KARACHI: The Dhabeji Special Economic Zone, which is high on the agenda of Pakistan and China to make it part of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has received an overwhelming response from potential foreign and local investors.
The zone to be developed over an area of 1,000 acres is most likely to win CPEC status in next meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) of the two countries scheduled to be held in December 2017.
“The zone has won 99% CPEC status. Only a formal approval is required to declare it part of the Chinese projects,” said Sindh Board of Investment (SBI) Chairperson Naheed Memon.She was talking to media on the sidelines of a dialogue between Chinese and Pakistani government officials on the development of the industrial zone.
Seven officials of China International Engineering Consultant Corporation (CIECC) were part of the dialogue, including policymaking for the zone.
Memon said SBI had received expressions of interest from around 25 big and small Pakistani and Chinese industrial investors. “The demand for acquisition of land is high enough that 1,000 acres of land for the zone seems small.”
The expressions of interest came from investors in different areas including steel, cement, chemicals, garments, logistics and pharmaceuticals.
The JCC would at least approve four special economic zones, one each in four provinces of Pakistan out of the proposed seven to eight zones in the country, it was learnt.
Dhabeji is part of the Thatta district and is near the suburbs of Karachi.
SBI has also received expressions of interest from Chinese investors for developing basic infrastructure for the zone.
Chinese are investing $62 billion in CPEC infrastructure and power houses on Pakistan’s soil.
The SBI chairperson said Sindh encouraged local investors to establish industrial units through joint ventures with Chinese investors. “This will help local investors to gain global expertise and technology.”
Joint ventures may allow local investors to avail themselves of tax holidays and other incentives to be given to the Chinese investors under CPEC. “The government wants each and every industry to be set up in the zone, it should be through joint venture,” she said.
Memon said joint ventures would help Chinese investors understand Pakistan’s culture.
The federal government and the Federal Board of Revenue have the authority to approve the Dhabeji Sepcial Economic Zone.
Memon, who is also the vice chairperson of the Special Economic Zone Authority, said Dhabeji had a great strategic importance of being close to the seaport, the airport and the railways and roads network.
The zone is to see the start of construction and development work by the end of 2018, she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2017.