Published: November 2, 2017
A worker monitors automatic copper wire unit. PHOTO: REUTERS
MULTAN: South Punjab comes on top in agricultural economy as it has 96% share in cotton production in Punjab and 80% in the entire country as well as pays more taxes than the industrial hub of Faisalabad, emphasised Malik Asrar Ahmed Awan, President of the Multan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He was giving a briefing to the visiting probationary officers of grade-18 of the 24th Mid-career Management Course of the National Institute of Management, Karachi.
Awan pointed out that south Punjab offered great opportunities for investment in the areas of agriculture, dairy products, livestock, fruit and vegetable processing and packaging. He cited the surveys conducted by the World Bank and its financing arm International Finance Corporation that ranked south Punjab second in the country for making investment.
However, the region lags far behind upper Punjab in terms of development, which necessitates the need for providing health care facilities and potable water to the people.
Turning to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — a $57 billion programme of energy and infrastructure projects which would usher in a new era of development and growth, Awan cautioned that it could only be possible if Pakistan’s industry reaped benefits of enhanced connectivity by creating jobs and boosting exports.
Saying that policymakers were overly optimistic about CPEC and its potential benefits, he decried that local goods manufacturers, chambers and industry associations appeared to be seriously concerned about their future.
The textile industry, for instance, fears a glut of textile goods from the Chinese region of Xinjiang that may ruin their businesses.
He pointed out that Pakistan’s industry was already relying on expensive raw material imports following cotton production shortfall in the country and any increase in raw material demand from China would lead to further price hike and limited availability.
Similarly, other industries are worried that they are going to be eaten up by large-scale Chinese enterprises with significant economies of scale.
Highlighting the environmental challenges, Awan quoted experts as saying that an open-gate policy for China may bring dirty industries to Pakistan, which would result in environmental degradation.
He pressed the government to shift some mega CPEC projects to south Punjab.
Speaking on the occasion, National Institute of Management Director General Roshan Ali Sheikh said grade-19 and 20 officers were being trained to enable them to understand the problems of people and implement government policies.
He asked members of the Multan Chamber not to be afraid of CPEC because it would definitely prove a game changer for Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2017