LAHORE: The Punjab government has initiated yet another project and this time its scope is not limited to key infrastructure development.
The project is a combination of academia and business and research centres and has the potential to convert the province into a knowledge-based economy.
The $1-billion Lahore Knowledge Park was conceived a few years ago, following which Lahore Knowledge Park Company was established in October 2014 to implement this huge project.
The management, which has almost completed its groundwork, is hopeful infrastructure work will commence by September this year and within the next 18 months, its first phase consisting of basic infrastructure facilities along with a couple of life-sciences universities will be completed, hence paving the way for private investment in the project.
“It is a very interesting concept from which the entire world is benefitting,” said Lahore Knowledge Park Chief Executive Officer Shahid Zaman while talking to The Express Tribune.
He said the project had been designed on the public-private partnership model where the Punjab government would spend 20% and the remaining 80% equity would be invested by the private sector over a span of 25 years.
“Lahore Knowledge Park will be a fourth generation park being established over 852 acres of land located a few kilometres from the Pak-India border. It will consist of universities and schools, science and innovation hubs, a retail and central business district, a residential district, an entertainment zone and green areas,” said Zaman while giving details.
“The project will serve as a growth engine for Lahore as it will promote education in five key areas, namely, life sciences and bio-technology, design and creative industry, information technology, computer sciences and science and engineering,” he added.
The financial plan of the knowledge park has been designed by Singapore-based company Frost and Sullivan. Once completed, it is estimated, the project will generate around Rs173 billion in labour income and Rs35 billion in tax revenue.
The total revenue over a period of 25 years is expected to be Rs5.9 trillion, Rs253 billion in labour income and Rs178 billion in corporate income taxes.
“The project has gained immense popularity among local and international investors and a couple of foreign firms have offered to invest the entire equity of $1 billion, however, we as a government want to keep the operational control and encourage more investors to bring their experience and innovation to this park,” said Zaman.
“The project, once operational, will create 40,000 jobs and produce 11,200 PhDs by 2040.”
“I think there is no need for the government to invest more, especially in the first phase that includes basic infrastructure and a couple of universities, since we have been approached by eight to 10 universities willing to open their campuses at the park,” said board member and entrepreneur Almas Hyder.
He said since it was a long-term project, successive governments would have to amend their rules and regulations accordingly for its sustainability.
Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) Vice Chancellor and Lahore Knowledge Park Board Member Dr Sohail Naqvi said it all depended on the governments as to how much they intended to invest in higher education.
“The spending has increased over the years and we may see more of such knowledge parks in the future.”
He said the knowledge park board had seasoned and experienced members and the change in governments would not affect the project.
“The project is valuable and attitudes of the governments are now changing; politicians now continue the projects, the main example of which is the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).”
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2016.