PESHAWAR: In many sectors of the economy in the combined tribal districts, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has planned major reforms to facilitate market ease-of-doing and create a conducive business climate.
The proposal is based on guidelines jointly prepared with the assistance of UNDP and USAID by the Small and Medium Business Growth Authority (Smeda).
According to the programme, several thematic areas and sectors for restructuring have been established by the government in order to fill policy holes and promote economic development in the country formerly known as Fata.
Because of their importance and economic development opportunities in combined tribal districts, medium and short-term interventions will be carried out in sectors including mining and minerals, agricultural enterprises, logistics, trade and services and light engineering.
Officials insist that by exploiting its abundant mineral reserves, the economy of the country can be greatly improved.
Interventions in the mineral, forestry, transport, commercial and light engineering sectors will be carried out.
Major mineral resources such as coal, copper, marble, granite, soapstone, manganese, iron, copper and gypsum are present in these areas in addition to oil and gas, according to official records, adding that marble, manganese, chromite and emerald are present in the Bajaur tribal district, while the Mohmand tribal district is rich in marble, chromite, silica sand, dolomite, manganese and emerald.
Likewise, the tribal district of Khyber is rich in marble, barite, graphite, soapstone, granite, oil, gas and bastnaesite (rare earth mineral) and the area of Orakzai has coal, iron ore, oil and gas, while the belt of Kurram has soapstone, coal, marble, magnesite, iron ore, lead, oil and gas.
The tribal district of North Waziristan has tremendous copper, gold, nickel, manganese, chromite, magnesite, granite (stone dimension) and oil and gas deposits.
The officials said 19 minerals had been identified for discovery in combined regions.
They found out that the region’s mine lease allocations were carried out by community meetings in the region, so the community’s personal split with investors could build investment barriers.
The officials said that to resolve the problem, the immediate extension of the KP Mineral Governance Act, 2017, was suggested.
As far as agri-business is concerned, the records reveal that just 8.3 per cent of ex-2.7 Fata’s million hacters are planted, placing immense strain on farmland.
According to them the lack of storage facilities are some of the reasons for low agricultural activity in the region, depending on the largely unqualified workforce, low productivity and using obsolete cultivation methods.
The programme requires the establishment in all districts of the province of agriculture or vegetable and fruit markets, the establishment of cold chains and the training of farmers.
The officials claimed that transportation and trade in tribal districts were extremely restricted because of the underdeveloped road network and the limited availability of cheaper and more effective public transport facilities, rendering it more difficult for business owners and service providers to operate commercial services, thus hindering business growth.
They said that the transportation industry, which was one of the key sources of tribal district jobs, needed support to work effectively.
The officials said there was a proposal of setting up rest areas at a distance of 100 kilometers, provision of internet and electricity at border crossings, building facilities for container handling and storage and setting up tourism sites across the region.
With regard to the light engineering sector, they said that the light engineering sector had considerable potential as it required low initial investment and SME owners were able to start up companies without incurring excessive borrowing from financial institutions.
They believed that the combined tribal areas had considerable potential for the growth of the light engineering industry, especially in the fields of agricultural tools, automotive spare parts, mining equipment and hydropower equipment.
The officials said that with the implementation of a construction project such as the Pakistan-Holland Metal Project or the Pak-Swiss Light Engineering Project with a district specialised in a certain product range such as OVOP of China and Thailand, the government could improve the situation.