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January 7, 2015

Balochistan govt yet to make land available for free trade zone


January 7, 2015

KARACHI: Balochistan government seems reluctant to get Gwadar free trade zone developed as it has been dragging feet on handing over two thousand acres of land to the Chinese developer for almost two years, an official said on Tuesday.
Under an agreement signed with China Overseas Ports Holding Company back on May 2013, the Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) was to make 923 hectares (2,282 acres) of land available for the development of free trade zone to the company.
The GPA official said the authority has not got the possession of the required land for further transference. “We should have had this till last September,” he told The News.
The federal government has already released Rs6.2 billion to the provincial government for the procurement of 1,627 acres of private lands.
“Though the government is claiming to facilitate Chinese investors and remove all hurdles to make Gwadar port a success, yet it is not competently resolving the issues related to the port development,” ex-senator Ismail Buledi said.
The free trade zone is expected to speed up the operation of Gwadar port, envisaging a mega exhibition centre where potential local and foreign investors could place orders of products.
Buledi, who is familiar with the issues, alleged that private land owners were being demanded of commission on sale of their holdings.
A group within the ruling National Party in Balochistan raised this issue before the provincial chief minister during a meeting. The chief minister assured the stakeholders of a probe into the allegation.
The group has also got an advertisement published in a local daily, alleging that private land owners were asked of 15 percent commission by the local authorities on the sale of the acreage.
“An acre land is priced Rs3.4 million and on that value the revenue officials are demanding 15 percent commission,” a local landowner said.
China has planned to replicate the model of Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) for

the development of Gwadar.
Economic analysts said this will build a link between Pakistan, Iran, China and Central Asian States, which will generate billions of dollars in revenue and job opportunities. They said SFTZ is a perfect model to be implemented at the sideways of the economic corridor.
The zone that was first used as a testing ground for a number of economic and social reforms in China showed marvelous success.
SFTZ incorporated numerous relaxations in various sectors under the free trade zone’s new capital registration system.
Foreign investors are no longer required to contribute 15 percent capital within three months and full capital within two years of the establishment of a foreign invested enterprise.
Analysts said natural endowments, including oil, gas, copper, gemstones, marble and gold reserves in Balochistan should be exploited by motivating local community.
After the development of Gwadar free trade zone, around 2.5 million people will get jobs. The government is setting up technical training centers in the surrounding area to provide skilled workforce.

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