Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal has said that Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will provide an opportunity for Chinese investments to take advantage of incentives that Pakistan offers to foreign investment with concessions.
The first Rashakai Special Economic Zone will be inaugurated later this month. Similarly, the other economic zones are also in the advanced stages, in Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan,” he told in an interview.
Pakistan, he said, also has a great advantage in low cost of labour. As in China, many industries are experiencing high costs of production due to increased levels of cost and are now moving to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Pakistan also has a great advantage in terms of low cost of production.
The minister said, Pakistan has a very good infrastructure and then it has the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework. So, it becomes a very attractive destination for Chinese enterprises to relocate to these economic zones in Pakistan.
About specific Chinese companies who are looking forward to cooperating in this regard, he said, there are many Chinese companies which are coming. Many have invested in Gwadar free zone.
“But, we are now really looking forward to developing our agriculture sector based on new technologies. We are seeking cooperation to upgrade the quality of our seeds so those companies which have research and seed development can help us,” he added.
Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan is also looking for new irrigation technologies to conserve water and bring efficiency to agriculture, adding, “We are also looking for a food processing industry that has a great opportunity.”
Regarding great opportunity in the mining sector, he said, Pakistan has huge marble deposits, which can be tapped with new technology and similarly, Pakistan has other mines like lithium and other material which is used in electric vehicles. “So, we can develop that.
He said Pakistan is also looking for joint cooperation and technology, particularly information technology. Pakistan has a young population with very good IT skills.
“Many Chinese technology companies are shifting to Pakistan to take advantage of the low cost of human resources and high skills that our young population has. So, I think agriculture, industry, mining, IT, energy sector all these areas are very promising for Chinese enterprises to invest in Pakistan,” he added.
The minister said big Chinese real estate companies can come and invest in the housing sector and added, “We have a huge shortage of housing so they can come and address urban housing issues with investments. We are offering very attractive terms for public-private partnership.”
Responding to a question about the security of CPEC projects, he said, the government of Pakistan is taking extra precautions for the security of the Chinese. We have provided four layers of security to CPEC projects. But, the CPEC is a very strategic project, and the enemies of China and Pakistan don’t want to see it succeed.
Therefore, it is very important that both Pakistan and China show their strong desire that they will not be deterred and they will not be stopped by any unpleasant incident, he added.
He stressed the need to work together and the only way to defeat such evil designs is to be not stopped by any unpleasant incident.
About the kind of measures that have been taken to protect the Chinese enterprise, he said, a special force of 10,000 personnel has been created which is totally dedicated to the security of CPEC projects.
“And, then we have integrated this force with our police, para-military forces and local security. These security personnel are deployed to provide the highest level of security,” he added.
To a question, he said, all the negative propaganda against CPEC has a political element and it has no reality. CPEC has actually done great service to Pakistan by helping it overcome the energy crisis, develop modern infrastructure and restore the country’s image as an investment destination.
After China invested $25 billion of investment in different projects under the CPEC framework, everyone started looking at Pakistan as an investment destination. Actually, CPEC became a global brand for Pakistan, he added.
Sharing his personal feelings about the CPEC project, he said, the beauty of CPEC is that this project was between those two countries, which enjoy a very unique relationship.
Normally countries come close when they need and they get farther away when they don’t need each other. But, in China and Pakistan’s case, it has been always spring. There has never been autumn in this relationship.
He said the relationship between Pakistan and China is based on mutual trust and iron brotherhood which makes CPEC also very unique. The leaders and officials from both countries worked with full devotion and passion to make it successful.
“I think, it is that passion that enabled us to achieve so much and just in 10 years,” he added.