the port, its contribution to export-led growth, market creation, industrialisation, tourism and revenue generation.
In addition to developing a business case for the port and city, the feasibility study will also suggest strategies to facilitate trade, tourism, community participation, public-private partnerships and industrial and economic development on a national and regional level.
Pakistan had handed over the control of Gwadar port to Chinese operators who are in the process of updating the port’s master plan. In November 2015, the government had signed a 43-year lease as it handed over thousands of acres of land to the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) to develop the special economic zones in the deep sea port.
According to the planning ministry documents, the current master plan of the city was last updated in 2005 and contains two inter-dependent elements: the port, and the city of Gwadar and simultaneous development of the port and the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2016.