Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said any form of wealth creation in Pakistan’s future is impossible without industrialisation, adding that his government was now focusing on sustainable growth.
Addressing the commercial launch of Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Nowshera, the premier expressed hope at the upward trajectory of the economy and maintained that the country has passed its difficult economic phase.
He said that Pakistan is now on the path to prosperity with almost 4 percent growth rate predicted.
“Also this economic zone comes under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This is a good thing for Pakistan because China has developed rapidly, and we can learn the most from their development.”
Moreover, he stressed on the fact that the industrial revolution within the West was outdated and could not offer any learning opportunity to Pakistan, whereas China’s industrialisation was new.
PM Imran also gave a “warning” to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister regarding the economic zone. “You told me that people are eager to buy this land […] don’t sell the lands. Lease them on lesser rates.”
He argued that selling the land would make it turn into real estate and raise its price. “When land prices skyrocket, industries are unable to cope.” The premier said he wanted the land to be used by those who wished to set up industries.
Commenting on the need for upping exports, the PM lamented that Pakistan never paid attention to exports, adding that it was very difficult to increase a country’s wealth without them.
“If you aren’t increasing your exports, then the country’s wealth will never increase,” he lamented, adding that selling wheat and other products will not make Pakistan wealthy alone.
He said that Pakistan should learn from the SEZs set up by China. He labelled the Rashkai Special Economic Zone a “big opportunity”, stressing on authorities to create ease of doing business for investors.
“It is a good omen for Pakistan to learn from a country with the fastest growth”.
“Through such industrial zones, we can elevate our exports and that will help us avoid a current account deficit, ultimately avoiding a dependence on the IMF,” the prime minister said referring to the Rashakai SEZ.
“We are now planning sustainable growth so that we never have to go to the IMF again,” he maintained.
The prime minister also lamented that Pakistan was not an “investor-friendly country”. “The more hurdles you remove for investors, the more investors will arrive here [in Pakistan],” he added.
“We have not removed the obstacles in their way. A person will only set up a business for profit, not for charity. It is the government’s job to remove obstacles from investors’ path.”
He said that China was now outsourcing their industries due to cheap labour. “We are trying to give them incentives to come to Pakistan. Our only problem is that we need to get rid of obstacles preventing investment.”
The PM said that his government was trying to provide incentives to attract investors.
He said that his government had decided early on to not impose a lockdown, as the poor ultimately suffered from it. “If I had come under pressure and imposed a lockdown, perhaps we would be facing the same situation as India.”
We took the decision to save our people and the economy, he said. “Now our opponents are amazed at the four per cent growth rate projection for the next fiscal year. They tell us we are lying.”
He stressed that the first year and a half of his premiership was the most difficult period of his life as the country was on the brink of defaulting when the PTI had come into power. The PM further said that just when Pakistan was pulling itself out of the economic crisis, the coronavirus shuttered businesses around the world and had an adverse impact on various countries’ economies.
“We should raise our hands and profusely thank Allah,” he said, adding that Pakistan had not suffered the same fate as other countries had, where millions were unemployed and thousands had died.
He praised the National Command and Operation Centre adding that the think tank was closely following the coronavirus situation in the country.
He praised his government’s decision not to impose a coronavirus lockdown, adding that the poor would have “died from hunger” and Pakistan “would have suffered a fate similar to India”.
“Let me remind them [opposition] that I was the captain who introduced neutral umpires in cricket,” the prime minister said, adding that he would not give up easily in reforming the country.
“We are not ones to win with rigging,” he stressed.
He said that large-scale manufacturing was showing growth and there had been improvement in the agriculture sector. “This time round there has been record output of rice, corn and wheat,” he said, adding that this had an affect on other sectors.
“Good times are coming. I used to tell people to not worry, but they used to worry. Life is never a straight line.”
He concluded his speech by saying that as the economy grows, there would be pressure on the current account. The current account has been in surplus for the past 10 months, he said. “But as the economy grows, we will require imports. So the fear is that it will put pressure on our current account.”
He said that the government was now planning on sustainable growth so that it does not have to turn to the International Monetary Fund.
According to Radio Pakistan, the Rashakai Prioritized Special Economic Zone is part of the CPEC cluster and is a flagship project of the KP government and KP Economic Zone Development and Management Company.
The zone spreads over one thousand acres, which is linked with CPEC route on M-I Motorway and other districts of the province, making the project strategically significant.
The construction of the zone is being carried out in collaboration with China’s state enterprise, China Road and Bridge Corporation, and KP Economic Zone Development and Management Company.
The project will provide employment opportunities to about 200,000 people in the area directly and indirectly.
Separately, CPEC Authority Chairman Lt Gen (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa on Friday said that a special training would be arranged for workers in three technology institutes to be established in the vicinity of Rashakai SEZ.
“A special training of workers being started as per specific industry needs, in 3 three institutes in the vicinity of Rashakai,” he said in his tweet after participating in the launching ceremony of Rashakai SEZ.
The chairman said that history was made today by the commercial launch of Rashakai SEZ under the mega-project of CPEC.
He added that the second phase of CPEC included industrialisation through establishing export-oriented SEZs.