Sanchez: Economic zones

IT WAS in 1995 when I first set foot on Chinese soil with a one-day road tour of Shenzhen. That was the time when the Chinese government designated the once backwater fishing village of 30,000 into a special economic zone. New high rises and fixed cranes were all over the place.

I was amazed at the rapid transformation of the village. Shenzhen rapidly expanded. Its GDP per capita grew a whopping 24,569 percent between 1978 and 2014, and by 2016 its population stood at nearly 12 million.

It’s now thriving megacity, considered a world-class tech hub, home to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and one of the busiest financial centers in the world.

Here in the province, we hear Hinoba-an town Mayor Ernesto Estrao confirming that several potential investors are now lining up to set up their businesses at the proposed 282-hectare Hinoba-an industrial economic zone.

Estrao said during the 25th Panaad sa Negros Festival that one of the investors is a shipbuilding company, Tsuneishi Heavy Industries, one of the leading medium-sized shipbuilders in the world.

Shipbuilding, ship repair, and manufacturing of outfittings for ships and vessels constitute the company’s core business.

With the expected influx of locators, the mayor assured protection for the residents in the fishing community, adding that relocation package is already being arranged.

But there are more than the municipal LGU has to prepare for. The mayor cannot expect the town’s development with its current workforce of fisherfolk.

The town has to recruit qualified entry-level workers who are capable of working in related industries such as heavy manufacturing and steel construction trades. Tesda has to generate this workforce. And the children of fishermen have to transition into industrial workers.

Moreover, the town has to make public investments in engineering and vocational schools.

That’s going to be tough. But then Shenzhen made it possible. So to Japanese and Taiwanese societies. When I visited there, the Shenzhen state authorities were constructing worker dormitories to house imported workers from other Chinese industrial provinces.

Hinoba-an has to lure already existing skilled workers and engineers not to work but to live there. Can the LGU pull this off? Mayor Estrao has to go beyond bragging rights in press statements. He has to lead the town into a modern industrial society beyond possible nine-year terms of office.

Without this shipbuilding workforce, Estrao might be counting his chickens before the eggs are hatched.

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)
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