Balochistan is every investor’s dream. The true economic potential of Balochistan lies in its natural resources and strategic location. Sharing international borders with Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan has a 770 km coastline along its southern borders right on the opening of the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint.
Similarly, Balochistan is home to the world’s largest deep-sea port, the world’s largest wind corridor, has the highest solar potential in the region, an abundance and variety of minerals, fruits, livestock, and many scenic spots for tourists. This potential gives Balochistan a unique opportunity to move the province from the periphery to the core of economic development in the region. Realizing this potential, the coruscating land of Balochistan has everyone’s eyes fixed on its future.
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It is not only important for the development of the province or the country, but for the whole region – both Asia and the West. It is impossible for the global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to significantly progress without first developing Balochistan through infrastructure and investment. The province’s involvement in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) translates into its inevitable mega-development through transport infrastructure including roads, airports and seaports, energy economy, and the information technology sector.
Once developed, the port would be a gamechanger for the province, and ultimately for Pakistan. It is envisioned that Gwadar, a locale of Balochistan known to be the heart of CPEC, would be transformed into an economic hub and will subsequently contribute towards the development of the whole region.
The coastal city will play the role of a channel for China’s access to the Arabian Sea. The north‐western Chinese city of Kashgar in Xinjiang autonomous region will be connected with Gwadar port through a series of 3,000‐kilometre network of roads and railways. In short, Gwadar will be the epicenter of this new economic episode for the world.
Initiatives to Support Balochistan’s Investment Regime
To support the incoming investment, the Government of Balochistan has offered several initiatives as part of its investment regimes. A large area in Gwadar has been declared as a Free Tade Zone with multiple operational and financial incentive. Moreover, two Special Economic Zones (SEZ) have also been approved in Balochistan in Hub and in Bostan.
The Bostan SEZ lies on the crossroads of the trade routes passing through Balochistan including the western corridor under CPEC and the trade route with Afghanistan as per the Afghanistan– Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. The HUB SEZ lies near the coastal belt of Balochistan near the already established economic capital of Pakistan, Karachi.
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Indisputably, with greater opportunities, come greater responsibilities. A common perception is that Balochistan, the most deprived province of Pakistan, is still not ready for such mega projects under CPEC. It is believed by many that the Balochistan province itself lacks the will and technical/ administrative capacity to capitalize upon the opportunities being offered by CPEC and cannot embrace the social and economic change that may come with it.
Some analysts express doubts about the reliability and aptitude of the Balochistan government and organizations allied with the government, that are burning the midnight oil for the realization of this game-changer mega project, worth close to $67 billion. It needs a sincere response to answer all those assertions that are slandering the sincere combined efforts of the Balochistan government and affiliated organizations that are assiduously striving for the bright future of Balochistan, its locals, and for Pakistan.
For the smooth flow of work completion and professional assistance, the Balochistan government has operationalized and fully equipped a dedicated and proficient working body with enough potential to deal with all the investment-related matters, i.e. Balochistan Board of Investment & Trade (BBoIT). It comes through in the form of a well thought out and intelligent plan to expand investments and creating a positive investor sentiment.
Driving Action: Board of Investment
With clear and focused objectives, the commitment of the provincial government is evident from the fact that the Chief Minister of Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan Alyani is directly supervising the board’s operations as its Chairman. BBoIT is not only pushing ahead with investment procedures by slashing red tape but is also working to bridge the gap between federal and provincial administrations to complete project timelines with an official response time of 10 days for all investment-related matters within the government.
Further, being a trendsetter for other provinces, this central organization has set up an office in Islamabad with offices in Karachi and Gwadar under works to encourage the local and worldwide business community for investing resources into Balochistan.
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Notified as the focal agency for all Investment related matters in the province and with such innovative initiatives, BBoIT is presently progressing at a rapid rate, overcoming obstacles and spearheading through the tasks of promoting the investment potential and opportunities of the region, as well as ensuring a conducive environment for all investors.
BBoIT has also established an Ease of Doing Business cell to bring all relevant stakeholders on one page and bring about regulatory reforms in the province. This initiative is in line with the federal government’s focus on improving its ease of doing business ranking globally, which it successfully achieved by becoming one of the countries with the most improvement in a single fiscal year, thus initiating a pull in local and foreign direct investment.
Taking Balochistan to the World
BBoIT, being the advertising and business face of the Government of Balochistan, has examined and conducted reviews on how to generate interest in the region. It has associations with business networks, has actively engaged all the relevant stakeholders including the foreign missions of multiple countries, i.e. China, Japan, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia.
The BBoIT has also innovatively and proactively used digital mediums of webinars/online conferences to promote the province’s true potential to investors of various international countries including United States, South Africa, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The BBoIT has set up numerous cells to facilitate potential investors that can provide them with all the information they need.
Balochistan is home to the world’s largest deep-sea port, the world’s largest wind corridor, has the highest solar potential in the region, an abundance and variety of minerals, fruits, livestock, and many scenic spots for tourists
Another innovative methodology by BBoIT was the use of information graphical recordings on Prime Minister Construction Relief Package, Gwadar Free Zones, and Special Economic Zones, which is without precedent in Balochistan, especially by a Public Sector or Government organization. BBoIT has further plans to organize roadshows, venture meetings and investment promotion initiatives in order to further its promotional aims.
Balochistan has a vast potential for speculation and finding new opportunities in the market. Despite the immense reserves of raw materials and availability of cheap labour, the overwhelming majority of these resource-rich regions are not found by investors because of the absence of statistical surveys. Balochistan Board of investment and trade has distributed, “the primary form of Investment Guide of Balochistan” for the assistance of speculators to increase future market openings.
The guide incorporates all the data with respect to various areas of Balochistan where feasibility studies could be carried out in which stakeholders can invest specifically in the different areas of Balochistan. The guide has received great appreciation and is even being translated in Turkish, Arabic, Spanish and Chinese languages.
BBoIT, along with government of Balochistan, is serving locals of Balochistan with utmost zeal. Both the government and people are ready more than ever to embrace the economic revolution that is going to change their fate for once and for all. This Mega-Project will give opportunities for work to millions of people, boost the economy of the nation, and increase revenues by unprecedent margins.
Special Economic Zones in Balochistan will bring real opportunities home and connect the Rock-strewn Highlands of Balochistan with the rest of the world. CPEC is a ray of hope for the disenfranchised masses of the region. The undertaking of this project will not only help Balochistan financially but will likely advance its amicability and cooperation with the rest of the country and the region, for a holistic turn of events.
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This scenario adds up to a picture where the people can be confident that poverty and unemployment are on their way out in the days to come. The hard times of inadequate infrastructure and a slumbering economy are over for Balochistan. To make the dream of a prosperous Balochistan come true, BBoIT’s services shall never be denied wherever they are required.
Farman Zarkoon is the Chief Executive Officer, Balochistan Board of Investment & Trade. He has an MBA International Business in Developing & Emerging Markets (specialization in Foreign Direct Investment & Public-Private Partnership)- from Germany and BS Computer Engineering, GIK Institute, Pakistan.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.