Time to open up and soon

Published: November 17, 2017

The secrecy surrounding the revised version of the Long-Term Plan (LTP) of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is causing a great deal of nervousness among the country’s provinces — the principal stakeholders of all corridor-related projects. This is arguably the most important takeaway from Wednesday’s meeting of the representatives of the federal and provincial governments as well as special regions of the country. The meeting itself was crucial to the fate of the economic corridor and in more ways than one was to set the course for the 7th Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC on 21st November 2017. The federal government through the planning ministry insists that it has nothing to hide because a copy of the original LTP has already been shared with the provinces and since there is virtually no change in the revised draft there should not be any misgivings at all.

Assuming this is correct, it would be useful to know what is holding back the government from sharing the long-term plan of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor at such a forum. Instead a great opportunity was lost this week to ease provincial fears due to reticence on the matter.

There is still no official word on whether the government has accepted the changes proposed by China in the LTP or not — and in the absence of approval by the provinces — it would seem a bit premature to finalise an agreement on CPEC implementation with Beijing. Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal claims to have won assurances from the representatives of the provinces and special regions of the country that they would adopt unanimity of views at the 7th Joint Cooperation Committee meeting. One hopes that is indeed the position of all Pakistani delegates during the meeting and remains so after it as well.

A key concern for both the provinces and the federal government is getting the corridor-related projects completed in time. This is crucial if we are to extract maximum benefits from CPEC. We are way behind schedule when it comes to the steel mills complex at Chiniot and Keti Bunder seaport projects. Then there is a running dispute over the Karachi Circular Railway projects, which needs to be sorted out as well. We watch with interest.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2017.

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