Approving three new Special Economic Zones (SEZs) during a meeting of the Board of Approval (BOA) means that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is moving forward with promise. Establishing new SEZs will ensure ease of doing business and provide a favourable environment to the business community in the country. Given the significance of CPEC for international trade, the SEZs across Pakistan can become hubs of production. With our performance in production lagging, operational SEZs stand to improve capabilities and eventually increase exports as well.

Additionally, these SEZs can enhance the urgently required economic activity in the country, provided the government provides incentives to investors, both domestic and foreign. No one can deny the importance of SEZs for a country like Pakistan that has an important strategic location and is still undergoing development.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) understands too well the significance of such zones for creating employment opportunities to the youth of the country that is 64 percent of the total population. Despite recent improvements, the surrounding business environment in Pakistan is still less than optimal. However, the real task is not approving such industrial hubs. The actual challenge before the state will be to make these zones success stories.

For this, the government must work closely with potential investors and remain attentive to their needs. Also, Pakistan must provide the firms with productivity benefits rather than offers of tax holidays. Experts on SEZs believe that tax exemptions are often among the least important of any firm’s consideration. The government must use the private sector where possible to speed things up and encourage more investment. But before anything else, the authorities must ensure that the progress on the approved zones is consistent and they start operating as per schedule.