KARACHI: The government has decided to allow the import of construction goods in Pakistani currency to the existing and upcoming Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the country. The move is aimed at boosting the development and exports of the EPZs, especially in the northern region.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has approved the amendments to the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) Rules 1981 and EPZs (Control of Entry and Exit of Persons and Goods) Regulations 1994, which will be submitted to the federal cabinet for formal approval, according to a report by DAWN.

The amendments will enable the investors in the EPZs of Gujranwala and Sialkot in Punjab and Risalpur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and all the future EPZs to import construction material from the tariff area in local currency instead of foreign convertible currency for a period of five years. This will help them save foreign exchange and support the local industry.

The Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP) had proposed the amendments at the request of the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which had highlighted the challenges faced by the exporters in the Sialkot Export Processing Zone (SEPZ) due to the outdated rules and regulations. The ECC agreed to extend the relaxation to other EPZs as well.

The MoIP informed the ECC that EPZA was established in 1980 and the first EPZ was launched in Karachi in 1981. Initially, export-oriented units were set up by foreign investors or non-resident Pakistanis who used imported materials for infrastructure development. However, over time, the country had developed indigenous manufacturing capacity for construction materials and hence there was no need to rely on imports.

The MoIP said that despite the huge export potential and product surplus, the activity in SEPZ remained slow due to the static rules and regulations framed almost four decades ago. It hoped that the amendments would accelerate the development work and exports of the EPZs in the country.