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CPEC Phase II: Potential of Rashakai Special Economic Zone in Creating Business Opportunities



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China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his visit to Pakistan in 2015. In beginning, it was $46 billion project but now its worth has been increased to $62 billion. The project provided Pakistan a breathing space in 2015 as it was inflicted with multiple challenges like terrorism, internal destabilization, energy crisis and infrastructure lacking. The issues were stumbling block in its triumph, so, Pakistan took Chinese help to resolve all those through CPEC in different phases. In the initial phase, capacity building of Pakistan was pivotal aspiration of China under CPEC through infrastructure and energy projects. After thriving completion of the first phase, CPEC has now entered into its second phase where industrialization, agriculture, science, improving livelihood of people and technology transfer to Pakistan are the key goals.

In this phase, China takes along collection of imaginative new windows of opportunities in every province of Pakistan especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) which remained behindhand in the past due to number of reasons. As the main focus of the CPEC phase two is socio-economic development, trade promotion, employment and economic growth, so, the cause can only be fully served through special economic zones (SEZs). Pakistan has established SEZs to follow successful experience of China as these brought sharp increases in its GDP which helps eradicating poverty. According to International Labor Organization (ILO), tremendous increase in SEZs is observed in world since last few years. According to ILO, in 1986, there were 176 SEZs  in  47  countries  which  rose  to  3500  in  130  countries  in  2006.  According  to  World Investment Report of 2019, there were 5400 SEZs in 147 countries.

Pakistan adopted the same model, therefore, in 2016; Pakistan and China in sixth Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) decided to establish SEZs in Pakistan. Initially over hundred SEZs were planned which later reduced to 46 but now Pakistani authorities especially Ministry of Planning Division and Board of Investment proposed the construction of nine SEZs including Rashakai Special Economic Zone (RSEZ) in different parts of Pakistan.

RSEZ in KPK is top precedence and is a flagship project of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development & Management Company (KPEZDMC) which will implement it with collaboration of the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC). The zone is spread over almost 1,000 acres and located near M-1 Nowshera. It will have international standards infrastructure and will be developed in three phases with almost $128 million. The ground breaking of the zone is planned in near future.

On 8 December, 2020, CPEC authority chairman Lt. Gen (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa said that earth breaking ceremony of RSEZ would be held soon under CPEC. He claimed that after completion, RSEZ will transform transportation services of the province along with business and trade.

Chief Minister KPK Mahmood Khan in his address to a forum said that ground breaking in RSEZ is temporarily deferred due to COVID-19 and matters will be addressed soon. After being operational, it will become hub of economic activity for the province. According to him, RSEZ will produce 200,000 jobs in engineering industries and food processing along with boosting business activities in the province.

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan said in his speech that KPK was underdeveloped and it had to look towards Karachi and the Middle East for jobs due to lack of opportunities but RSEZ is bringing a lot of industrialization in the province which will solve the issue. The RSEZ will become a life line of the province and people will be able to find employment without having to leave their homes in pursuit of livelihood.

Atif R.Bokhari, Chairman of Board of Investment said, in the second phase of CPEC, role of government  has  changed  and  our  main  goal  is  to  provide  conducive  and  comfortable environment to business community, private sector and industrialists of the province to invest. It remained a dream in the past due to repercussions of Soviet War and Global War on Terror in Afghanistan. In context of improved security situation after different operations by security agencies in Pakistan, investment of business community and entrepreneurship will diminish poverty and will raise the livelihood of the locals. China practiced the same model to eradicate poverty and world admires their efforts.

Courtesy to law and order situation of the province, investors from Pakistan and China are rushing  to  buy  commercial  plots  in  RSEZ.  According  to  available  data,  more  than  1,700 applications have been submitted for commercial plots in RSEZ. According to Chief Minister KPK,  two  Chinese  companies  already  have  completed  required  their  agreements  with government of Pakistan and one has been allotted 40 acres plot for steel production. In the zone, investor will bring high tech industry which will help Pakistan to increase exports, decrease imports and create jobs opportunities for locals. In the second phase, Pakistan is providing tax exemptions  to  investors  on  technology  transfer  in  the  country,  skill  development,  relocate Chinese industry in the province and increase the labor productivity. Materialization of the plan will improve literacy rate and  research  and development  in the province which will create substantial job and business opportunities for the people of KPK. This is first the zone and being developed on public-private partnership, therefore, if this experiment works then it can open door for many more in the country.

Socio-economic development is the top priority of CPEC phase two, for this; both countries have established a Joint Working Group. Under the group, both countries have agreed to work on 27 projects in Pakistan for which China gave grant of $ 1 billion.

