Chinese investment quite helpful for Balochistan, says BEF president

he President, Balochistan Economic Forum (BEF), Sardar Shoukat Popalzai has said that Chinese investment is a major milestone on improving socioeconomic development in the province of Balochistan.

He expressed concern over recent statements from a National Assembly Member from the province of Balochistan, in which he has used very harsh words for Chinese companies making investments in the province including power projects. The MNA even accused them of destroying the environment and marine life in the coastal areas, besides denying jobs to locals.

Sardar Shoukat Popalzai regretted that such statements could discourage investment projects in Balochistan. He said that all the Chinese projects under CPEC have generated economic activity in a big way and created employment opportunities for the local people. For instance, China Overseas Port Holding Company created more than 4,000 jobs during the first phase at Gwadar: the count of local employees was 3,800 while Chinese employees were only 200.

There is special focus on marginalized areas and Balochistan has been identified as a priority region under CPEC. The World Bank has highlighted that CPEC would help Pakistan to accelerate economic growth and development, especially in low developed areas like Balochistan.

President Balochistan Economic Forum said that next to the power project at Gaddani in Lasbela district was a ship breaking yard, where the environmental impact has never been questioned and it has been flourishing since decades.

The yard has generated economic activity in a big way and created employment opportunities for the seashores of Balochistan. Because of the power house, the MNA fears that the fisheries sector would remain under constant threat in the coastal area of the province but in fact the main reason could be the ban by the European Union on seafood export to Europe and other countries in the recent past. This has badly affected the income generation of the coastal population of Balochistan.

The provincial political leader should seek the cooperation of foreign investors while opening dialogue to assist in such difficult issues, as this would bring gains for the local population rather than scaring the investors, he said.

The lawmaker, representing Lasbela and Gwadar, had wrongly criticized Chinese firms for not coming to the help of the people at the time of devastating floods in the province, and alleging that the companies were not paying taxes; such statements embarrass the country.

The People’s Republic of China is at the forefront as always to provide relief and support for rehabilitation, and Chinese companies stationed in Balochistan while fulfilling their corporate social responsibility have provided substantial cash donations and distributed material needed by the affected people. Time and again the Chinese companies operating in Balochistan have always engaged with the local population while supporting health, education and socio economic development matters.

It’s a fact that CPEC could significantly change the economic outlook of the province. Being the largest province in Pakistan in terms of area, it is a prospective haven for foreign companies eyeing its untapped natural resources in different sectors.

He said that there could be no second opinion on upholding the economic interests of the province particularly of the local population, but the fact must not be ignored that foreign and local investors face many hurdles in finalizing projects, and such statements create misunderstandings regarding the investment environment of the province.

Due to the suppressed economy of Balochistan, foreign investments are required for creating job opportunities, development of infrastructure, community development and enhancement of revenue through different taxes for the national exchequer. Balochistan needs investment in different economic sectors without question, he said.

The Balochistan Economic Forum has organized several dialogues between the Chinese companies, local political leadership and population to get any grievances addressed properly.

He said that large projects always needed huge capital, highly skilled workers and technical know-how, besides international market connections for profitable and successful operations. Presently neither the federal government nor the provincial government possesses such resources and expertise. It required interest and support of foreign investors.

The President Balochistan Economic Forum has further advised the political leadership to be very careful in issuing such harsh statements, which would be damaging to the economic interests of the province. Provincial government and political leadership should strongly support foreign and local direct investment in the province and, importantly, also ensure that the message is reflected in bureaucratic policies and procedures, he urged.

Balochistan Economic Forum since its inception in 1992 has played an important role in attracting foreign investments in the province of Balochistan. The Forum has organized several seminars and conferences on different economic related topics and issues with an aim to familiarize the national and International economic community with opportunities for trade and investments in Balochistan province.

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