The CPEC riddle

One of the prime objections is that the CPEC Authority was devoid of taking ownership


August 20, 2022

The Chinese flagship initiative of trans-regional development is under the scanner in Pakistan. The government’s decision to abolish the CPEC Authority has not only raised eyebrows, but has also led to the can kicked down the road. There are a plenty of questions but not many satisfactory answers. It is claimed that the Authority was a parallel decorum and had impeded the smooth functioning of CPEC projects. While it operated in a quasi-independent manner by bypassing the ministries concerned, it was seen as a hurdle of sorts in realising the implementation of several projects especially in laying the infrastructure, which are in the doldrums to this day. Thus, with the PML-N taking over the reins, it was on the cards that the CPEC Authority would be liquidated and its assets and synergies merged back with various tiers of the federal government. The rest is fait accompli.

One of the prime objections is that the CPEC Authority was devoid of taking ownership. The reason why it was established by the previous government was to ensure more coordination, and to pool in more investment. But the present dispensation argues that not a single penny poured in, and it rather led to bifurcation of work, obstructing rapid implementation of several ongoing projects. It was said that the chain of decision-making too was cumbersome. One more blame is that the impugned Authority attained no remarkable progress in setting up the Exclusive Economic Zones, and Gwadar’s dilapidated situation is a case in point.

Now with the threads of CPEC closely knitted with the Planning Division, it has come as a challenge. The staggering Chinese investment that Pakistan was supposed to realise in its infrastructure, energy and industrial projects is yet to make an impact. Improving the situation obviously requires some innovative startups. Will the bureaucratic-laden ministries be able to deliver is a million-dollar question — and that too at a time when the chips are down and the economy is reeling under debt and inflation. The point is that CPEC forms the lifeline of Pakistan’s economy and it should be seen progressing rather than getting entangled in regression.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2022.

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