DUBAI IN GWADAR
Gwadar has great potential for tourism and government decided to develop the port on lines of Dubai
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Apr 05 - 11, 2004
Obviously, inspired by the tremendous growth of Dubai, which is pulling crowd of investors, shoppers and business people from all over the world, authorities in Pakistan are also considering to develop Gwadar, the third port city of Pakistan on the pattern of Dubai.
Gwadar deep sea port as a free zone, with its fascinating beaches and romantic hilly surroundings, may fascinate not only the tourists but investment at a massive scale as its strategic location as a corridor to Central Asian States offer great economic opportunities for the investors.
Managing Director, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Malik Muhammad Habib Khan has said that Gwadar has great potential for tourism and government decided to develop the port on lines of Dubai.
According to PTDC Chief, Gwadar would become a hub of trade activity in near future and would attract Middle Eastern States to use it as a business channel.
Malik Habib said PTDC intended to construct a Tourist Complex at Gwadar Port like Dubai to develop the scope of tourism in the area. A letter has also been written to the Chief Secretary for allotment of land in Gwadar.
The plan has yet to be materializing due to lack of funds. However, the government would welcome the private investors in development projects for promotion of tourism in Gwadar.
So far, the tourism industry in Pakistan was restricted to Northern areas, despite great potentials for promoting tourism in the Southern part of the country including Sindh and Balochistan. The PTDC is initiating in this direction and is working on development of the beaches of the country in the Southern Zone. Currently, a resort is being constructed at Hawks Bay and is also working on a joint venture with Defense Housing Authority in Karachi.
Plans are also under way to invite the private sector for launching ferry service, between Karachi and Gwadar and from Karachi to Bombay. This would be an added attraction both for the business as well as intended tourists to step down on the virgin beaches of Gwadar.
The business community, however, strongly recommends that Gwadar should be given the status as the free port if one really desires to make it a success and see yet another Dubai in Gwadar.
Located at the entrance of the Persian Gulf and about 460 km from Karachi, Gwadar has had immense Geo-strategic significance on many accounts. The continued unstable regional environment in the Persian Gulf in particular as a result of the Iran/Iraq war, the Gulf war and the emergence of the new Central Asian States has added to this importance. Considering the Geo-economic imperative of the regional changes, the ADB's Ports Master Plan studies considered an alternate to the Persian Gulf Ports to capture the transit trade of the Central Asian Republic (CAR) as well as the trans-shipment trade of the region. Both Karachi and PQA were considered for such development but were found unattractive to major shipping lines due to the remoteness from the main shipping routes, the limitations of draft for mother ships and large bulk oil carriers and the comparative long turn around times. The ADB studies, however, considered Gwadar to have the most advantageous location for such an alternative port in the region, which could handle mother ships and large oil tankers in due course.
Keeping that aspect in view as well as the inherent strategic and economic benefits that Gwadar Port offered, the transport plan of the 8th Five Year Plan (1993-94) of Pakistan included the development of Gwadar Port as an essential element of its aims and objectives. Technical and financial feasibilities therefore were under taken resulting in decisions for the development of Gwadar Port by the Government of Pakistan.
The project started on 22 March 2002, is on fast track and will complete in schedule time next year. In fact it would surprise many that with initiative and calculated risk. The port received merchant ships since Jan 2003 and have been able to off load hundreds of tonnes of cargo imported for the project, thus saving precious time and money which otherwise is required for transportation of the same cargo by road from Karachi/PQA to Gwadar.
Business representatives from friendly country China, which is providing all sorts of assistance in development of Gwadar Port, have expressed its willingness to investment in various sectors of the economy.
Pakistan authorities responding to the offer have indicated that the government was actively considering setting up a special economic zone in the country for the Chinese investors. The government also aims at providing maximum possible incentives for encouraging investors in this zone. While examining various proposals for establishing special economic zone, which could contribute tremendously to the development of Pak-China economic relations, Gwadar Port offers ideal location for that project. As the special zone at Gwadar would promote Chinese trade to Central Asian States, Middle East and African countries.