Belt and Road Initiative-Supported Gwadar Changes Every Day
Wang Lin
/SOURCE : Yicai
Belt and Road Initiative-Supported Gwadar Changes Every Day

(Yicai Global) May 9 – A thirtyish man, Chen Bingwei came to Gwadar, Pakistan on Jan. 23 for work with China Overseas Holding Co.

Chen is the youngest staffer responsible for this Chinese firm's project in Gwadar Port, which gave him his first job after university graduation.

"Everyone is sparing no efforts to promote the development of the Gwadar port as soon as possible. It develops really fast, exhibiting a fresh appearance each month," Chen told Yicai Global.

From the inception of Pakistan's Gwadar Port construction aided by China in 2002, to its final establishment in 2007, and finally to 2013 when China Overseas Holding took charge of its operation and the development of the Gwadar Free Zone, these past 15 years, especially the most recent two years, have seen fundamental changes in this small fishing village that has experienced long-term ups and downs, even if Gwadar has not transformed into a Shenzhen- or Dubai-like hub in Pakistan.

Completion of Multiple Projects Projected for Late This Year

Gwadar Port is the pearl of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor adjoins Kashi in the north, Xinjiang, China and reaches the Port of Gwadar in Pakistan's Balochistan province on the Arabian Sea coast in the south. It serves as a major priority project, as well as a flagship project in the Belt and Road Initiative Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed in 2013. When Xi paid a state visit to Pakistan in April 2015, the two sides announced development of a China–Pakistan Economic Corridor focusing on four key fields, including Gwadar Port, energy, traffic infrastructure and industrial park cooperation, in a bid to promote interconnectivity and Pakistan's economic development. Relevant reports show China's total investments in the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor have surpassed USD40 billion.

Gwadar went through a busy day On May 7, 2017, when an array of activities was held concurrently. The Red Cross Society of China officially transferred the Gwadar Fraternity Emergency Care Centre for which it aided the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, the foundation-laying ceremony of the Gwadar Port Fish-Processing Zone was concluded, and Chen Zhu, chairman of the Red Cross Society of China, visited Gwadar Free Zone and exhorted enterprises and construction organizations to join the park.

The above activities are a retrospective on the progress and results Gwadar has achieved in areas such as hygiene, medical care, and education, as well as development of the Gwadar Free Zone and the Gwadar Port, respectively, over the past 2 years.

The Gwadar Free Zone is now striving to establish four plants, two large warehouses, two exhibition centers, one major administrative admissibility window and one-stop service center, which will be completed by December this year, Dostain Jamaldini, chairman of Gwadar Port office told Yicai Global. To this end, engineers and technical workers are pouring enormous vitality into these construction projects around the clock, taking turns in two to three daily shifts.

Commercial buildings within the Gwadar Port Zone include a dining hall and seamen's center, shopping center, container shipping station, an offshore maintenance workshop, a large warehouse, a refrigerated storage facility and a van parking lot.

More than half facilities will debut before December this year, and the business center is expected to open by next June, said Jamaldini.

Gwadar Industrializes Starting From the Port

The fish processing zone Xinjiang-based Yufei Commerce Co. invested in started construction on May 7, and is expected be built and put into operation at the start of next year. Gwadar is endowed with abundant fishery resources, but its fishing and production modes are outdated. In May 2015, Yicai Global visited the only local frozen fish processing plant whose production scale was quite limited at that time. Without any refrigerators and freezers, the fish was only able to be stored on ice, causing its quality to barely meet standards.

By April this year, Gwadar Free Zone has accomplished all the work related to luring investment, and enterprises from both China and Pakistan have started to settle in it, Yicai Global has learned from China Overseas Ports Holdings\. The project with the most rapid progress is the electric vehicle project Pakistan Jolta Technologies Pvt. Ltd. invested in. Its assembly and production have commenced in the port's workshops, and it is expected to be built and start production by the end of 2017.

A group of local Pakistani financial and insurance institutions have settled in the Gwadar Free Zone. Pakistan's two largest commercial banks -- Habib Bank Ltd. [KA:HBL] and United Bank Ltd. [KA:UBL] -- and EFU General Insurance Ltd. [KA:EFUG], Pakistan's largest insurer, have all taken station in the Zone to provide financial and insurance services.

