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Cabinet poised to approve CPEC Authority ordinance

ISLAMABAD: 

Amid opposition from the parliamentary panel on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the cabinet is set to give the go-ahead for promulgating an ordinance for setting up the CPEC Authority that will oversee work on projects in which a third country is involved besides Islamabad and Beijing.

The government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) argues that CPEC is going to enter a new phase where a third party like Saudi Arabia will also take part in the gigantic economic corridor.

Saudi Arabia has pledged to invest billions of dollars in setting up an oil refinery in Gwadar. It is also interested in pouring capital into other industrial projects in the port city of Balochistan.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative Cases had considered a draft CPEC Authority ordinance and recommended the cabinet to notify and promulgate the ordinance. The cabinet, in its meeting scheduled to be held on September 17 and chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, would consider the recommendation for promulgating the CPEC Authority ordinance.

However, the parliamentary committee on CPEC, in a meeting held on Thursday last week, rejected the government’s proposal of establishing the CPEC Authority, arguing that it would create more confusion about billions of dollars worth of projects being executed under the CPEC program.

Work on CPEC began in 2015 after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Pakistan and China. Focal ministries of Pakistan and China were the Ministry of Planning and Development and the National Development and Reform Commission respectively.

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In a summary sent to the cabinet, it was highlighted that CPEC was now going to enter the next phase with the incorporation of additional areas such as trade and market access, industrial cooperation, socio-economic development, poverty alleviation, agriculture, Gwadar development and regional connectivity. At the same time, third country would also be allowed to invest in CPEC projects.

Earlier in a meeting chaired by PM Imran on May 20, 2019, it was decided to establish the CPEC Authority. The National Development Council (NDC) has already approved, in principle, the constitution of the authority to ensure fast-track implementation of CPEC projects.

The NDC meeting, held in the second week of August 2019, was informed that past neglect of Balochistan, lack of connectivity and economic integration, security challenges and under-utilisation and mismanagement of resources contributed to poverty in the province. The connectivity of Balochistan through CPEC projects was expected to bring social development and ensure security in the province, the meeting was told.

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