GWADAR: The Gwadar Expo 2018 has received massive response not only from local companies but enterprises from China, Europe, US, Africa have also registered for the exhibition making it a major international event.
While talking exclusively to The News, Chairman and CEO of China Overseas Ports Holding Company, Zhang Baozhong, said that two-day expo starting from 29th January is an important step towards development of the coastal city as a major commercial hub.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will inaugurate the exhibition jointly organized by the Chinese company and Gwadar Port Authority where over 200 companies are participating.
Almost 5000 exhibitors and 10,000 visitors applied for the exhibition but only 200 companies and 5000 visitors were allowed due to logistics issues.
This shows the growing interest of business community and that is why we are very confident for the future of Gwadar as an engine of economic growth not only for the Balochistan province but also for the economic development of Pakistan, said Baozhong.
Gwadar is situated at a strategic location. And to develop a commercial hub, the quickest way is to organize an exhibition where buyer, seller, service providers are brought at one place for more collaborations and business partnerships, he added.
‘We intent to make this an annual event so that more commercial activities tak place here in the Gwadar Free Zone. This event will boost economic cooperation not only between Pakistan and China but also with Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East.’
All the hotels, rest houses are booked such is the excitement level over the event. The Pakistan International Airline increased its Karachi-Gwadar flights to four shifts a day. The locals too seemed very much interested in it. In the city everyone is talking about the expo and the financial benefits it is going to bring for them.
Real state and fish processing are two main sectors here generating economic activity for the natives. During discussions with the realtors here, they told that the land prices have increased 400 times in the past few years bringing at par with that of Karachi. But since the ouster of Nawaz Sharif there is a sense of instability among the investors.
Phase-I of Gwadar Free Zone is also going to be inaugurated during the expo. During our visit to the facility we saw that final touches were being given to the structure.
There are several Japanese, American and Chinese companies participating in the event including Huawei, China Communication Construction Company, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company making it truly an international event, the official said.
MoUs, agreements worth billions of rupees will be signed as well. First of them will be between COPHC and the Gwadar District Council for poverty alleviation under which very poor families will be provided financial assistance and other opportunities for sustainable growth.
Babu Gulab, District Council Chairman said this agreement will help the local government in its poverty alleviation programme.
Pakistan State Oil will establish a crude oil storage facility under an agreement with the Gwadar Port Authority. The GPA will also get a sister port status with a Chinese port and the city of Gwadar will get a sister city status with a Chinese coastal city.
Talking about the development of the GFZ, Baozhong said that the project started in 2007 but it was until 2015 when we took up the construction and now it is complete with everything required for establishment of industrial units.
The CEO added that an industrial zone near the port is very critical to make it commercially viable.
‘As you can see here, we have worked very hard. The support of Pakistani government and the people of city have been a key element in our success. The business complex was constructed in just five months.’
Now everything is in place here; uninterrupted power supply, water, road infrastructure, security. The Gwadar Free Zone is as good as any other industrial park in the developed world. Up till now 30 investors from Pakistan China, Europe and Middle East have applied for the establishment of industries in the GFZ.
The CEO added that currently 2000 locals are working in the Phase-I and when the GFZ project is fully functional, estimates show that it will provide employment to nearly 40000 locals. And not only this, exports from here will help earn Pakistan more foreign currency.
‘The technical exchange taking place here will transform Pakistani enterprises into global companies. The success of free zone is very much linked with the economic development of the country and we are pleased to be a part of this journey.’
Video and text by Wasif Shakil