ISLAMABAD (March 18, 2011) : Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region can contribute 42,000 MW to the national grid while the Basha dam will generate 4,500 MW alone and 7,500 MW power can be generated from Bonji dam, says a report jointly launched by World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Aga Khan Development Network and GB government.
The report ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Economic Report: Broadening the Transformation’ was launched here at a ceremony on Thursday. The event was attended by Chief Minister GB Syed Mehdi Shah, representatives of WB, ADB, AKDN and GB government. The 200-page report covers key potentials/challenges being faced by Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Speaking on the occasion, Mehdi Shah said that despite having huge energy potential, the region has the lowest rate of access to electricity. The GB government faces financial constraints and is largely dependent on the federal government, he added. “About 1.2 percent of the total area in GB is used for agriculture. Our yield of wheat is 2.2 tons per hectare while we have 150,000MT wheat shortfall every year. Overall Potato production in the region is 88,000MT but we don’t have sufficient storage capacity,” Mehdi Shah said.
He maintained that the government of Pakistan has formulated National Mineral Policy which aims at offering suitable institutional arrangements at federal and provincial levels including time-bound investment-friendly regulatory regime and internationally competitive fiscal incentives along with the development of Mineral Resources but this policy is yet to be implemented in GB.
According to the GB Economic report, while taxation in Pakistan is generally a federal subject, the royalties from minerals are collected and spent by the government of Gilgit-Baltistan. This means that revenue from mining could become a significant source of fiscal resources at the local level. Mehdi invited both domestic and foreign investors to invest in power, mining, and tourism sectors in GB where significant opportunities are still to be tapped.
The report says that growth in GB has been supported by the gradual commercialisation of agriculture, as well as economic diversification outside the farm sector. The marketed agricultural surplus was estimated at only 15 percent of the total output, but there has been a gradual shift from subsistence farming to cash crops and fruit production.
The report points out that the deteriorating security situation undermines economic activity. Tourism, for example, has much potential, but the absence of direct entry points and the increasingly negative perception about Pakistan mean fewer arrivals. The total number of tourists from all over the world has reduced from 60,000 to 7,000.
“We need Rs 1.5 billion to fund Gilgit-Baltistan sewerage and drainage system. We have 30 percent water contribution in Indus irrigation system that increases 5 times in summer,” the report says.
The donors at the ceremony, highlighted the significant potential for private sector-led growth in agro-business, mining, tourism and hydro power in Gilgit-Baltistan and urged for integrated and concerted efforts by both the government and private sector to explore and exploit the indigenous resources.
The report highlighted that the region is geographically isolated, the population is small and dispersed, the distance are more accurate due to the harsh terrain and variable weather conditions and longstanding internal and external division. Arrangements are complicated by the unresolved constitutional status of GB, the limited institutional capacity of the government of GB and the complete fiscal dependence on the GoP. It adds that the GB enjoyed better security than any other parts of the country and the deteriorating law and order situation in the neighbouring provinces harms its development prospective.
The report recommended spurring of private sector led growth, with good potential evident in agribusiness, minerals, tourism and trade. It further recommended enhancing public service delivery, in the areas of social protection, education, health, and water and sanitation, ensuring the adequate maintenance of existing infrastructure assets, while scrutinising new capital projects for maximal development impact in GB and contribution to national level progress.
The report says that GB has made rapid progress in education in recent decades. Indeed, in many areas it has kept pace with national institutions. Literacy rate in the region has increased rapidly over the last few decades, rising to 50 percent in 2004-05 from 37.8 percent in 1998 and 14.7 percent in 1981.
Courtesy: Business Recorder