Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is an enclave in which business, trade and investment laws are different from rest of the country. SEZs are located within the territorial national borders where investors, traders and businessmen are treated with special incentives as compared to rest of the country. SEZ aims includes increased trade, increased investment, job creation, infrastructure development and effective administration. Financial & economic policies and tax regimes are introduced to encourage businessmen and traders to invest in SEZs. Successful SEZs offer immediate access to high-quality infrastructure, uninterruptible power supply, clearly titled land, public facilities, and support services. In addition, streamlined regulatory enforcement, simpler business and establishment rules, expedited customs administration, and other special administrative and approval procedures are also offered in such zones.
In the context of Pakistan fiscal benefits under the SEZ law include a one-time exemption from custom duties and taxes for all capital goods imported into Pakistan for the development, operations and maintenance of a SEZ (both for the developer as well as for the zone enterprise) and exemption from all taxes on income for a period of ten years. The provincial SEZ authorities, set up under the law, are required to move the applications received from developers to the Federal Board of Investment which is to act as the secretariat to the Board of Approvals and the Approval committee. Modified and amended SEZ Act 2015 stated that The Federal Government and Provincial Governments may establish special economic zones by themselves or in collaboration with private parties under various modes of collaboration including public private partnership or exclusively through the private parties as provided under this Act.
The Board of Approvals (BOA), the highest approving forum is headed by the Prime Minister with membership from Economic Ministries, Provincial Governments, Public and Private Sectors. Approvals Committee is headed by the Chairman BOI and membership from Economic Ministries, Provincial Governments, Public and Private Sectors and SEZ Authorities (at provincial level including Gilgit- Baltistan) work under the leadership of the Chief Ministers. The first application of Khairpur Special Economic Zone was in principle approved by the Approval Committee of Special Economic Zones in its first meeting held on February 11, 2014. Khairpur Special Economic Zone is being developed in Khairpur District as a future hub of agro-processing and other related industries, KSEZ is located on 140 acres land in the proximity of date growing areas, ideal for setting up date processing and packaging plant for exporting different varieties of date to get high price for this value added product in the international markets. This special zone will have state-of-the-art infrastructure, efficient design, easy access to labor and training facilities and quality logistic services. The zone will provide inherent benefits of essential supporting amenities to small, medium, and large enterprises to grow and flourish in a global market place.
The Provincial Governments have received many applications for various potential zones in their respective provinces and are in the process of preparing documents to further process the applications. They are also engaged with potential local and foreign investors to finalize arrangements for infrastructure development of the areas identified for Zones.
Its eyes fixed on the bonanza that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor promises to bring, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has formed a company to develop special economic zones and has identified sites for four zones to attract industrial investment. On December 15, the first of these zones was opened at Hattar, with hopes that it will lead to Rs300bn of investment inflows over the next five years. But Hattar has already been an industrial area for decades and is located next to the vast Taxila industrial complex. And so are Nowshera and D.I. Khan, where two other special economic zones (SEZs) have been proposed. Only Karak will be a new industrial estate, inspired by Punjab’s Sundar industrial estate.
Currently, there are 17 industrial estates in KP, including seven medium- and large-sized ones. All of these are managed by the Sarhad Development Authority (SDA). The remaining 10 are small-sized estates. No funds were allocated to upgrade or revive the dilapidated infrastructure in the existing estates during the nearly past three years of the PTI-led provincial government. And successive provincial governments failed to convince the federal government to provide competitive tax incentives to attract investment in these zones. Consequently, 415 units out of 646 industrial units in the four industrial estates of Hayatabad (Peshawar), Gadoon Amazai, Hattar and Nowshewra have shut down. Over 20,000 workers were retrenched. Meanwhile, the rest of the 231 units are struggling in an unfavourable business environment. And 449 out of 247 units in the nine other industrial estates in the province have also closed down, retrenching more than 5,000 workers. But no corrective measures have been taken to stop more industrial units in these estates from going under. A major issue is the overlapping of the responsibility of various departments in attracting and facilitating investments in the province.
Meanwhile, apart from ensuring stable supply of utilities, the provincial government will also have to engage the federal government to ensure customs duty exemption on the import of capital goods, machinery and equipment for the setting up of industry in the province, as well as income-tax exemption for a certain period. So far, the KP government appears to have not given much thought about exporting fruits and vegetables to China under CPEC. China has a ready market for farm produce and dairy products. Swat, Dir and Chitral are famous for their fruits and vegetables but lack cold storage and packaging facilities.
SEZ will generate 30,000 jobs. The zone will require 100MW of electricity and also need a vocation centre to train 5,000 youngsters. The cost of the project is Rs2.138bn and it is expected to be fully completed by 2017. The second SEZ will be developed over 1,000 acres along the M-1 Motorway in Nowshera near Rashakai. It aims to attract foreign investment in auto, fruit/food packaging (for export purposes) and textile value-addition (stitching/knitting) sectors. The company estimates an investment of Rs1000bn in the zone. It will provide employment to 50,000 people. The zone will need 225MW of power and vocational training centres to train 10,000 youths.
Meanwhile, an oil refinery with a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day will be established at the SEZ in Karak at a prospective investment of $5bn. It is expected to create 5,000 jobs. A 1,000MW gas-based power plant will also be established at Karak with an investment of $10bn over the medium-term. The KP government plans to establish a carpet-weaving industry near Peshawar at an investment of Rs100bn, which will create jobs for over 2,000 technical and non-technical positions. It is also planning trucking, logistics and cold storage parks for CPEC projects at Sust, Mansehra, Havalian, Peshawar, Bannu and D.G. Khan. Each park is estimated to be over 100 acres of land and cater to 500-1,000 trucks travelling along the CPEC route through KP. All in all, SEZs are the core of CPEC and part of it long term plan.