ISLAMABAD: Gwadar to be a logistic hub in the region in next five years, said Zhang Baozhong, Chairman of China Overseas Port Holding Company while reviewing the 5-year-journey of the project.
A China Economic Net report stated on Monday that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) reached an important milestone on November 13, 2016, by the starting of the first shipment of trade cargo from Gwadar Port to international destinations.
Five years on, the progress achieved in Gwadar is a prelude to a rosy future. And the story of Gwadar needs to be heard.
Stepping on Gwadar for the first time, “I thought I was on Mars,” Zhang told China Economic Net. It was 2016, not many activities, not many people, not much traffic could be seen in the dusty Gwadar. “The whole city was like a dying town without any environment for doing business.”
“I was under such pressure that I thought it’s mission impossible [to develop Gwadar],” Zhang said. By that time there were no signals or internet.
“From the very top level to the ground level, all the people from Pakistan are very helpful and kind to us. And they are ready to assist us to overcome all the difficulties we are facing. We are really grateful to the Pakistani government for giving us 923 hectares of land (10 square kilometers) dedicated to the development of Free Zone as well as the incentives to investors,” he said.
And with a view to attracting investors, the Pakistani government has passed the Finance Bill 2020 and allowed a 23-year tax holiday for all the investors. “There are a lot of things to be done.” After 5 years of hard work, Zhang mentioned with pride, “This building, this free zone, this port, are as good as any other ports, any other free zones in the world.”
He added, “Following this model, we will develop Gwadar Port step by step. People here know clearly how much it has developed. And from this 5 years’ development, we can foresee what is going to take place.”
Now, Gwadar has made huge progress. “A lot of new buildings are under construction; some beautiful villas have been completed, and all the people are busy with their business,” Zhang Baozhong said.
There was no single commercial shipping line connecting Gwadar port for the past 10 years, and the port merely relied on government diverted cargo with huge subsidized road transport, Zhang told the CEN.
But things have changed since COPHC took over the port and got infrastructures improved, especially when Afghan transit cargo started processing through Gwadar port on January 14, 2020. In spite of the negative pandemic impact on business development, more than 100,000 metric tonnes of Afghan cargo have been handled at the port.
“LPG ships and bulk cargo vessels can be seen coming frequently,” Zhang told China Economic Net. All these activities not only generated a lot of business opportunities for Pakistani stevedoring companies, transporters, customer clearance, and many others but also helped stabilize supply to Afghanistan and other landlocked countries in Middle Asia.
Talking about Gwadar Free Zone, the first modern industrial park in Pakistan, Zhang Baozhong said that up to now 46 enterprises have been registered for investment in Free Zone, mainly covering logistics, warehousing, Halal food processing, agriculture, textile, etc. “More and more investors are showing keen interest in investing in here,” he added.
Gwadar people are very humble, hardworking, and peace-loving people, as per Zhang. “I’m so proud of being part of them. But at the same time, I request an understanding from our local brothers and sister that Rome was not built in a day, and all of these historical issues would be tackled as long as we work together. Let’s join hands for the betterment of our future and our next generation.”
“According to our plan Gwadar would become the logistic hub in this region within 5 years!” said Zhang Baozhong confidently.
As per his blueprint, the Free Zone will be fully developed; more than 30,000 people will be directly employed by the free zone investors; at least $10 billion in GDP will be contributed to the economy of Pakistan. And following this economic development, the life of local people will be dramatically improved or changed; more schools, hotels, and medical facilities will be constructed; water and electrical issues will be completely tackled.
Zhang invited different companies to invest in the rosy future of Gwadar. “Gwadar will become one of the attractive cities in the world – a dreamland for human beings!”
He mentioned that logistics is one of the best businesses in Gwadar as it is the gateway to Middle Asian countries.
But the port itself will not generate any revenue. A proper volume of business is needed to develop the port, and a good logistic system is needed to handle the cargo. Free zone development and port development are twin brothers, said Zhang.