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LAHORE: Pakistan China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI) has proposed to set up a "Mineral Development Bank" supported to explore potential of marble and granite sector at optimal level.

PCJCCI President Zarak Khan proposed this idea while addressing the think tank session held on Friday to review ways and means to resolve the issues confronting by the marble industry.

He said that Pakistan is the 6th largest mineral extractor of marble and granite and has a place on world mining map. Pakistan has enormous potential to promote exports of marble products as it possess huge marble and granite reserves of around 400 million tones and 65 varieties of marble and granite stones.

He further added that currently global market for marble and granite is estimated at around US 62 billion dollars but Pakistan's share is below one percent which should serve as a conduit of prosperity and it is a cause of concern for the policymakers.

"China is the major importer of marble of Pakistan with a share of almost 85 percent. China is enthusiastically interested in local marbles and establishing joint ventures with Pakistan's marble exporters but has been demoralized due to some security reasons and deteriorating law and order situation," he added.

PCJCCI president said that marble industry has the potential to become backbone of the economy and promote more exports than the share of textile products in case the government extends required support.

He urged the government to address the marble industry issues on priority basis, whose exports can well go up to over US 200 million dollars per year. He suggested that the government should open a mineral development bank for the marble and stone sector. The high electricity cost, use of obsolete mining techniques, lack of financing facility, and processing units, law and order issues in major mining areas, inconsistent power supply, insufficient infrastructure from mines to ports, lack of value addition, improper transportation facilities and supply chain problems are the major hurdles holding back this industry from full growth potential, he added.

PCJCCI Senior Vice President Moazzam Ghurki stressed the need for public-private sector partnership for the development in this sector and suggested taking marble industrialists on board in the policymaking process to frame such policies that could boost the industry. The government must improve the power infrastructure, water, sewage and road networks. It should also ensure soft loans to the potential investors to enable them get modern quarrying machinery. It should also help to establish training centres for workforce and a safe and healthy environment, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020