LAHORE - SALMAN ABDUHU - As Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, ahead of general elections, is hurriedly announcing new industrial estates in the province amid unavailability of gas and electricity, regionally very high markup and worst law & order. The business community has asked the government to ensure energy supply so that manufacturing units at industrial clusters could run smoothly.

Industrial bodies representatives raised the point that at a time when the business community was already facing a number of challenges, including prolonged energy crisis, deteriorating law and order situation, high input cost and struggling for its survival, instead of providing some relief, the provincial government is engaged in creating more hurdles for Sundar Industrial Estates plot holders’ businessmen.

Kortech Industries CEO Usman Malik said the business community is presently unable to meet its working capital requirement due to exceptional hike in Rupee-Dollar parity, which is ultimately increasing cost of doing business particularly in Punjab where industrial estates are growing and number of industries is squeezing.

The Kortech chief, who is also PAAPAM vice chairman, criticising the provincial government policy of forcing allottees of Sundar Industrial Estate who have not yet started industrialisation process to transfer plots, observed that most of the allottees are genuine industrialists and wanted to set up units there but financial burden and liquidity crunch cannot allow them to invest further.

“The sword is hanging on the allottees of SIE to start construction to set up units otherwise their plots will be vacated by the government, as there is long queue of investors belonging to Karachi who wanted to acquire vacated plots, because their position is better due to availability of power as well as gas to their industry.”

Malik pointed out that manufacturers had acquired the land a long time ago and it will be unjust to get their plots resold forcefully on buying rates of many years back. He appealed the government to give time of at least one year to the allottees, so that the real industrialists could not be deprived of their right of investment, he made at the early stages of erection of this industrial estate.

All Pakistan Business Forum chairman Syed Nabeel Hashmi stated that business propositions have changed altogether since Nov 2007 when unprecedented energy crisis hit the country, particularly the industrial sector of Punjab. He said making new investments has become difficult for business community in a situation when energy crisis has already crippled the industrial growth.

“The need of focused industrial clusters cannot be denied in any industrial economy, however the concept of ‘Standalone Industrial Estates’ is now outdated, he said and stressed the need for establishment of such a land which also involves an individual citizen along with the entrepreneurs and industrialists.” He suggested the federal as well as the provincial governments to plan futuristically on new developments on the Intelligent City Concept where industrial clusters are part and parcel of a broader spectrum of infrastructure that itself caters for the basic daily needs of individuals. These include jobs, health, education and equality, he added. Hashmi asked the PIEDMC to also evolve into a Mega City Provincial Development company in this regard.

Rice Exporters Association acting chairman Samee Ullah Ch also termed it a positive step only if the cheaper and cost effective electricity and gas supply is guaranteed. For this purpose, mass fuel or bio fuel turbines can be installed within the estates, which would be cost efficient and reliable, he added.

He maintained that cost effective and reliable mega energy solutions can be installed through cost sharing formula by respective units operating within those industrial estates.

He demanded incentives for promotion of industrial and economic activities, which should be our top priority, asking the authorities to take solid steps for this purpose. APTMA Punjab chairman Shahzad Ali Khan hailed the establishment of new industrial clusters but expressed that industrial estates development without provision of power, gas and other incentives is useless, as setting up new plants in this worse situation of energy is absolutely unviable.

Shahzad reiterated that about 40 percent of capacities have been closed down in textile industry in Punjab due to severe energy crisis while 80 percent of textile industry is located here. The general industry is also passing through similar situation due to factors like energy shortages and unfavorable law and order situation. Punjab government, on the patron of several Indian states, can evolve an effective strategy for promotion of industrial development and investment in the province, he added.