KARACHI: Sindh is a major centre of economic activity in Pakistan and has a highly diversified economy ranging from heavy industry, manufacturing, services sector and agriculture, said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday.
He was addressing the Sindh Growth Forum, organised by the Sindh Planning and Development Board (P&D) at a local hotel. He said that the growth forum is being hosted in the resource-rich province of Sindh with the objective to ensure inclusive and sustained economic growth. “The World Bank Group owes our deepest gratitude for their creative and consistent support in making this event happen,” he said, adding that the P&D’s broad array of representation from all the sectors and walks of life is a clear sign of our will and capacity to achieve growth through collective action.
He thanked Patchamuthu Illangovan, the World Bank’s country director, for his presence in the forum and said that he, along with his team, has been instrumental in galvanising the critical mass for this very important task of developing Sindh Growth Strategy.
Talking about the resources of the province, the chief minister said the province has the coastal belt and two sea ports handling the bulk of the country’s exports and imports. It has a vibrant Stock Exchange and the most resilient business community has been the driving force behind the country’s industrialisation, he said.
The chief minister said that he is cognisant of the fact that the province continues to grapple with low level of human development, low literacy level, poor health indicators, inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation, poverty and hunger and regional, gender and income disparities. “[But] this characterisation of our social underdevelopment is being faced with massive social sector investment in health and nutrition, education and water and sanitation through provincial resources and the assistance of the development partners,” he added.
Murad said the economy of Sindh has historically been based on a well-developed agriculture supported by an effective irrigation network on the River Indus. “The economic development of Sindh is therefore largely dependent on the growth of agriculture sector,” he said. “In recent years, [our] government has significantly increased budget allocations for development and non-development expenditures for agriculture sector and made significant investment in farm mechanisation, water conservation, agriculture research and extension services, livestock and fisheries, food storage facilities and value addition of agricultural products,” he said.
He said all the barrages and downstream irrigation systems, having completed their useful life of more than half a century, require significant rehabilitation. “Therefore, the PPP[-led] government in Sindh attaches importance to rehabilitation of all the three barrages, Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri, and the old irrigation systems and, to this end, is pursuing partnership with donor agencies for canal lining, barrages improvement and rehabilitation of regulators in order to provide water to tail-end farmers.”
The chief minister said that just to augment the national efforts to enhance production of electricity, the Sindh government has heavily invested in development of infrastructure to exploit Thar Coal Reserve and tap alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power.
Taking this opportunity, the chief minister said, Sindh aims at setting up the industry that leverages both our resource as well as clouts the capacities of Chinese industrial development to yield better economic outcomes in Sindh.
Sindh is the only province that has granted the status of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to three industrial zones, Khairpur SEZ, Korangi Creek Industrial Park and Bin Qasim Industrial Park, he said. “The SEZs have been designed to cater to the needs of medium and large-scale entrepreneurs, certifying the accessibility of elementary amenities and award necessary incentives for thriving industry,” he said.
‘CPEC would help build stable economy in Sindh’
Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Murad said it would help build a robust and stable economy in Sindh together with generating sound prospects for the province to revive and expand its industrial base. “This will not only generate employment but also lift millions of people out of poverty and improve their quality of life,” he said. “I believe industrial cooperation coupled with better road connectivity will serve as a conduit for transfer of CPEC gains to our people and business on ground.” He said that CPEC would bring dividends to all the provinces and regions of Pakistan. “We stand committed to ensuring speedy implementation of CPEC projects to seize the opportunities that are knocking at our door,” he said.
The chief minister said the main stumbling block in its way is to realise its full economic potential has been the lack of economic integration across urban-rural lines. “The Sindh Growth Strategy should ideally be based on rural-urban integration by increasing agriculture productivity, investing in rural infrastructure and social services, developing industrial base, creating productive jobs and encouraging private sector-led growth,” he said.
Private sector and civil society organisations are encouraged in the delivery of services such as education and health but the responsibility for ensuring access to all the segments of the population, particularly the poor, would remain with the government. “The [Sindh] Growth Strategy would focus on creating productive jobs, which will cater [to] the increasing demand of youth bulge in the economy, essentially converging on institutional strengthening, governance and human resource development,” he said, adding that he is confident that the Sindh Growth Strategy would open new vistas and unleash entrepreneurial energies that would benefit all.