As RSEZ is strategically located in proximity of Afghanistan and Central Asia, therefore, it has potential to become export base to Afghanistan and to the world through Gwadar Port. It can prove to  be  hub  of  regional  connectivity  if  properly  managed  and  with  improved  security situation  in Pakistan  as well  as  in  Afghanistan.  The  zone will  provide  trade,  business  and employment opportunities to the people of the province in particular and whole country in general. It will also provide multiple benefits to Pakistan like, increase in people to people contact and foreign direct investment in the coming years. The zone will attract foreign investors which will increase economic activities in Pakistan and this will spread its soft image to the world.

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7 Trends Reshaping a USD 3.9 Trillion Global Halal Industry




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The Global Halal Market (GHM) is not just growing, it’s exploding. Driven by a surging Muslim population, rising disposable incomes, and shifting consumer preferences, this behemoth is projected to reach a staggering USD 3.9 trillion by 2027. But what’s driving this explosive growth? Buckle up, because 2024 promises a thrilling ride fueled by cutting-edge technology, ethical consumerism, and personalized convenience. Here’s your deep dive into the 7 hottest trends reshaping the global halal landscape:

Halal Tech Revolution: Where Silicon Valley Meets Mecca

Forget clunky processes and opaque sourcing. The halal industry is getting a tech makeover, and it’s about time. Blockchain is ensuring ethical sourcing and transparent supply chains, from farm to fork. Imagine halal meat traced back to its free-range roots, with every step documented on a tamper-proof digital ledger. Artificial intelligence is optimizing slaughterhouses, automating processes, and ensuring humane treatment of animals. Halal e-commerce platforms are booming, bringing convenience and halal-certified products to Muslim consumers worldwide. Think Amazon, but with prayer apps, virtual tours of halal farms, and even halal-compliant fintech solutions – the future of halal is digital and delicious!

Ethical Halal: Beyond Compliance, Embracing Values

Muslim consumers are no longer satisfied with just a halal label. They crave sustainability, animal welfare, and organic goodness. Expect a surge in plant-based halal options, from juicy burgers to creamy milkshakes made with innovative pea protein and lentil blends. Ethically sourced meat, raised on antibiotic-free feed and roaming in spacious pastures, will be the new gold standard. And get ready for a beauty revolution: cruelty-free cosmetics and hygiene products that adhere to Islamic principles will pamper consumers with peace of mind.

Convenience is King: Busy Lives, Halal Solutions

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience reigns supreme. The halal industry is taking note, with solutions tailor-made for busy Muslim lives. Subscription meal kits will deliver pre-portioned, halal-certified ingredients straight to doorsteps, complete with recipe cards for stress-free meal prep. Halal food delivery apps will take the guesswork out of dining out, connecting users with a curated selection of restaurants and cafes offering delicious and compliant meals. And for those special occasions, on-demand halal catering will ensure stress-free gatherings, leaving hosts free to enjoy the festivities.

Beyond Food: The Halal Universe Expands

The halal industry is shedding its “food-only” label and branching out into exciting new frontiers. Halal travel is booming, with destinations vying for Muslim tourists by offering halal amenities, prayer spaces, and culturally sensitive experiences. Imagine exploring Marrakech’s vibrant souks or unwinding on a pristine Maldives beach, all while knowing your needs are catered to. Halal cosmetics are gaining traction, with innovative brands formulating products free of alcohol, animal derivatives, and harsh chemicals. And even the pharmaceutical industry is taking notice, developing halal-compliant medications and healthcare products that align with Islamic principles.

Science & Innovation: Reimagining Halal with Cutting-Edge Tech

Research labs are not just churning out papers; they’re cooking up a futuristic halal feast. Lab-grown halal meat is no longer science fiction, with companies like Eat Just and Aleph Farms creating meat indistinguishable from its conventional counterpart, but without the ethical and environmental concerns. Plant-based alternatives are evolving beyond bland tofu, with innovative textures and flavors mimicking everything from juicy steaks to succulent lamb shanks. Get ready for halal food reimagined with cutting-edge technology, offering delicious and sustainable options for the future.

Health & Wellness: Halal Goes Holistic

Muslim consumers are prioritizing their well-being like never before. Enter functional halal foods infused with ingredients like probiotics, antioxidants, and adaptogens, designed to nourish the body and mind. Sports nutrition is another burgeoning market, with protein powders and energy bars formulated specifically for Muslim athletes seeking halal-compliant performance boosters. And for those managing chronic conditions, dietary supplements tailored to diabetes management, weight loss, or heart health will offer halal solutions for holistic well-being.

