Pakistan not prepared to reap full benefits of CPEC: ICCI president

Islamabad – China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will benefit only the traders if the economy was not revolutionised on war footings, President Islamabad Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) Sheikh Amir Waheed said while responding to a question regarding actual economic impact of the mega initiative.

During an exclusive talk with The Nation, the top representative of the businessmen of the capital said that the government needed to promote a culture of export-oriented industrial production on household level in the country; else the mega project would reduce in terms of impact to a better communication network only, which, he said, would only benefit goods transporters and the already consumer-oriented economy would further sink into consumerism.

Sheikh said that he had raised the point with the Chinese ambassador a couple of days ago, and that the ambassador had assured him that the special economic zones were being developed under the very same concept.

Even then, we need to train our youth in production of various things so that to reduce the import bill, maximise exports and create employment opportunities for the youth, which he said was 65 per cent of the total population of the country. “See, even these gypsum sheets have been imported”, Sheikh said while pointing to false ceiling of his office. We need to produce things instead of only consuming imported products, he said.

Several Pakistani sectors are in dire need of foreign investment and modern technology for growth, and the much-needed investment has started flowing into Pakistan , but the government should train and offer incentives to local investors to fully tap the opportunity, Sheikh emphasised.

“Look, the bulk of Chinese loan money is proceeding back to China because we don’t have the skilled labour to work on projects under the CPEC; resultantly, only unskilled labour is hired from Pakistan”, Sheikh said while making his point. He pointed out that the government should have first created a pool of skilled workers before going for the mega initiative.

He, however, added that another main reason behind the return of Chinese money was the mutual understanding that Pakistani government would have to pick one from three companies shortlisted by the Chinese authorities.

This is why the $26 billion reportedly spent so far under the CPEC has not benefited the Pakistani economy as expected, he said.

Explaining another point regarding our preparedness for the CPEC, Sheikh said that investors from nearly every country of the world were visiting Pakistan and looking for partners to invest in various sectors, but Pakistani entrepreneurs had even no skill to negotiate and enter into deals with them. “The influx of foreign investors in the backdrop of the CPEC is so intense that it has become difficult for us to arrange accommodation for our guests in local five-star hotels”, he narrated.

The government needs to launch training programmes in every sector of the economy to enable the entrepreneurs, traders and the general public to keep pace with the world, he summed up. Also, we need to offer incentives in different sectors to promote a culture of industrial production, he added.

In response to a question regarding the expected volume of foreign investment to come to Pakistan , the president ICCI said that they expected up to $400 to $500 in foreign investment in coming four to five years.

However, he said, we have to enhance our skills in every sphere to reap full benefits of the CPEC.

Only then will the CPEC truly become a game changer for us, he said.


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