Chinese company ready to invest $3b in Lahore project

Will pour capital into clean drinking water and sanitation system

“We are seeking assistance from donors and investors to establish an industrial zone in the middle of south Punjab,” said PBIT chairman. PHOTO: FILE

A Chinese environmental company is ready to invest $3 billion in the clean drinking water and sanitation system in Lahore, said Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) Chairman Sardar Tanveer IIyas Khan.

Although he did not disclose the name of the company saying negotiations were at early stages, he revealed that the same company had already completed a couple of hydro projects in Pakistan.

In an interview with The Express Tribune, the PBIT chairman said the metropolitan city did not have a single water filtration plant, though it had expanded its boundaries with its allied districts.

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“This is the main reason why our underground water is becoming arsenic; Lahore does not have any water management and waste collection system; if things go smoothly, then the city will get an entirely new and modern water management system,” he said. “Citizens will have to pay to get these civic necessities and this will be expanded to other cities later.”

The previous provincial government had established many companies to tackle such issues largely in partnership with Turkish companies like Lahore Waste Management Company, which was set up to collect garbage and clean main arteries of Lahore.

Punjab Saaf Pani Company was another initiative of the previous Punjab government to provide clean drinking water in southern Punjab, but it failed to deliver within the stipulated time frame.

The PBIT chairman added that apart from the Chinese investment, his department had an eye on overseas Pakistanis in order to encourage them to invest in different ventures in the provincial industrial zones.

“Punjab has almost 7.6 million registered overseas workforce, which sends almost Rs2 trillion annually,” he said. “It is the biggest motivation for us as this workforce can invest in the processed food industry and different industrial zones.”

He was of the view that the government needed to resolve the issues faced by overseas Pakistanis by being out of the nation before inviting them to pour capital into Punjab.

“When the government expects the PBIT to attract investors into new sectors, it should also strengthen the department first by giving it powers,” Khan suggested. He pointed out that the Overseas Pakistanis Commission was formed back in 2014 and until early 2019 not a single meeting could be held because only the chief minister could chair such meetings.

He noted that the chief minister could not spare time, hence, he should not head meetings which were crucial for the PBIT - a major department for attracting investment from overseas Pakistanis and other foreign investors.

As per statistics provided by the PBIT, almost $3 billion worth of projects had been initiated in the past three years and an additional $3 billion worth of initiatives were in the pipeline. The chairman said his department was working to persuade domestic and foreign investors to invest in small and heavy industries despite the issues of approval and memorandum of understanding that they faced from different departments.

“Departments’ intervention should be minimal if the government wants to see huge investment flows.”

The chairman pointed out that agriculture and livestock production was tremendous in Punjab, however, the province had to encourage value-added products in the sector.

“We are seeking assistance from donors and investors for establishing an industrial zone in the middle of south Punjab, where value-addition industrial units will be promoted,” he shared.

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He declared that Punjab, as a province, had shunned the traditional system and was working on modern lines. Khan pointed out that fruits, vegetables and even the pulping sector of the province had the potential to generate extraordinary foreign exchange.

“There is a potential of receiving $60-70 million per annum from Saudi Arabia alone by exporting tomato ketchup,” he underlined. “If we work on meat, wheat and fruit processing segments, we will not only get a mammoth share of revenue but will also lay the foundation of another industrial revolution in Punjab.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2019.

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