ISLAMABAD - Board of Investment (BoI) Chairman Dr Miftah Ismail on Thursday said that the government is planning to establish 46 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) alongside the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route in the long run.

“Nine zones have already been declared prioritised during the 6th JCC meeting held in December, 2016”, he said at the concluding session of Pakistan China Industrial Cooperation dialogue. He further said that Chinese companies are working on a number of projects relating to energy, railways and road infrastructure.

He expressed the commitment of the government to nominate a working group to deliberate on how to build the zone. He expressed the views that either Pakistani or Chinese companies can build the zone or the same can be built jointly by both sides. The BoI chairman highlighted that products manufactured in these zones can not only to be exported but these can also be sold in the local Pakistani market, where they are not required to pay any customs duty. This makes the zone ideal for investors as Pakistan has a big market of 200 million plus people, he added.

Ismail pointed out that each zone has its special features for investors in terms of its location, raw material, skilled work force and linkages with other parts of the country and outside the country. China has rich experience in developing zones particularly from 1985 to 1995 and from 2009 till 2015 and Pakistan can learn much from Chinese experience.

Earlier, BoI Secretary Azher Ali Choudhry, in his opening remarks, expressed the hope that Chinese Experts Group must had a very successful site visit of Rashakai Special Economic Zone and bilateral meetings with the authorities concerned in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also requested Chinese side to share the composition and Terms of Reference of Chinese Experts Group to have the matchmaking with the proposed Expert Group from Pakistan side.

He highlighted the main features of incentive package devised for the identified priority SEZs and invited Chinese side to convey their view point if any for further discussion. He emphasized that Chinese companies have huge opportunities to relocate their businesses to these priority SEZs. Li Yuan informed that four SEZs were started in China in the initial phase and then 14 Coastal Cities were developed and subsequently 14 Industrial Zones were developed by China. Industrial development takes a long time and planning to consider all relevant factors, he added. Proposed Pakistani priority SEZs are needed to be reviewed by Expert Group from each side to decide exact number and types of zones to be developed in the first phase, he added. He said that Chinese side has already notified its Experts Group while Pakistan side need to expedite composition of the Expert Group. Li also emphasized on devising of long term cooperation mechanism to select priority sectors and to synergise policies for SEZs.

During the session, two presentations were made by the representative of government of AJ&K and Gilgit-Baltistan. The representatives of AJ&K highlighted the potential of AJ&K in terms of water and mineral resources. The incentives being provided by the government of AJ&K to the foreign investors were also highlighted in the presentation. The potential of proposed Mirpur Zone in terms of its connectivity with highway, railway and airport as well as the expected industries to be parked in this zone based on local endowment was also deliberated through the presentation.

Representative of Gilgit-Baltistan underscored the strategic location, scenic beauty and hospitality of the people Gilgit-Baltistan. He highlighted the mineral potential and locational advantages being gate way for Central, East and South Asia. He also appraised the house that this zone is situated exactly on the CPEC route which is ancient Silk Route.