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Trends in Balochistan’s real estate – Gwadar developments stand the test of time

Constituting merely 2 percent of the country’s GDP, the real estate sector can still grow and account for 5 percent of GDP. Efforts should be made by the government to revive the real estate sector. The government spends more than US$5 billion on construction from its annual development budget. The housing sector, however, gets less than half of the amount allocated for construction each year. For the development of housing sector, government must reduce excise duty on cement, eliminate excise duty on wires and cables, increase in limit of tax exemption on mark-up, bring improvement in lending ratio and increase in maximum limit of loan.

Balochistan was denied housing schemes in the past. People in Balochistan mostly live in mud-houses. Even pucca houses (solid or permanent houses) do not exist in many areas even inside Quetta, the provincial capital. People lack proper housing to live a decent life. They are still deprived of decent living in the 21st century. The 2014 earthquake in Awaran district destroyed hundreds of kacha houses (mud or wood houses) rendering thousands of people homeless. The weak infrastructure added to the devastations brought about by the earthquake in different areas of the province. Lack of decent living is a potent factor contributing growth of extremism and militancy in the province. According to one estimate 89 percent of population in rural Balochistan resides in high deprivation areas. The entire urban population in Balochistan resides in high deprivation districts and the province’s share in low as well as medium deprivation districts is zero. The provincial capital, Quetta does not even qualify for medium deprivation status. Nearly one half of the population of Balochistan relies on unprotected wells, ponds, canals, or streams for their drinking water needs.

In rural areas, only 39 percent of households have access to improved water sources within a 2-kilometer distance from their homes. Drinking water is often polluted and distributed without treatment. According to an estimate, only in five districts (out of 30 districts), sanitation is accessible to more than 51 percent of the population; in nine districts adequate sanitation is available to 26-50 percent of the population, and in 13 districts, household sanitation coverage is only 4-25 percent. Access to sewage disposal infrastructure is largely absent. In most districts, less than 3 percent of the population has access to wastewater disposal facilities.

GWADAR’S REALITY MARKET

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.

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.

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.

Gwadar port is equally attracting the interest of the local and foreign investors. Islamabad has decided to set up a tax-free industrial zone of international standard in Gwadar. The government is reportedly offering more concessions to foreign investors for the development of second phase of Gwadar port project. In the past, a number of countries, including those of the region, had expressed their willingness to establish duty-free industrial zones in Gwadar. The investors and entrepreneurs particularly from Central Asia, Afghanistan, China, South Korea, Japan and Singapore showed a keen interest in establishing industrial estates in Gwadar. China and South Korea are supposed to set up their tax-free special industrial development zones (SIDZs) in Gwadar.

In the past, an SIDZ with an area of 4,000 hectare was proposed for setting up various industries. The SIDZ is located on the north of Gwadar town at a distance of about 30km from the port. The SIDZ project would help in increasing import and export of the country. With the functioning of industrial zone, Gwadar would become a hub of industrial and trade activities.

The 3000 acres of land has 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.

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