Storytelling & Branding: Building Trust, Shaping Perceptions

In a crowded marketplace, differentiating your brand is key. The halal industry is catching on, embracing compelling narratives and values-driven branding. Showcase your commitment to ethical sourcing, sustainability, and community engagement. Share inspiring stories of the farmers who raise your halal meat, the scientists developing innovative food technologies, or the communities you empower through your business practices. By building trust and aligning with consumer values, halal brands can stand out.

Embrace the Halal Revolution:2024 is not just a year on the calendar; it’s the dawn of a new era for the halal industry. By harnessing the power of technology, embracing ethical values, and catering to evolving consumer needs, halal businesses can tap into a USD 3.9 trillion market brimming with potential. So, whether you’re a food producer, travel blogger, or tech whiz, join the halal revolution. Optimize your offerings, tell your story, and connect with Muslim consumers worldwide. The future of halal is bright, and the time to act is now.

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Beyond Andalusia: Exploring Spain’s Islamic Heritage through Halal Tourism




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Spain’s evolving landscape of Muslim-friendly tourism is a testament to its rich Islamic history and its commitment to embracing diverse cultural needs. As we head into 2023, projections indicate a staggering 85 million international visitors to Spain, a 16.4% increase from the previous year, highlighting the country’s growing appeal as a global tourist destination. A significant portion of these tourists are from Muslim-majority countries, drawn to Spain’s Islamic heritage and the burgeoning availability of Halal services and tailored cultural experiences.

The Rise of Halal Tourism in Spain

Spain’s shift towards accommodating Muslim tourists is evident in the increasing number of Halal-certified establishments and services. The Spanish Halal Institute has reported a surge in businesses seeking Halal certification, a rise from 100 in 2010 to over 500 in recent years. This growth is not only a response to the rising Muslim visitor numbers but also a strategic move by Spanish businesses to tap into the lucrative Muslim market.

Muslim-friendly Services Across Spain

Beyond the traditionally popular Andalucía, other regions in Spain are adapting to the needs of Muslim tourists. Cities like Barcelona, Toledo, and Madrid now offer a range of Halal dining options, prayer facilities, and culturally sensitive services. For instance, the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona, a Halal-certified hotel, offers amenities tailored to Muslim guests, including prayer mats and Halal food options. Similarly, the Costa del Sol Hotel in Torremolinos has trained its staff in Muslim culture and traditions, enhancing the experience for its Muslim clientele.

Cultural and Historical Tourism

Spain’s Islamic history, particularly the legacy of Al-Andalus, is a major draw for Muslim visitors. Educational initiatives like walking tours in Toledo, led by Aicha Fernández, and Madrid’s Muslim and Arab heritage tours, organized by Rafael Martínez, provide insights into Spain’s rich Islamic past. These tours are not just tourist attractions but educational experiences, offering deep dives into the historical and cultural significance of Spain’s Islamic era.

Economic Impact and Market Potential

The economic potential of Muslim-friendly tourism in Spain is immense. According to a report by the State of the Islamic Economy (2022), the global Muslim population, a significant portion of which belongs to the rising middle class, is increasingly travel-savvy and demands tailored services. This presents a lucrative opportunity for Spanish businesses in the tourism sector.

Government Initiatives and Recognition

The Spanish government’s role in promoting Muslim-friendly tourism is pivotal. Efforts like the creation of Halal tourism guides by municipalities like Málaga, which won recognition at the Halal In Travel Global Summit in Singapore, underscore the national commitment to positioning Spain as a Muslim-friendly destination.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the progress, challenges remain. Celia Rodríguez, a Spanish revert, notes the scarcity of Halal options in some regions and the need for better-informed services for Muslim tourists. This gap presents an opportunity for businesses to further tailor their offerings and improve communication with Muslim clients.

Global Context and Future Prospects

Globally, the trend towards Muslim-friendly tourism is gaining momentum, with countries like South Korea and Japan also emerging as popular destinations. Spain’s strategic approach to embracing and catering to the needs of Muslim tourists not only enhances its competitive edge in the global tourism market but also promotes cultural understanding and inclusivity.

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TB Research Shows a Good Diet can cut Infections by Nearly 50%




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Tuberculosis is the single most deadly infectious killer of humankind. It claimed 1.6 million lives in 2021 alone. As the search for effective ways to fight the disease continues, the findings of new research offer hope: a good diet can cut infections by nearly 50%. Yogan Pillay and Madhukar Pai write that nutrition is a vaccine in all but name.

