ISLAMABAD: Special economic zones (SEZs) have played a vital role in the rapid industrialization of China. Shenzhen is a success story of practicing the SEZ idea, where a small fishing village has been converted into a thriving economic hub. However, China, owing to its rapidly increasing competitiveness and high-tech industries, has decided to relocate some of its industries outside its boundaries.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is considered to be a flagship under the umbrella of the BRI. Under the CPEC, a window of opportunity has opened for Pakistan where the country can draw lessons from the Chinese experiences of rapid industrialization in the form of SEZs.
The SEZ mechanism remains an effective and significant tool for Pakistan to transform its national industrial outlook. Pakistan has nine (SEZs) out of which four have already been operationalized. Considering the economic and manufacturing potential of Sialkot, economists emphasize the need for creation of a Special Economic Zone in Sialkot.
In an exclusive talk with WealthPK, eminent economist and former chairman Board of Investment (BOI) Haroon Rasheed said, ‘’Sialkot holds extensive potential to export, and therefore it needs a special economic zone under the CPEC so that the manufacturing industries and traders may benefit, eventually raising their potential to export.’’
Currently, Sialkot accounts for 13 percent of the total exports of Pakistan; however, construction of a special economic zone will increase its share to 22 percent, he added.
‘’The government should set up an SEZ in Sialkot and Chinese investors should be encouraged to bring in their investment and technology,” he said. “Additionally, the government should identify high priority sectors for export and ensure concessions and incentives to encourage exports from respective sectors,’ Haroon added.
Adnan Khan, socioeconomic development specialist at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority, told WealthPK that there will be more special economic zones after the operationalizing of SEZs already under construction.
Dr. Zafar Mahmood of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) agreed to the idea and maintained that Sialkot held immense potential, especially in export-based manufacturing, and this will help Pakistan earn foreign reserves, relieving pressure on the balance of payment issues of Pakistan.
‘’The golden triangle has a strong base for industrial manufacturing goods for national and international markets. Indigenous products like sports goods and apparel, surgical instruments, leather products, cutlery, ceramic ware, sanitary products, metal processing, switch gears, and transformers, pumps and motors, articles of plastic and PVC, fans, carpets, and furniture have great potential for exports.’’