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Opinion

Fleeting moments

March 27, 2015

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Establishing industrial cities

Fleeting moments
The chief minister of Punjab has approved an industrial city and economic zone to be set up in the Salt Range. When the motorway was constructed at a huge cost, one of the arguments offered in its support was that it would pave the way for establishing new cities and export zones alongside it. One such city is in the pipeline after years of delay.
The area ahead of Bhera between River Jehlum and the start of the mountain range on the motorway is ideal for setting up an industrial city. The land is rocky and infertile but it has two basic prerequisites for industrialisation – availability of water and electricity besides the excellent communication link.
While the chief minister of the province deserves credit for his initiative to create economic zones, some departments in the metropolis are busy scheming to strangulate the industry. For instance, the Lahore Development Authority has recently embarked upon a commercialisation plan of the Multan Road industrial area. How can an industrial area be commercialised? And how can manufacturing units, registered with the sales tax department as manufacturers, be commercialised in the first place?
Moreover, the ill-conceived formula for commercialisation deserves to be looked into The DC rate, which determines the market value of the land, stands at Rs10 million per kanal of land. The owner is asked to pay 20 percent of the value, amounting to Rs2 million per kanal as commercialisation fee. Let’s say a small unit of power looms that produces grey cloth has four kanals of land. It will have to pay Rs8 million as the commercialisation fee.
Now how much such a unit earns in the first place to be able to pay for the commercialisation is for the government to consider. Instead of paying such a remarkable sum for commercialisation, the owner might prefer to sell off his business and move elsewhere, depriving the local workers of employment opportunities.
The LDA has recently issued

notices to some of the industrial units and threatened to seal them if they fail to pay the commercialisation charges. Some of them have already been sealed. This is nothing short of a brazen act of harassment of the business community by a civic organisation of the Punjab government.
And what facilities do the businesses on Multan Road get in return? The motorway police have declared four kilometres from Thokar Niaz Beg to Shahpur as a ‘red zone’. No passenger bus is allowed to stop there. However, the rule is often violated creating a traffic mess. Also on the red zone is located an impressive office of the National Highway Authority adjacent to the motorway overhead bridge.
Some years ago, the Punjab government decided to establish a general bus stand opposite the NHA office. The bus stand was to have an underpass under the road for bus movement. Nespak had even designed the layout plan but it was shelved for some reason. Now the long-body buses have to take U-turns to enter and exit the bus stand, thus creating untold miseries for the commuters and the motorists. The traffic chaos near the NHA office and harried passengers crossing the main road to board buses at the bus stand are a daily occurrence.
While thousands of commuters suffer daily due to the traffic snarl-up on the busy Multan Road, a new 5-km multi-lane road, leading from the motorway overhead bridge to Raiwind Road is under construction at a projected cost of Rs2.39 billion. It will facilitate VVIP movement from Raiwind to the motorway, bypassing the traffic bedlam at Thokar Niaz Beg and Multan Road.
However, does the CM Punjab, who belongs to the business community, know how a civic organisation – the LDA – is tormenting business people? What’s the point in setting up new industrial zones when the entrepreneurs in the old ones are forced to quit because of the extortionist methods of a civic body.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email: [email protected]

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