For centuries, we have known that tuberculosis is a social disease. It thrives on poverty and social factors such as malnutrition, poor housing, overcrowding, unsafe work environments and stigma. Globally in 2021 an estimated 2.2 million cases of TB were attributable to undernourishment, 0.86 million to HIV infection, 0.74 million to alcohol use disorders, 0.69 million to smoking and 0.37 million to diabetes.

But knowledge about social determinants alone does not always translate into tangible action and progress. A new trial in India, called RATIONS, aimed to determine the effect of nutritional supplementation on new cases of tuberculosis in households of adults with pulmonary TB. The research found that providing food baskets to people with TB and their households could go a long way to prevent and mitigate the disease.

No easy silver bullets

The TB community has typically looked for biomedical solutions, or “silver bullets”, for a social pathology, and we are struggling to make progress. Since the COVID pandemic, TB mortality and incidence have increased globally, putting TB back on top as the single most deadly infectious killer of humankind.  In 2021, 1.6 million people died of TB. In Africa, TB incidence is high (212 per 100,000 population) with a high case fatality rate because of the HIV epidemic.

Undernutrition is the most important cause of TB. This has been shown in studies in many countries, including South Africa, where researchers found poor levels of nutrition in patients admitted to a specialized TB hospital. Malnutrition refers to all forms of deficiencies in nutrition, including over-nutrition and obesity. Undernutrition refers more specifically to a deficiency of nutrients. While we know that many patients with TB have poor nutrition, the latest evidence is that undernutrition also plays a key role in TB within households.

The results of the Reducing Activation of Tuberculosis by Improvement of Nutritional Status (RATIONS) trial show that improved nutrition in family members of patients with lung TB reduced all forms of TB by nearly 40%, and infectious TB by nearly 50%.

This trial recruited 10,345 household members of 2,800 patients with lung TB.

  • All TB patients received a monthly 10kg food basket (rice, pulses, milk powder, oil) and multivitamins for six months.
  • In one group family members received 5kg rice and 1.5kg pulses per person per month, while the other group of family members did not get food baskets.

Food worked like a vaccine in this trial, cutting the risk of household members developing TB.  Nutrition could also protect against other conditions such as anaemia, diarrhoea and respiratory infections, but these were not not the main focus of the trial. An accompanying paper, based on the results of the RATIONS trial, showed that severe undernutrition was present in nearly half of all patients.

An early weight gain in the first two months was associated with 60% lower risk of TB mortality. The other benefits were higher treatment success and better weight gain. During the six-month follow-up period, a remarkable treatment success rate of 94% was achieved.

Getting food to patients

How expensive was the intervention? The cost of a food basket was US$13 per TB patient per month and US$4 per household member per month and could be delivered, even in rural areas, using field staff. Even before the RATIONS trial, the Indian government had recognised the need for nutrition support for people with TB, and in 2018 launched “Nikshay Poshan Yojana”, a direct benefit transfer scheme. Under this scheme, each TB patient receives a financial incentive of US$6 per month for the duration of the anti-TB treatment (typically, six months for people with drug-sensitive TB).

Emerging data suggests that while the scheme improves the treatment completion rates among patients with TB in India, they often receive their payments late. There is a need to improve the efficiency and provide timely payments.

The new RATIONS trial suggests that directly providing food baskets may be another effective strategy.

Many countries, including India, have other social security programmes, including public distribution systems  to provide food grains at subsidised prices. Using existing channels to provide extra food rations to people with TB, and expanding the menu to include proteins such as pulses and millets, is a strategy worth exploring. This could also have positive effects on other diseases such as diabetes.

Implications for South Africa

South Africa is one of the countries labelled by the World Health Organization as a “high TB burden country”.

What does this latest research mean for South Africa? Statistics South Africa reported that in 2021 2.6 million people had inadequate access to food and a further 1.1 million stated they had “severe” inadequate access to food. More than 683,000 children five years and younger experienced hunger.

This toxic mix requires prevention of TB by nutritional support, drugs to prevent TB infections and early diagnosis with molecular tests and treatment.

With high levels of food insecurity and undernutrition in South Africa, fuelled by the highest levels of inequality, it is critical that South Africa includes social benefits for people with TB and those in their households to reduce the prevalence of TB in the country and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Regardless of how social benefits are distributed, action must be based on evidence. We need better tests, cures and vaccines for TB, but they alone cannot end the epidemic.  TB patients must be provided with the social benefits that they need and deserve, as a basic human right.

Courtesy: The Conversation

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