LAHORE: The Punjab government has invited bids for the development of 4,000-acre Allama Iqbal Industrial City (AIIC) near Faisalabad, one of the three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the country being developed on a priority basis to facilitate Chinese investment under the multi-billion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative.

The two countries have agreed to develop nine SEZs across the country and decided to complete three on a priority basis. The other two are located in Rashakai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Dhabeji in Sindh.

The recently held 9th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), which takes strategic decisions on projects and investments around the CPEC, had decided to formally launch the three prioritised SEZs between Nov 29 and Dec 30 to give a stronger push to the bilateral industrial cooperation to help Chinese firms relocate their manufacturing facilities to Pakistan for boosting exports and substituting imports.

The AIIC is expected by Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (FIEDMC) Chairman Kashif Ashfaq to be formally launched towards the end of next month by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Although the SEZs have primarily been designed to facilitate Chinese investors relocate their manufacturing in Pakistan, there will be no bar on the establishment of industrial units by foreign investors from other countries or local companies.

Chinese officials have time and again cited absence of organised, developed industrial land in the country for the delay in relocation of manufacturing facilities here from China.

Mr Ashfaq told Dawn on Wednesday that six Chinese companies had already acquired land in AIIC – which is located strategically on M4 near Sahianwala Interchange, but were hesitant in moving ahead with their projects because of lack of electricity at the zone.

“We are working to provide electricity at the zone by February next year so that interested investors can start construction of their units and complete development of the SEZ in one year. The federal government has prioritised provision of electricity and gas for the industries starting construction in AIIC.”

He said the main road, entrance gate and boundary wall would be completed within six months. He said the M-3 Industrial City, another project of FIEDMC under the Special Economic Zones had attracted $1.8 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) and local investment.

He said more than 22 Chinese companies had started building their projects in the M-3 Industrial City.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2019