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Gwadar is happening. Just how soon is the question, the answer to which is not the easiest to find. Anyone who has visited the serene beach town five years from today would agree that much has changed. But for anyone coming to Gwadar with an expectation of a city bustling with activities, and crowded roads, it might be a dampener.


Gwadar now has a high-quality road leading to the city from the airport. It was not there two months ago. That said, the road infrastructure for the inner city is found wanting. The locals find it difficult to get clean drinking water, and end up paying hefty rates to water tankers. Electricity, they say, is an issue, as they face 6-8 hours of load-shedding. But that is also what nearly rest of the country faces. Sadly, the locals feel they are being singled out here, which surely is not the case.


The city's port, which is the reason for Gwadar's significance and perhaps that of the CPEC, is operational. But just. The locals do not know much about the activities or lack thereof, as the access is limited. Employment and the local share at port can only be talked about once activities pick up. And from the look of things, that could still be some years ahead.


Talking of locals, majority are still fishermen. But they now have brand new motorbikes, plenty of which are seen running on the narrow streets. The commercial activities have picked up considerably, and the average retail businessmen are doing double the business from one year ago. That said, it is mostly confined to retail grocery stores, or fuel pumps.


The city has seen some influx of outsiders who have settled their businesses, mostly in construction related activities. People from other areas of the province and even from upcountry have started traveling more frequently. More than half the shops seen in the city dabble in the real estate business which is an indicator that real estate is perhaps the only big business that exists currently. It is also the reason why the locals affordability has increased, as they have sold land at good value.


Do not expect to see sky-scrappers yet. The likes of Burj-ul-Gwadar are still limited to the billboards. What has changed the most is perhaps the security situation. Having been a troublesome area for 6-7 years, Gwadar is now very secure and hence the sudden increase in land prices. The city entry points are well-covered by armed forces, who have considerable presence and patrolling.


Gwadar's development banks largely on China, but do not expect to see Chinese everywhere. In fact, you would be lucky to see a few, if at all. They are mostly confined to the port area, and are in hundreds and not in thousands. And surely, there are no Chinese prisoners doing the labour job. The only five-star hotel may also not be running on full occupancy, and is not buzzing with investors in the lobby.


Gwadar is no Dubai and by the looks of it, it would do well to be even close to it, till the tail end of the Master Plan 2055. That said, the city is waiting for take-off. The ball is in the government's court to provide airport, water, and electricity. Should this happen quicker, the pace at which things are moving is likely to change for the better.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017