Making CPEC a game changer

Pakistan is caught in euphoria over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Durdana Najam November 24, 2016

Pakistan is caught in euphoria over China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Called a game changer, all hopes are pinned on this project to bring change in the economic conditions of Pakistan. This network of roads and the intervening projects, especially those related to energy are considered the only straw that would save Pakistan from falling off the delicate balance where energy crisis could either build or fail the country. The PML-N government would have to prove that their tenure had done the needful in bringing the country around from the energy crisis that had eaten away its potential to become the Asian Tiger — a metaphor that was initially spelled out by the PML when it was not annexed to the ‘N’ factor. It is now a matter of concern that much of the terror activities are targeted at Balochistan, where Gwadar is based. Whether it is China, that our so-called enemy India, and the half-friend-half-foe the US, are trying to intimidate, or it is Pakistan whose success is not acceptable to India, in both the cases, it is Pakistan, which would bear the brunt. How many lives will fall before CPEC begins bearing fruit is not known. However, the government does carry the burden of making this project bring structural changes in the lives of the people. That would only be possible if businesses thrive through a consistent supply of electricity.

The government claims that it would end loadshedding or restore the country to a steady supply of power by 2018. According to the figures available, the country is producing almost 17,400 megawatts of electricity with the added success of taking up the receivables to 93.5 per cent. The circular debt is being managed at Rs320 billion per month, down from Rs 500 billion. The loss to the GDP due to the power sector was earlier 2.4 per cent, which has come down to 0.4 per cent. The annual loss to the electricity sector has been reduced to Rupees eight billion from Rs200 billion. Industrial units have been barred from loadshedding. Subsidy to the power sector has been targeted at the deserving groups such as the low-income earners, the agriculture sector and the consumers in Fata. Due to transparency, Rs100 billion have been saved in the projects at Haveli Bahadur Shah, Baloki and Bhaki. All these developments the government claims have motivated the investor to put its money in the energy basket, and if everything goes right, the combined strength of Public and Private initiatives would produce almost 30,000 megawatts of electricity in Pakistan by 2022.

The glitch lies in the transmission system, which the experts claim, has grown so old and weary that it would collapse once the power with full vigour and megawatt is injected into the system. Going back to CPEC, the project is a game changer only if it allows its beneficiaries to become self-reliant on producing their financial perks. It is for this reason that the Small and Medium Enterprise Authority has asked the government to import technology from China so that instead of relying on the Chinese product, Pakistan becomes the producer of the same. There is a dire need to shore up Pakistan’s small and medium size industry so that more people with little resources enter the business circle. When the government is unable to create jobs, it can generate an environment where businesses thrive; that would create employment automatically. The general perception that Pakistan would eventually be playing the role of the toll collector, while China reaps the roses from CPEC and Gwadar’s success, can only be dispelled if the government begins putting Pakistan’s interest first.

We have long tendency of allowing foreign hands to write a new history for us. Collaboration is one thing, however, allowing foreign countries to become the master of our fate is altogether a different ball game that might eclipse our tendency to sustain national integrity and honour. China may not have the design to control us but if we keep allowing China to invest heavily without creating the opportunity to generate wealth indigenously using our brain and brawn it would eventually be a one-sided show and a worst-case scenario.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2016.

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Usman | 7 years ago | Reply Long live Pakistan.
buga | 7 years ago | Reply The glitch lies in the transmission system, which the experts claim, has grown so old and weary that it would collapse once the power with full vigour and megawatt is injected into the system . So - 75% of CPEC money is being spent on power production which really can't be used because the transmission system can't bear the load. Anybody else think this is a BIG DEAL? BTW - Chinese are going to demand re-payment of CPEC debt whether you actually use the power or not. Who's running this ship?
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