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Afghanistan, central Asia major beneficiaries of CPEC: PM

KARACHI: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will not only benefit Pakistan but also enable neighbouring countries to take advantage of its trade routes.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the CPEC Summit and Expo 2018, the PM pointed out that China, Afghanistan and central Asian countries were major beneficiaries of the trade route. The Ministry of Planning Development and Reform organised the summit to provide clarity on the vision of the governments of China and Pakistan.
PM Abbasi said “CPEC projects are being built on two basic principles: economic viability and environmental sustainability and we would never compromise on these principles,” the premier said, and added that CPEC was also providing a platform to build many other side projects related to technology, agriculture and logistics, creating a chain reaction to lead Pakistan on the path of prosperity.
“Thar Coal and many more energy projects have already been completed or are near completion,” the PM said. Abbasi said some neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan were suspicious and critical about CPEC but now were realising its benefits. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said, “On July 5, 2013, Pakistan signed MoU with China to start the CPEC journey and within a couple of years it transformed into an investment portfolio of $46 billion.”
Praising China for their cooperation, he said, “China trusted us and invested billions of dollars when no one was willing to invest even 10 dollars in Pakistan citing security issues in the country, citing instability.”
He said 80 million people belonging to the middle class resided on the CPEC routes, and the corridor has already started providing numerous opportunities to them to increase their income and quality of life.
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China Yao Jing said that China is celebrating 2018 as the 40th anniversary of China’s policy of opening up and reforms. “Over these 40 years, Chinese government and people have made efforts to improve the country’s economy and we managed to have an average annual GDP growth rate of 9.5 percent over 40 years,” he added.
China has managed to adopt a great mix of socialism and market economy and is sticking to openness and inclusiveness, while working hard to promote cooperation with the countries all over the world.
He said 43 CPEC projects, mostly major infrastructure and energy products were in the pipeline, some of which have already been completed. On the occasion the four provinces presented their views on CPEC.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said Sahiwal power project under CPEC had been completed in record time. He praised the Chinese leadership for supporting Pakistan and initiating $60 billion projects.
Shahbaz Sharif said that CPEC would bring peace and prosperity for Pakistan. “This will also convert into a wonderful cooperation between the two countries,” he added. He also said the CPEC provided opportunity to the 60 percent youth of Pakistan. “CPEC gives a golden opportunity that should not be missed,” he added.
Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah said the province was eager to gain maximum benefit from the CPEC, and added that Sukkur, Hyderabad and Karachi have been declared as key cities in the CPEC project.
He also said Sindh was the energy hub of Pakistan and the only province which has issued grants for renewable energy projects. Letters of intent form 35 companies have already been issued for generation of 2,545 megawatts.
“Thar Coal Mining is the flagship project of CPEC which is the game changer for Pakistani economy,” the Sindh CM said, adding that two more coal projects were in the pipeline.
“About $500 million solar power projects have been initiated by the provincial government while Karachi Circular Railway, Dhabeji and Keti Bandar are key projects of CPEC in Karachi,” CM Shah said, and added that energy and infrastructure projects were the lifeline for industries, which would flourish as the gap reduced.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan CM’s did not attend the summit but representatives from the provinces explained the ongoing projects under CPEC. Earlier, experts called for setting up a CPEC Advisory Council to clarify vision and policies, and advice on how Pakistan could maximise benefits from the project.
Dr Ishrat Hussain, former governor, State Bank of Pakistan, said the largest component of CPEC investment, ie $35 billion, was reserved for energy projects focused on fuel substitution to coal, LNG, solar and wind power. “Power generation capacity will be doubled over the years while transmission capacity (will) increase from Matiari to Lahore and Matiari to Faisalabad,” he added.
Enhancement in energy generation is good for exports, which have been $36 billion only as energy shortage remains a major impediment to exports, however, he asked to resolve the circular debt issue on priority, as it was touching Rs600 billion.
He also urged to address the worries that Chinese companies were being preferred over Pakistani counterparts for industrial zones. “Their concerns should be addressed and level playing field to Chinese and Pakistani investor should be provided,” he added.
Shaukat Tarin, chairman, National Council of Economic Advisers, said Chinese universities with latest curriculum and technologies should be encouraged to open campuses in Special Economic Zones to train youth.
“Pakistan must benefit from Chinese expertise in technological advancements like artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data to ensure we do not fall behind as these are the technologies of the future,” he added.
A Chinese bank in Gwadar should be opened to facilitate not only the Chinese companies operating in Pakistan but also local companies that undertake business activities in China.
Federal Commerce Secretary Mohammad Younus Dagha said CPEC should help improve balance of payments and trade with China. “Loan repayments to China will increase our trade deficit with China, however, we can persuade China to setup industries in Pakistan instead of other countries which would help bridge the gap,” he added. He also urged for investment in high priority and labour intensive industries instead of only brick and mortar investments.
Source: The News