ISLAMABAD: Amid concerns over slow progress on many projects, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform has finally shared draft of a long-term plan of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with provinces and set a week’s deadline for their feedback.
The document was sent to the provinces hardly a month before the March 31 deadline that China and Pakistan set for approval of the long-term plan – a strategic document that carries details of cooperation for at least the next 13 years.
In the sixth meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC), both the countries had agreed to finalise and approve the long-term plan by the end of March 2017.
“The draft of long-term plan has been sent to the provinces and they should record their reservations and recommendations by March 9,” said Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, while chairing a CPEC review meeting on Friday.
After input from the provinces, the draft will be presented to China for final approval.
The long-term plan is aimed at promoting economic and social development and achieving peace and prosperity in all regions along the CPEC route, according to the draft.
Through major cooperative projects concerning infrastructure construction, industry and people’s livelihood, it seeks to complement each other’s advantages, promote efficient division of labour and cooperation, and achieve mutual benefits, win-win results and common development.
CPEC is part of China’s strategic One Belt, One Road initiative. It is hoped that CPEC will speed up industrialisation and urbanisation in Pakistan so that it can become a prosperous country with global competitiveness and high-quality of life.
Pakistan and China on Friday reviewed progress on development of CPEC infrastructure, energy and social projects. However, the meeting expressed concern over slow progress on two projects located in Balochistan and delay in setting up the Gwadar Free Zone, a desalination plant and industrial parks.
“A road map may be framed for expediting work on the New Gwadar International Airport,” Iqbal said during the meeting.
According to officials, the minister also wanted to speed up the pace of work on the Eastbay Expressway.
Both these projects are very critical for early operationalisation of Gwadar Port and its integration with other parts of the country.
It seems that no major development has taken place on these two projects, called small projects, after the JCC meeting in December.
“The JCC expressed great concern over the progress on two small projects,” said JCC minutes.
Pakistan has requested China to expedite the approval process for early completion of the Eastbay Expressway and New Gwadar International Airport.
Meeting participants also expressed concern over the slow pace of progress on the Gwadar Free Zone and Gwadar Master Plan. Gwadar authorities told the meeting that work on the free zone would be finished by the end of this year, the planning ministry said.
The minister directed provincial authorities and the Board of Investment to collaborate with each other in preparing feasibility studies for industrial zones. “There is a need for preparing a national industrial framework in consultation with Chinese authorities,” the minister said.
Despite declaring the security of Chinese working in Pakistan as a “high priority area”, the federal, provincial and military authorities have yet to fully resolve all the issues, resulting in hurdles in the provision of security.
Officials said two provinces had not yet written to the military authorities for deployment of the Special Security Division. Pakistan has raised two divisions for providing security to the Chinese working on CPEC projects.
“For ensuring security to CPEC projects, all provincial governments must cooperate with the Ministry of Interior,” Iqbal said.
He added that law enforcement agencies should also develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for coordinating with each other.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2017.