Wang Dandan from China Overseas Port is primarily in charge of investment attraction and planning of the Zone. "Since the end of last year, more enterprises have come here or show interest in it," she told Yicai Global.

One reason for the great strides Gwadar Free Zone has made since last year is the preferential policies and development regulations of the Zone being successively put in place. The policies and regulations have clarified such information as the procedure for enterprise registration, and rents of land and plants in the Zone, which provides a concrete operational basis for enterprises' investment, registration and settlement.

Thus far, at least 35 enterprises have applied for business licenses for operation in the free zone, with nine companies already awarded their entry ticket. The estimated investment totals over CNY60 billion.

Construction of the Gwadar Free Zone started last March. Per its planning, the zone divides into a trade logistics area in the south and a processing and manufacturing area in the north.

The construction of temporary housing has now finished. Seventy percent of tasks in the starting area have been completed and some enterprises in the park have started manufacturing activities, realizing the development goal of 'simultaneous construction and production.'

China Overseas Holding took over the rights to operate Gwadar Port back in 2013. By the end of last year, the company had poured more than USD30 million into such systems as maintenance of port roads, storage yards, harbor handling equipment, sea water desalination, oil supply and port monitoring.

As of now, repair work has come to an end for the primary equipment. The port can deal with various businesses, ranging from bulk cargoes to containers, boasting whole-operation abilities. Chinese airlines also provide flight access to Gwadar port.

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor project team duly arrived at Gwadar port from Kashi last Nov. 13, exporting floods of containers through the port, representing the maiden successful co-transportation.

Pakistan values local security and stability in Gwadar, and has detailed several thousand security personnel to safeguard its development.

The Pakistani side highly values the protection of China–Pakistan Economic Corridor project as well as relevant personnel security, setting up a special security force with nearly 14,000 dedicated staff, who are responsible for security work of the corridor construction, stressed Sun Weidong, China's ambassador to Pakistan.

Gwadarians' Medical and Educational Demands Should Not Fall on Deaf Ears

Chen feels that Gwadar has a social atmosphere where people are simple, honest and friendly. However, local infrastructure lags, and better development will require joint efforts between China and Pakistan.

The construction of Gwadar Fraternity Emergency Care Center is beset by the windy season. "The raging sandstorm every afternoon really oppresses the building site workers. The infirmary there sees the most rapid depletion of eye drops, because workers from both countries need large amounts to protect themselves against sand and dirt," Chen told Yicai Global.

Yicai Global learned that the China-Pakistan Fraternity Emergency Care Center the Red Cross Society of China donated is not built inside the Gwadar Free Zone or Gwadar Port. Instead, it lies beside the sentry post checkpoint. In this way, both Chinese people and locals within the port can enjoy access to medical services in the emergency care center. Such a move carries substantial practical implications for Gwadar, which confront an extreme shortage of medical care providers to the extent that even a cold can cause real difficulties.

The design scheme of China-Pakistan Fraternity Emergency Care Center comprehensively factors in Gwadar's actual circumstances, including the natural coastal environment of Gwadar Port, which desert surrounds on the land side, the medical care demands of locals, as well as Chinese and other foreigners working in the port zone, and also the religious beliefs and folk customs of the local Baloch people.

During field research here two years ago, Yicai Global interviewed people from four local schools and a local hospital whose operations had been shelved, and local ordinary residents, mostly fishermen. Gwadar's biggest desire for development is to see improvements in medical care and education in their view.

Last year, aided by China, Gwadar Faqeer Primary School became the first finished livelihood project under China–Pakistan Economic Corridor and won warm plaudits among local people.

China Overseas Holding held a grand ceremony to commemorate the 13th anniversary of Chinese engineers sacrificing their lives to build Gwadar port. On May 3, 2004, three Chinese engineers Hao Guangchuan, Guo Qihong and Zhou Xuemeng died in a premeditated terror attack. At the commemorative activity, Zhang Baozhong, chairman of China Overseas Holding stressed that poverty and ignorance are the breeding ground for terrorism, and the company will assume its due social responsibilities and do its best. The company has built schools, established hospitals, donated school buses, and promoted employment, actively diving into local community activities, which is highly recognized by local government and people. Looking forward, the company will continue to make new contributions to the social and economic development of Gwadar.

Follow Yicai Global on
Keywords: Pakistan , Investment , BELT AND ROAD