DEVELOPING THE NEGLECTED SECTORS IN BALOCHISTAN

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
June 16 - 22, 2008

While the budgetary preparations for the next fiscal year have entered the crucial stage, the economic managers in Balochistan should also focus on the development of economic sectors, which have so far been neglected and underdeveloped in the province. Significant efforts are needed to develop private and urban sectors in the province. Present government should allocate a handsome amount for the development of these sectors in its development budget for year 2008-09. The development of these two sectors will bring local and foreign investment in the province and help it bringing at par with rest of the developed regions of the country. Moreover, generation of economic activities will create enormous job opportunities for the local people.

PRIVATE SECTOR

For the development of private sector, Balochistan needs technical expertise that will identify the financial, regulatory, and institutional constraints and conduct a structural analysis of the private sector. The experts should undertake a quantitative survey of small-scale industries, and stratify the sector by scale and industry. They should highlight sub-sectors with high potential for growth and private sector investment; and propose an integrated strategy to promote Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) development and employment generation.

A few years back, the Union of Small & Medium Enterprises (Unisame) conducted a survey and released a guideline for SMEs desiring occupations in Gwadar. The union termed Gwadar an ideal opportunity and advised SMEs to seize the opportunity, which is available in every sphere of activity. The union outlined major areas of business as import & export, construction, transportation, shipping, clearing & forwarding, warehousing, building materials, ship channeling and besides these there is undoubtedly room for consumer products and super markets.

Private sector may be involved in establishing mineral-based SMEs, as Balochistan abounds in both metallic and non-metallic minerals. For instance, the Iron ore deposits discovered in Dilband area of Mastung district exceed 200 Mt. Pakistan Steel requires 60-65 percent quality contents, while the present contents of Disband ore ranged between 35 and 40 percent. Private parties may be invited to invest in the installation of Upgradation or beneficiation plant that can upgrade present quality of Dilband ore to the required level. Pakistan Steel has been importing around 1.9 million tons of iron per annum from various countries like Australia, India, Brazil and Canada. It is estimated that after utilizing 100,000 tons of local iron, around 4 million dollars would be saved by Pakistan Steel.

Similarly, investments can be made in establishing Chromite beneficiation plants in Balochistan possessing huge reserves of Chromite. High grade concentrates produced through beneficiation can either be exported at higher prices or be consumed by industries in Pakistan. Stainless steel industry is the major consumer of Chromite. Stainless steel is the alloy of chromium and iron. The performance of the industry largely determines the demand of chromium. Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA), Balochistan has estimated the project cost for a chromite beneficiation plant, capable of producing 15,000 tones of the concentrates.

Marble is the most valued mineral bestowed by nature upon Balochistan. .Marble is an export-oriented sector. The private entrepreneurs may also establish a large number of enterprises in marble sector involving quarrying, processing and trading of marble products. Investment can also be made in developing marble processing centers in Balochistan where automatic tiling plants may be commissioned.

On agriculture side, Balochistan is the fruit basket of Pakistan and produces dates and apples of export quality. Private sector may be involved in establishing apple and date treatment plants. The treatment plants serve the purpose of fruit preservation during off-season.

The province has immense potential for development of shrimp fishery in Sonmiani, Jewani, Kalmat, Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara. The private sector can act as a key player in promoting the shrimp farming in coastal Balochistan purely on the commercial basis. The lands in coastal districts may be allotted to private parties for establishing new hatcheries as viable business -ventures. There are greater prospects for generation of employment for local people, as a huge labor force may be required to run the shrimp farming units in coastal areas.

URBAN SECTOR

First of all there is an urgent need for assessing the potential of urban growth centers in Balochistan. The nexus should be established between regional development and investment in infrastructure and roads. For instance, agribusiness in northern Balochistan, mining in Chaghi district, cross-border trade through Chaman and the Gwadar port development along the coast, should be interlinked.

A coordinated network of roads does not interlink 26 districts in the province and hence there are missing links between economic centers in Balochistan. Gwadar port is of immense importance not only for trade with CARs but also for the development of Pakistan. 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. Balochistan direly needs a Mega road sector development project to cope with the new circumstances after the completion of Mega projects in the province and expected surge in economic activities in the province.

Roads are important for socio-economic uplift of Balochistan where no other source of transportation is available. The development of productive sectors, like health and education, also depends upon proper road communications. The limited road access and lack of road network affect the people of rural areas reducing their access to markets.

This is a potent cause of prevailing poverty in the province. The people in remote regions remain deprived of health and education facility mainly because they have no road access to the major economic centers in the province. Recent drought in Aranji area of Khuzdar district killed several people mainly because they had no road access to the district hospital.

The government should formulate a comprehensive urban strategy after analyzing major cities and townships in Balochistan and assessing their potential to function as urban growth nodes. It should design a strategy to integrate regional economic development with urbanization. It should also assess the socioeconomic impact of urban growth and migration on the provincial economy. The government needs to design an urbanization policy to support urban development and facilitate the growth of service infrastructure for regional economic industries.