In November 2016, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a grand opening ceremony at the Gwadar port marked the operationalization and opening of trade activities at the port. The first consignment of cargoes from China to depart from the Pakistani port arrived at Gwadar on the occasion. The Chinese convoy carrying almost 150 containers were then shifted onto Pakistani trucks at the Sost border crossing south of Khunjerab (China) in the Northern Areas.
A tremendous construction activity is being generated by multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects planned under the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Balochistan. Around Rs35 billion has been spent on road infrastructure for the CPEC projects in the province since 2014, according to the official sources. The price of land around these infrastructure projects planned under CPEC will naturally get a boost benefiting the local population.
Today, Gwadar is set to transform from a small coastal town to a cosmopolitan port city.
The property purchase in Gwadar is speculated as a good investment. There is a real estate boom and businessmen from all over the country and abroad are showing interest in the area. Gwadar is currently the focus of speculative trade in real estate that has touched almost a frenzy level as brokers are booking sale and purchase orders for the property in Gwadar that does not exist at present but is being planned for future. While the buyers seem anxious to buy more land in Gwadar, the brokers are also over-zealous.
The rich investors are being lured into buying industrial plots in industrial estates and residential plots in housing schemes in and around Gwadar on payment under different packages.
Pakistan has formally handed over the 2,281 acres free trade zone of Gwadar port to China on a 43-year lease. After the formal handover of the free trade zone, all business affairs of the port will be carried out by Chinese authorities. Pakistani government has already declared Gwadar port a free trade zone for the next 23 years. The government’s announcement to establish a huge industrial estate, a free trade zone and other projects, including oil terminals, huge refineries, attracted the investors again to invest in Gwadar real estate. The Balochistan government has allotted land for the construction of warehouses in Gwadar. The plots have been allotted in the Gwadar Industrial Zone for construction of warehouses to facilitate importers and exporters.
With the functioning of industrial zone, Gwadar would become a hub of industrial and trade activities. The 3,000 acres of land have already been reserved for the development of Gwadar Industrial Estate (GIE) to meet the demand of industrial plots and to cope up with the needs of modern industrialization in the port city.
Located at Karwat on Makran coastal highway about 40 km from Gwadar, the GIE is the first industrial estate of the emerging port city. Over 1,100 plots have been allotted to industrialists in the estate.
GIE would be the biggest industrial estate in Balochistan. According to the master plan of GIE, 1000 acres of land would be developed in the first phase. Following industries are planned to be developed in the GIE:
– Small manufacturing
– High-tech electronic fabrication and assembly plants
– Metal and wood fabrication and assembly
– PVC housing & extrusion
– Fish processing & canning
– Life engineering
– Textile & garments
– Food & flour mills
– Refrigeration & cold storages
Ware housing, buildings, commercial plots, support services and other facilities have also been planned to promote industrial activity in the port city. The GIE master plan also includes the setting up of flatted factories in order to provide services to the future small industrial and commercial enterprises in Gwadar. The housing schemes for workers and low-income groups of people have also been planned.
Gwadar port is the essential part of the $46 billion CPEC project. China is developing the Gwadar port as a strategic and commercial hub under its ‘One-Belt One-Road’ initiative that promises shared regional prosperity. CPEC is one of many arteries of the ‘One-Belt One-Road’. The CPEC involves construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines connecting western China with Pakistan and the Persian Gulf. The two countries signed 51 deals worth billions of dollars mostly relating to the CPEC project. Located at the crown of the Arabian Sea, Gwadar port in Balochistan will open up an energy corridor from Central Asia and the Gulf across Pakistan to western China.
Gwadar free port project promises massive investment, greater generation of employment opportunities and more development projects in different sectors of provincial economy. Commerce, industry, trade and economic activities would receive a boost after the development of two-phased seaport in the province. Of course, Gwadar has the potential to become a hub of major economic and commercial activities in the region. There is a high need for establishing roads and warehousing facilities at Taftan, Chaman and Torkham borders in order to make full use of Gwadar Port.
The future scenario necessitates the establishment of a strong, well-coordinated and metalloid highway and road and rail network spreading across the province and interlinking the major commercial centers in Balochistan. The CPEC project is perhaps the answer. The development of road and rail links between the two provinces, Balochistan and Xinjiang, will give distinction to Gwadar port of becoming the gateway port for western China. Rail link will transfer goods to and from western China, changing it from a remote region into a station that will transfer goods and commodities worth billions of dollars every year.
China is deeply interested to pour huge investments in Gwadar, which is located at the mouth of the Gulf and close to the Strait of Hormuz.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif already said that Gwadar port would be developed on the pattern of Hong Kong, which is a model as to where the financial successes of Asia are headed. Being the builder, operator and financer of Gwadar port and also being the biggest investor in the port city, China can play the role of a major driver of growth in Gwadar as it did in Hong Kong. Having a free market economy, Hong Kong is highly dependent on international trade. China’s share is over 35 percent in international trade. Strategically located Gwadar port can be converted into a regional hub of international trade. By virtue of its geography, Gwadar has greater potential, wider scope and brighter prospects to emerge as center of trade and commerce serving at least 20 countries in the Asian region.