By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, May 30 (APP):Rashakai Priortized Special Economic Zone (RPSEZ), a game-changer project being established on 1,000 acres land has the potential to attract US $ 4 billion direct foreign investment (DFI) which will generate over 200,000 jobs during the next three years.
The zone will serve as a trade gateway for promotion of industrialization and economic development of Pakistan. Located at most strategic site on Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway in Nowshera district with major international markets of Central Asia, Afghanistan, CARs, China and SAARC in its close proximity, RPSEZ is an emerging business hub.
It will bolster industrialization, promote Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), construction, pharmaceutical, food and marble industries in addition to increase trade volume between Pakistan and the aforementioned countries.
“Following its successful commercial launch by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the industrialization process at KP’s first RPSEZ under CPEC Phase-II has been formally started in large-scale where US $ 4 billion DFI is expected besides generation of over 200,000 jobs during next three years” said Javed Khattak, Project Director, KP Economic Zone Development and Management Company (KPEZDMC) while talking to APP.
He said the DFI has been diverted to Pakistan under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a major component of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, which has entered into an advanced phase of industrialization after signing of the landmark RPSEZ development agreement between Pakistan and China on September 14, 2020, paving the way of large-scale industrialization and construction activities at project site by the domestic, Chinese and overseas Pakistanis companies.
“China’s Century Steel Mills having an investment US $ 366 million being setup on 40 acres has started construction work at RPSEZ after importing machinery and equipment besides all necessary incentives are being provided to domestic and foreign investors through one window operation and all bottlenecks were removed”, said Chief Executive Officer KPEZDMC.
He said companies and firms investing the mega CPEC project have been exempted from Income Tax for 10 years and custom duties on import of machinery.
The CEO said about 2,000 applications from domestic and foreign companies and firms have been received including 32 reputable Chinese and 25 Pakistanis companies for investment at RPSEZ where construction activities for establishment of industrial units was started at a large-scale.
“Foreign investors from brotherly countries of Turkey, Gulf, Pakistan’s origins Candians and others have shown interest at RPSEZ, he said.
Following official announcement of CPEC, he said around 37 zones were proposed as Special Economic Zones (SEZs) for all provinces of Pakistan out of which establishment of nine SEZs were prioritized including RPSEZ, Dhabeji, Bostan Industrial Zone, Allama Iqbal Industrial City Faisalabad, ICT Model Industrial Zone Islamabad, Industrial Park Pakistan Steel Mills Port Qasim, Mirpur Industrial Zone AJK, Mohmand Marble City and Moqpondass in Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, RPSEZ is holding a unique competitive advantage due to its close proximity to the first juncture of CPEC route, close location with Peshawar Airport, Islamabad and ML-I besides a significant resource and manufacturing base, making it an attractive destination for domestic and international investors to capture local and international markets for capital gains.
Work on the project was initiated after inking Memorandum of Understandings during KP-China Roadshow in April 2017. After long deliberations, KP Government had signed the Concessional Agreement with CRBC to develop RPSEZ during the historic visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China where he attended Second Belt and Road Forum (SBRF) and Beijing International Horticulture Exhibition (BIHE) 2019.
RPSEZ had been awarded SEZ status on August 6, 2019 before its Concessional agreement was signed in April 2019. The agreements provided a comprehensive roadmap for establishment of RPSEZ while holding federal and provincial governments besides developers jointly responsible for its timely development and completion as per international standards.
Javed Khattak said the project’s commercial launch was scheduled on November 18 last but was postponed due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. It is a three- year project to be developed on 1,000 acres in three different phases. Total area designated for industrial use was 702 acres and as per Federal SEZ Areas Regulations, of which 159 acres would be developed in Phase I, 279 acres in Phase II and 264 acres in Phase III besides 76 acres land for commercial use.
In the first phase, industries related to foods processing, textile garments, home building materials, general merchandise, electronics, mines and minerals, electrical appliances, automobile and mechanical equipment would be set up and more industries to be included in later stages.
“All essential services including roads, water and electricity were provided to the facility and work on gas project is in full swing”, he said.
Former President, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Faud Ishaq told APP that RSEZ was a landmark project to promote foods, steels, pharmaceuticals and marble industries besides SMEs.
He said the KP’s investors spend more than others provinces on cargo services due to the provincial geographical placement in term of long distance from Karachi seaport, would be largely benefited for RPSEZ and others such projects enabling them to capture domestic and international markets for capital profit.
Former Chairman, Economics Department, University of Peshawar, Prof Dr. Zilakat Malik said there was a large scope to increase volume of trade between Pakistan and the above countries.
He said RPSEZ would serve as a trade gateway for KP after commencement of full fledged operation of Gwadar sea port, construction of ML-I and Khyber Pass Economic Highway Corridor (KPEHC).
He said most of modern SEZs in developed countries employed advanced technologies like robots, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, adding, special courses in KP polytechnic educational institutes should be introduced to take full advantage of SEZs.
Karim Khan, Special Assistant to Chief Minister KP for Industries said KP was blessed with plenty of natural resources including fruits, leather, marble, gems, textile, sports, arms manufacturing, gemstones, livestock, dairy, fish farming, furniture wood, carpets, pharmaceuticals, transport, engineering and food sectors and if these processing plants would be established on quality standards, it would significantly enhance the country’s exports besides increasing volume of trade among Pakistan, Afghanistan, Gulf and other countries.