The governments must undertake meaningful actions to address issues that discourage foreign investors
he Punjab can be described as the production hub of Pakistan. The province houses a large number of industrial units. It also produces the largest quantity of agricultural products in the country. Since the inception of the state, it has been the main focus of development. However, it still faces many challenges. Although the industrial landscape is expanding, the Punjab is not producing enough appropriately skilled workers for the new and developing industries.
It has become increasingly difficult for industries to import heavy machinery from abroad as it costs a lot. Additionally, resource constraints - electricity, gas and water – have forced many industries to operate at half their capacity or less.
The Punjab should become a land of opportunities for investors.
The land is linked to extensive value chains that span Punjab’s Special Economic Zones, industrial estates and manufacturing corridors. These not only cater to the demands of the local population but also regional and global demands through a network of global markets accessed through land, sea and air links.
Several industries in the Punjab offer great investment opportunities. These include urban regeneration and infrastructure, agriculture and food processing, textile and value-added garments, livestock and dairy, energy, irrigation, mining and minerals, and information technology and IT-enabled systems.
The Punjab is home to a population of 110 million people, out of which 60 percent are of working age (15-65 years). The literacy rate in the region is 66.3 percent. The province has abundant raw materials produced by its agriculture and mining sectors, some of which are processed in its industrial hubs. Running these industrial hubs requires highly skilled human resource.
The Punjab’s GDP is $162 billion. It has 10 Special Economic Zones and 68,000 industrial units. It produces 60 percent of the agricultural products in the country, 70 percent of the textiles and 70 percent of the livestock. It is responsible for 55 percent of the e-commerce operations in the country.
The Punjab can easily be the next factory of the world due to its geographical location and endowments, institutional framework, connectivity, stable economic environment, modern infrastructure and a comprehensive canvas of investment and entrepreneurial opportunities. These factors give the Punjab a clear advantage as an investment destinations in the region. Not only does it provide an attractive opportunity to local investors, but also to foreign investors who are looking for a place that will allow them to maximise their profits and minimize their costs.
Foreign investors are allowed 100 percent ownership and profit repatriation/ remittance of capital, profits and dividends. The province has a friendly visa policy, strategic location, a young and skilled workforce, fiscal incentives, competitive labour cost, rapid and continuous economic growth and export potential.
Dr Ahmed Javed Qazi, the secretary for Industries, Commerce, Investment and Skills Development Department has spearheaded many programmes that will allow steadier the inflow of investment in the region. In an interview, he talked about setting up industrial estates all over the province.
Some of these estates are being set up in Bahawalpur, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Sialkot. In the agricultural sector, there is the introduction of fish farms in Chunian that will increase the production of high-quality fish and fish products. Additionally, the Department of Commerce is working to bridge the gap between industries and universities so that the right kind of research and development can take place.
Bridging the gap will also allow the universities to tailor their programmes so that their graduates are not left unemployed and the industries do have to hire workers from abroad. The Punjab government has also established three technology-based universities that will produce future skilled workers. In addition, the commerce department will facilitate apprenticeships of 5 percent of university students.
The new industrial estates will allow the industries to keep all of their income as these will be tax-free for 10 years. This should attract large amounts of investment, as in many countries, taxes take away much of the gross earnings.
The Planning Division has worked with China, Holland and Turkey to develop the most effective network of systems to support the operation of the industrial areas.
China is the flag-bearer of efficient production and the Punjab is following in its footsteps.
Numerous investment opportunities are available in Punjab to both domestic and international investors. The next major global production hub is now an excellent time to invest in. Here, industrialists will find cheap skilled and unskilled labour, easy loans, tax-free schemes and a number of other incentives. However, the government needs to regulate carbon emissions.
The government should also hasten to take meaningful action to address any issues that discourage foreign investors.
The writer teaches development support communication at the International Islamic University Islamabad. He tweets HassanShehzadZ and can be reached at Hassan.shehzadiiui.edu.pk