by Shafqat Ali
ISLAMABAD,Dec.2 (China Economic Net) - Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be a befitting reply to the United States’ propaganda against the multi-billion-dollar project as it will create more than 1.5 million jobs, officials said.
Government officials here said the tremendous job creation will be a strong reply to the United States who alleges the CPEC will only benefit China.
“With hundreds of thousands job being created, CPEC is helping Pakistan’s economy. The US will get its reply within weeks and months,” a senior government official said.
Another official said CPEC is Pakistan’s chance to enter into global competition. “Those who are criticising the CPEC are either ignorant or anti-Pakistan. We know how CPEC is helpful to us. It is doing everything right for Pakistan,” he said, citing discussions at the top-level meetings.
Last week, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had said the government was set to open targeting the first SEZ under the CPEC by the end of December.
He had expressed the determination to open two more SEZs within current fiscal year, ending in June.
He said under the first phase, one each SEZ is being established in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
Asad Umar said the government is focusing on the development of SEZs under the CPEC to accelerate industrialization and job creation.
Reports said more than 500,000 direct and around one million indirect jobs would be created by CPEC in SEZs to be set up in four provinces of Pakistan, including Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
The policy head of the department of job growth and human resource-based in Islamabad think-tank, Muhammad Muzammil Zia, working at the Ministry of Development, Planning, and Reform, said the second phase of CPEC will bring a number of remarkable opportunities of jobs for people of Pakistan.
Zia said; “We have conducted a study to assess employment opportunities in four out of nine SEZs including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Rashakai, Sindh’s Dhabeji, Punjab’s Allama Iqbal and Balochistan’s Bostan, with the state-run National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) to find out potential jobs and industries in the SEZs.”
He added: “We found that the SEZs offer employments in different fields for which the local youth should be trained before the initiation of the industrial phase.”
Pakistan is likely to provide Rs 2.8 billion for the provision of electricity to the CPEC SEZs. Islamabad is also considering special incentives for the export oriented or import substituting industries in the proposed SEZs.
The incentives will not be uniform rather it will be based on the volume of exports or import substitution.
A total of nine SEZs will be established under CPEC but three of them are in advanced stage. The second SEZ is Dabiji, where the Sindh government has invited international tenders for the development of the zone.
Land acquisition for Allama Iqbal Industrial City (M3) has been completed. “We have asked China to provide us 30 to 40 firms in different field where we can discuss with them the possibility of starting business individually or in joint ventures with Pakistanis companies in the SEZs,” said an official.
The official said that Chinese industry in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemical, steel and textile will be relocating to Pakistan.
Last week. the top US diplomat for South Asia Alice Wells said the CPEC will profit only China, adding that the United States can offer a better model.
In a speech, described as “unusually specific” by the international media, she claimed that the multi-billion-dollar project will take a toll on Pakistan’s economy at the time of repayments and dividend in the coming years.
“CPEC’s most expensive single project is upgrading the railway from Karachi to Peshawar. When the project was initially announced, the price was set at $8.2 billion,” she said.
She added: “In October of 2018, Pakistan’s railways minister announced that they had negotiated the price down to $6.2 billion, a saving of two billion. And he explained Pakistan is a poor country. We cannot afford this huge burden of these loans.”
Wells said media reports claim the price was now risen to $9 billion. “So, why doesn’t the Pakistani public know the price for CPEC’s most expensive project or how it’s being determined?”
She urged Islamabad to examine “the burdens that are falling on the new government to manage with now an estimated $15 billion debt to the Chinese government and $6.7 billion in Chinese commercial debt”.
Apparently, her speech was aimed towards taking a major offensive that Washington has recently launched against China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a signature project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which aims to build ports, highways and railways around the world.