As reported by media, Punjab government has signed a deal for a Chinese company construct a mega-theme park in Lahore. With a price tag of Rs36 Billion, the new destination is described as ‘Disneyland Lahore‘. That’s not even the entire price. Punjab is also going to pay someone Rs7.78 billion to build apartments for all the labourers who will be building this massive project.
Who are these labourers is not known. We already know that the theme park contract has been awarded to a Chinese company. Can we assume that this means that the 2,900 new apartments are going to be housing for thousands of Chinese labourers coming to build it? Will this be another project, like Gwadar, where the only real jobs for Pakistanis are providing security for our Chinese guests?
Setting aside questions about whether or not China and not Pakistan will reap the economic benefits of this ‘Disneyland’, there is also the question of who will the actual enjoyment is meant for. It cannot be missed that this massive entertainment centre is being built in Lahore, only widening the gap between Punjab and the rest of the country. Already CPEC is heavily criticised for being Punjab-centric, and this ‘Disneyland Lahore’ is only the icing on the cake.
We need something hopeful and entertaining. Is a new theme park the answer? I don’t know. But whatever it is it needs to be carefully thought out to avoid certain obvious problems, even if those problems such as paying billions to foreign companies and foreign workers while unemployment here affects millions. It should also be considered whether such entertainments are being built for Pakistan or only for a small elite that already enjoys so many options for leisure, further widening the gap between Pakistanis who ‘have’ something and Pakistanis who ‘have not’. Ignoring these points will only invite new grief, not happiness.