Tuesday July 16, 2024

Balochistan asks Centre to declare Gwadar tax-free zone

National Economic Council will discuss allocations for developmental activities in various provinces today

By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
June 06, 2023
Development under CPEC aims to transform Gwadar into a major trade and economic hub. — AFP/File
Development under CPEC aims to transform Gwadar into a major trade and economic hub. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The provincial government of Balochistan has asked the federal government to declare Gwadar a tax-free zone with an assurance that it would provide funds for it in the backdrop of a strange decision by Chief Minister Abdul Qadus Bizenjo to boycott the significant meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) slated for today (Tuesday) under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The meeting will discuss allocations for developmental activities in various provinces. Bizenjo has maintained that neither he nor any member of the province would attend the meeting. The federal government has started efforts to pursue the chief minister for changing his decision. Bizenjo has accused the federal government’s “cold shoulder attitude” towards his province as the cause of his decision.

“The provincial government is not able to disburse development funds to the elected members of the provincial assembly and the Senate due to limited resources,” Bizenjo said in a statement on Monday.

“The federal government has not fulfilled any of its promises.” Bizenjo’s decision come as the federal government is expected to present the budget on Friday. The outlay for the federal budget 2023-24 is expected to be at Rs16.6 trillion compared to Rs9.5 trillion for the outgoing fiscal year. The NEC is the highest forum on the macroeconomic and development agenda. It comprises four members appointed by the prime minister and two members each from all provinces.

A day earlier the Balochistan chief minister had said that the provincial government would “consider attending” the NEC meeting if the Centre assured the province of prioritising its projects.

“If the federal government is not serious in fulfilling its promises, then Balochistan will not participate in the NEC meeting,” Bizenjo said and alleged that the attitude of the federation proved that the meeting would prove to be useless for them as in the past. The prime minister announced a grant of Rs10 billion for Balochistan flood victims in August last year. The devastating floods and monsoon rains claimed around 1,000 lives and damaged properties worth billions.

The provincial government has blamed the fund wasn’t made available to it and the flood victims are still sitting under open sky. In the meanwhile provincial government has accorded the status of Special Economic District (SED) to Gwadar. The government is of the view that such a step would help in the development of the city and activities regarding the port would be accelerated. The establishment of the SED would help to enhance tourism greatly and services in other sectors. It would also help in promoting trade, tourism, real estate and hoteling.

The SED will be covering the smart port city master plan limit. The local business community is hopeful that with the acceleration of activities thanks to declaring it a tax-free zone, vast opportunities would be created for the local youngster’s employment and business. It will also attract investors to come here and set up industries. As a result export and import will get a boost.

Sources pointed out that the condition of the real estate business in the city is bad. No fresh investment is taking place and investors are reluctant to come there. According to a credible report, Gwadar port, tax-free zone, Gwadar smart port city master plan, Paki-China Technical and Vocational Institute and Gwadar East Bay-expressway have been completed under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), while the new Gwadar international airport, treatment plant for provision of fresh water, supply system, Pak-China Friendship Hospital, 300 MW coal power plant, desalination plant for 1.2 million gallons of water and five MGD water desalination plants projects are under construction.