Gwadar free port project promises massive investment, greater generation of employment opportunities and more development projects in different sectors of Balochistan. An addition of a new deep-sea port at Pakistan’s coastline marks a new chapter of development efforts in the country. It would serve as a springboard for initiating wide-ranging development activities in Balochistan. The port is bound to usher in the province a new era of progress and prosperity. To all the economic planners, the province presents a veritable economic bonanza for its natural endowments and geo-strategic location. Commerce, industry, trade and economic activities would receive a boost after the development of two-phased seaport in the province. Opening up the province for development activities and foreign investment means growing and diversifying the national economy.
These new development in the province will be made under $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which involves construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines connecting western China with Pakistan and the Persian Gulf. The two countries signed 51 deals worth billions of dollars mostly relating to the CPEC project. No doubt, a huge investment in infrastructure sector promises a brilliant economic future for the development of the province and it will bring about a revolution in its communication sector. The project would initiate a mega development process with huge investments which could make the province a new economic frontier of the country.
New business hub
Being a land of huge horizons and wondrous landscapes, the province can emerge as a new business and trade hub of the country provided that all the development schemes and projects that are underway in the province as well as in other parts of the country and the region around it, start gelling together and become a reality. The total length of the Makran coastal highway is 700 kilometers, which had been constructed under a phased program. The project has cost Rs15.1 billion. The highway connects Pakistan’ financial and industrial hub Karachi with Gwadar port. Allied to Gwadar, the coastal region of Balochistan is also expected to get an economic boost with the construction of coastal highway linking Karachi on the east with Jiwani to the west, close to the Iranian border. It will ultimately link Gwadar with the rest of the world.
Makran coastal highway is the proposed northern route. It is the principal transport corridor. The industrial land has been allocated along the coastal highway with a view that these areas would not pollute the urban environment for their location on the northeastern part of the town. The highway will help tap tourism potential of Gwadar and other districts sharing the coastal belt of Balochistan. Gwadar has vast scope for the promotion of tourism as the area has one of the best coastlines in the world. A systematic development strategy needs to be followed for taping the tremendous economic potential of Makran coast. There is a need to resolve the issues related to water sector and power generation for farming and drinking and for the development and promotion of allied activities in Makran.
Coastal highway will help the fishing industry by providing easier transportation to upcountry markets. Significance of the coastal highway for national economy cannot be denied. It will serve as main lateral artery for onshore support to fishing ports of Ormara, Pasni and Gwadar. The highway is also vital for socio-economic uplift of the area and the people. The project has laid the foundation for establishment of an integrated communication network in Balochistan.
Bridging the province
Gwadar port would help bring Balochistan’s coastal areas into the economic mainstream of Pakistan. It will catalyze the development process in the province bringing it at par with other provinces. Development of an integrated transport system and future road and rail links to CARs and rest of the country will enhance the local peoples’ access to new vistas of development and prosperity.
Gwadar port will open up the hinterland. Besides, serving as transshipment hub, it would promote the development of a refinery and petrochemical complex and other industries. ECO highway, coastal highway and other mega projects in road sector will connect Gwadar port with Central Asian states, Gulf sheikdoms and rest of the country.
The port project is expected to flourish a new culture in Balochistan by giving economic independence to the local people. It may bring a revolution in social sector changing the socio-economic conditions of the people and raising their living standards.
Many industries have been envisaged to be established in and around Gwadar. The skilled manpower would be needed for the operation of the port and the allied industries.
According to an estimate, the Gwadar port has the potential to generate over $50 billion in transit trade annually and after becoming fully operational along with strong communication and transport links with Central Asian States, Iran, western provinces of China and commercial cities of the country, an estimated two-third population of Balochistan will become part of port-related activities.
World class investment center
A fully operational Gwadar port provides the province enormous opportunities to exploit its mineral resources, which have so far been untapped. Gwadar sea port and the planned regional highway projects will help the province become a world-class mining center. Foreign mining firms in Balochistan have shown keen interest in bringing their cargoes through the port of Gwadar. The port is strategically located at the entrance of the Gulf and in the proximity of Central Asia and China. The foreign mining firms can save a lot of money by bringing their cargo from the Gwadar port. Similarly, export of copper would also be cheaper through the Gwadar port as compared to the country’s other ports and it will also save a long distance of about 460km.
The future of Pakistan is linked with the economic development of Balochistan. Its strategic location gives the province added significance in view of rapidly changing geopolitics of the region. Gwadar port is a project of national importance for its geographical location — the nearest seaport for Afghanistan and CARs and not very far from the countries in the Gulf region. Its completion is expected to open new vistas of regional trade and economic co-operation. Today, the big challenge before Islamabad is to convert its strategic assets in Balochistan into economic opportunities and to open up the province to international investment. The mega projects are going to become the national assets in the province, which has a special significance with reference to its geography.