Sindh’s new leadership has galvanised the provincial bureaucracy, linking competence with responsibility and sidelining inefficient/corrupt officials.
How fast this will translate into economic success, however, will depend on how quickly Sindh earns the confidence of reluctant private investors who are shy to lock their capital in a province perceived to be misgoverned, infested with political divisions and rife with a culture of patronage.
“However, the dynamics are changing. The CPEC-induced investment will bring about a qualitative difference in governance. Industrial clusters, as the forth pillar of the uplift plan (infrastructure, energy and logistic being the first three), have brightened the prospects of balanced and inclusive development in Sindh”, insisted a top official of provincial government.
“Yes. It took us time but now we are at it. There is not an iota of doubt in my mind that under the current leadership team Sindh will deliver. Before the close of 2017 improvement in infrastructure will be visible. It will activate the private sector, hungry for viable business avenues”, said a member of the Sindh economic team talking to Dawn.
He substantiated his claim with data related to progress on development schemes during the current financial year. Against 221 out of a total 590 new schemes in FY2015-16, 804 out of 978 schemes have already been approved by January for this fiscal year.
The trend in release of development funds is similar. In the first half of the current year fiscal disbursement for development schemes was 10pc higher over the last year; a sum of Rs130.6bn (50pc) out of the annual Rs265.9bn PSDP (including ADP and federal grants) was released by December 2016. Only Rs73.2bn was released from a total Rs186.6bn in the corresponding period last year.
Naheed Memon, chairperson, Sindh Board of Investment, accepted that the provincial setup has yet to be sensitised to the needs and aspirations of the business class which has to struggle with different departments to resolve petty issues. She was confident that the ice is breaking with people like her, with a business background, joining in.
“We are working hard to remove irritants to long-term investment in this resource-rich province. The pace of progress is impressive. We intent to engage the private sector in a big way as without their active participation progress is unthinkable”, she said elaborating on Sindh’s share in the CPEC.
The Sindh government has succeeded in inducting three more big tickets projects in the CPEC that were considered valuable for the goal of revitalising the provincial economy.
In the sixth Pakistan China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting in Beijing last month the Sindh team went equipped with a strong proposal to include in the CPEC the Karachi Circular Railway project, the China Special Economic Zone at Dhabeji and the Keti Bunder Port project.
According to details related to the provincial share of the four provinces in the CPEC, available online and posted two months back, some 16 projects relate to Balochistan, 13 to Sindh, 12 to Punjab and eight to KP.
Sindh projects include: Matiari Lahore transmission line, Matiari Faisalabad transmission line, Port Qasim power plant, Engro Thar Power Plant and surface mine in Block II, Dawood Wind Farm, Sachal Wind Farm, Jhimpir Wind Farm, China-Sunec Wind Farm, Upgradation of ML-1, Thar Coal Block I and Mine Mouth Power Plant, Gwadar Nawabshah LNG terminal and pipeline and Karachi-Lahore Motorway.
Sources privy to marathon meetings in Islamabad and Beijing in December revealed that one special industrial zone project from each province was inducted under the CPEC umbrella in the last JCC. Sindh proposed the Dhabeji Special Industrial Zone for Chinese companies. However, with PM Nawaz Sharif’s backing, Sindh also pushed the KCR and the Keti Bunder Port at the same meeting.
“Dhabeji and KCR were accepted without much ado but the Chinese initially expressed concerns over developing another port in Sindh when the work on Gwadar port is in progress. We allayed their apprehensions when we made a case for building a coal jetty to facilitate coal trade.
“There is an increase in demand for imported coal with commissioning coal-fired power plants and there is an expectation of excessive supply of local coal after completion of the Thar coal mining project available for export”, a member of the Sindh team informed.
Talking about the Dhabeji zone, Additional Chief Secretary Development, Muhammad Waseem, admitted that the local industry’s concern was not baseless.
“We need to move with caution and do our homework thoroughly on special industrial zones. Any move that hurts the fragile provincial industrial base would be counter-productive”, he asserted.
“The relevant departments need to evolve a framework that mandates incoming Chinese investors to work in partnership with locals and restrain them from entering sectors where Pakistan enjoys comparative advantage”, he cautioned.
Local businessmen said they were nowhere in the picture. “Spare me. I am happy with whatever little I have. Someone has to put a gun to my temple to make me suck up to the PPP leadership. I do not trust them. Do you think they care for the industry? During their eight year rule what did they do to promote it?” a senior businessman moaned.
“Talk to the Engro people and they will confirm how the Sindh government completed its part of the deal ahead of time in the Thar Coal project”, a provincial
secretary responded, adding that the business class needs to shed its bias and cooperate with the government for the collective good.