Unable to secure land, size of capital’s SEZ shrinks

More than halves the direct employment opportunities it would offer

Haseeb Hanif February 07, 2019
A view of Islamabad. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Even as the country eyes substantial gains from the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor, the shortage of land is posing a serious threat to the establishment of a special economic zone in the federal capital.

It has been disclosed that the Islamabad Economic Zone (IEZ), being built under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), will now be built on 200 acres, instead of the 500 acres of land it was originally estimated to be based on.

Owing to its area being reduced, it is now expected to generate only 1,500 direct jobs and 5,000 indirect jobs.

According to documents of the project available with Daily Express, the government will set up Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under CPEC, including the Hattar SEZ in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Dhabeji SEZ in Sindh, Allama Iqbal Industrial Park in Balochistan, Moqpondass SEZ Gilgit-Baltistan, Mirpur SEZ in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) along with Marble City in the erstwhile federally administrated tribal areas (Fata).

Moreover, the federal government had planned to develop SEZs in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Model Industrial Zone and the Pakistan Steel Mills Land at Port Qasim near Karachi.

However, since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government took over, little to no progress has been seen in the SEZs under CPEC apart from some minor alterations.

The documents further disclosed that the decision to reduce the area allotted for the SEZ in Islamabad was made after the government failed to secure the proposed area of land.

Now, instead of building it over 500-200 acres, the economic zone will be built over 100-200 acres.

Had the SEZ’s size remained at 500 acres, it would have stood to generate some 5,000 direct jobs. But with its size being scaled back, this estimate has fallen to just 1,500 direct jobs.

Moreover, the government will now set up a services industry in the Islamabad SEZ despite initial plans of developing steel production units, food processing plans, pharmaceutical manufacturing factories, printing and packaging industries.

CPEC Project Director and spokesperson Hasan Daud Butt told Daily Express that they have been working on the SEZ since 2016 but the foundation for the project is expected to be laid later this year. Further, he stated that they were still reviewing a number of recommendations regarding the project as he maintained that the SEZ would create as many as 50,000 employment opportunities. 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2019.


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