ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a ‘fate changer’ for the region as Chinese experts said the multibillion-dollar project was an ‘irreplaceable’ part of the multination One-Belt, One-Road strategic initiative.
“CPEC is not only a game changer, but a fate changer as well,” the premier said at the inaugural session of a two-day CPEC Summit and Expo in Islamabad on Monday. “CPEC will guarantee development and prosperity of the residents of this region that constitute half of the world’s population.”
Five CPEC projects face the axe
The prime minister revealed that all the priority projects listed under CPEC would become operational in the next four years with most of the early harvest projects set to be completed by 2018. Some of these projects, the premier said, would be commissioned in 2020.
According to a project fact book which the government unveiled at the summit, the $1.5 billion Engro Surface Mine in Block-II project, the $1.3 billion worth Sino-Sindh Coal mine Thar project, the $1.94 billion Hubco Coal-based power project and the $2 billion Engro Thar coal-fired power plant are scheduled to become operational after 2018.
The $1.8 billion Suki Kinari power plant, the $1.42 billion Karot hydropower project and the $3 billion Matiari-Lahore Power Transmission line project are listed to become operational by 2020.
Premier Nawaz said China had reached out to Pakistan at a time when it stood economically isolated. He argued that while the listed economic value of projects identified under CPEC was $46 billion, its overall impact was far more than what anybody could imagine.
K-P police decline to provide security for Chinese engineers working on CPEC
Highlighting some of the key aspects of CPEC, Nawaz pointed to Gwadar, calling it the ‘jewel project’ of CPEC which would have its own power generation, road, rail and air links while serving as a model smart port city. The premier said China would construct a highway, at a cost of $162 million, to connect the Gwadar airport – a separate project to be built at a cost of $230 million by December 2017.
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal noted that China had become the largest foreign investor in Pakistan, up from 15th, in just three years owing to CPEC.
In this regard, the minister disclosed that $18 billion (39%) worth CPEC portfolio has become operational while another $17 billion worth of projects were at an advanced stage of planning. Iqbal hinted at Chinese industrial expansion into Pakistan for industries which were either uncompetitive in China or have surplus production.
China, meanwhile, expressed satisfaction on CPEC’s progress. “CPEC is making smooth progress in general,” said Sun Weidong, China’s Ambassador to Pakistan while speaking at the summit.
Weidong said CPEC was an unprecedented undertaking by China, and Beijing was looking forward to a safe and secure environment for the mega project.
China launched the One-Belt, One-Road (OBOR) strategic initiative to integrate China with Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting about 64 nations. CPEC, thus, is one of half a dozen such corridors which will be built under the OBOR. Weidong said that Beijing was willing to share dividends of its economic development with OBOR participant countries such as Pakistan.
CPEC: Perils ahead for Pakistan
“CPEC occupies an irreplaceable position in the construction of OBOR,” said Professor Du Youkang, Director of Centre for South Asian Studies and Pakistan Study Centre, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University. He went on to say that achieving CPEC goals is critical for the success of OBOR. “There are other corridors under OBOR, but none can take the position of CPEC.”
“For China, CPEC implementation is essential for success of OBOR,” said Pakistan’s former ambassador Munir Akram. He added that improving security, garnering wider political support, consistency of economic policies, transparency in economic decision making and creating an independent body for dispute resolution would help accelerate CPEC implementation. An independent CPEC authority will also be crucial.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2016.
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