Gwadar Port, which has allured international attraction and is all set to emerge as modern hub port of the region, is the focus of attention of local authorities that are taking measures to upgrade and develop the old infrastructure of the port city. Balochistan government has launched several development projects to upgrade historical sports and attract more tourism in the province, particularly Gwadar. Federal government and China have agreed to expedite the development process in the port city. A huge development process is currently underway in and around Gwadar to convert it into a new logistics hub such as Dubai, Hong Kong or Singapore.
The Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) has been given the special task of taking inclusive steps to ensure the provision of basic amenities to the city dwellers. The GDA plans to construct modern monuments at Mala Fazal Chowk as part of the Gwadar master plan to attract more tourists. A six-kilometer long sewerage line with the cost of Rs 570 million is likely to be completed in the first phase of development projects in Gwadar port city. While the development work on 16 kilometers long sewerage line at a cost of Rs 750 million will be started in the second phase.
Present Balochistan government has allocated a significant amount in the current fiscal year’s budget to renovate and revamp the port city’s infrastructure. The development of infrastructure and construction of roads would provide fishermen access to the port and would get a swift route to transfer their hunted fish to the market. The provincial government will also construct East-bay Expressway to ensure smooth traffic flow, particularly on the main artery of the Gwadar Port. East-bay Expressway will be connected with the main National Highways. There are also plans to establish a new hospital in Gwadar, equipped with modern facilities, to provide people with quality health services.
China is also taking interest in developing the province, particularly Gwadar. This month, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing disclosed that Chinese government plans to establish 19 factories in Gwadar to create job opportunities for the local youth. Yao Jing also revealed that China intends to contribute to the overall development of mining, agriculture, fisheries and water sectors in Balochistan. The Chinese consulate is easing the visa procedure for the businessman community. Chinese firms are already working to strengthen the provincial irrigation sector. China is also setting up 50 vocational centers in order to enhance skills of local youth.
With existing three 14-meter deep berths to handle ships, Gwadar is currently the deepest port in the country. Five new berths will be added to the existing three berths for handling bigger ships under the port expansion plan. Under the second phase of port development, the depth of the port would be increased to 16 meters to facilitate bigger ships. There are also plans to increase the depth to 20 meters in future that will make it the port deepest in the region. The facilities planned at the Gwadar hub port include warehouses, storage areas, distribution center, offices, trucking and shipping services. To many experts, logistics hubs provide not only traditional activities such as storage, but also value-added logistics services such as labeling, assembly, semi-manufacturing, and customizing. These centers combine logistics and industrial activities effectively in major port areas to create specific products. Gwadar port complies with the features and definition of a modern hub port.
Pakistan and China have expedited efforts to address the development hurdles of the Gwadar Port and the Free Zone. For example, local tax breaks in Balochistan and the provision of fiber optic communication by the Pakistani side are needed. The two countries agreed to the need of fast execution of Gwadar infrastructure and assistance projects including the New Gwadar International Airport, Gwadar vocational and training centre, expansion of China-Pakistan government middle school and construction of the Pak-China friendship hospital and East-bay Expressway. Both countries realize the need to advance the integrated development of Gwadar Port and the Gwadar region and Gwadar Free Zone. With the completion of the phase-I of Gwadar Free Zone, all plots have been leased out to more than 30 Pakistani and Chinese investors registered in the Free Zone. The two countries have put the development of the Gwadar Port on priority. This month, a 300MW coal-fired power plant was opened to relieve power shortage in the Gwadar city.
After the formal handover of the free trade zone to China, all business affairs of the Gwadar Port in Balochistan are currently being carried out by Chinese authorities. Pakistan has already handed over the 2,281 acres free trade zone of Gwadar Port to China on a 43-year lease. The opening of Free Trade Zone, and Export Processing Zone (EPZ) will open the doors for development of small, medium and large scale industries generating revenue for the government and providing profitable avenues for both the skilled and non-skilled workforce in the province.
The projects like Gwadar vocational and training centre are very important in the province, which is technologically backward and economically least developed. It is rich in natural resources but with stagnant human resources. The province lacks the skilled and trained labor to utilize its natural resources. Resultantly, its resource potential remained untapped and the province has been caught up in underdevelopment trap. The province is yet to make significant attainments in the human development index (HDI), which focuses on measurable dimensions of human development such as living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Thus, HDI combines measures of life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy, and income.
The key areas need to focused for human development in Balochistan include a rational and long-term planning, on-job training programs, technical education according to the needs of 21st century, secondary level education for development of critical skills, allocation of significant resources, setting up of technology institutes in various districts, the recruitment of qualified teachers, instructors and trainers, access to the high-tech computing services, information technology, scientific management related education and value adding knowledge.