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CPEC: transport or economic corridor?

Three CPEC routes are expected to form an impressive transport corridor connecting China to the Arabian Sea. If the Chinese start using these routes to trade with Middle East and North African countries, CPEC will turn into a cross-border trade and transit corridor. With enough traffic, we might also get some toll income. But the real returns are to be expected for Pakistan, only if CPEC truly becomes a vibrant economic corridor. how can we make it happen? Merely by creating a few special economic zones? And what is an economic corridor anyway?

Trade corridors have been in existence for centuries, with famous Silk, Spice and Incense routes connecting the Orient with the Occident. Trade corridors depict movement of goods and services in specific geographical patterns. Transport corridors, a most recent phenomenon, generally refer to a linear area, connecting two or more economic centres and often employing a combination of surface transport networks such as road and rail.

Economic corridors however are a wider concept. They represent not just connectivity and trade but also widespread economic activity in a geographic area, in the shape of industrial and economic clusters, connected markets, and a network of economic centres. Connectivity is a prerequisite for establishing economic corridors but not sufficient.

History shows that transport corridors do transform into economic corridors through gradual development, urban agglomeration and increased trade and economic activities, leading to formation of new settlements and economic clusters. This however takes time. The present Grand Trunk (GT) Road is an example of a trade and transport route turned into a vibrant economic corridor, with numerous urban centres and economic clusters along the route. This route however has been in existence for more than two millennia, upgraded by Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century.

If we could wait for centuries, CPEC might transform into a vibrant economic corridor on its own. But if we want it sooner, we need to catalyse this process through a well thought-out strategy.

Firstly, it is important to realise that economic corridor is not a linear concept, meaning thereby that CPEC, besides connecting China to Gwadar, needs to spread horizontally connecting to a network of secondary cities and smaller markets. Research shows that productivity impact of connectivity is higher for rural areas, which previously had poor connectivity. This requires aligning of public investments with CPEC through an integrated spatial planning strategy and plugging existing missing links, especially in less-developed regions.

Secondly, a real economic corridor of this scale cannot take off by public investments only. Therefore, the next step is to mobilise private investment, which would require regulatory and business environment reforms. Public investment should only be used to provide infrastructure or to address market failures in selected cases.

The third area is to ensure equitable growth. With new corridors coming up, there is a risk that much of the investment would flow to already flourishing urban and economic centres. The role of the government is therefore to ensure fair distribution of dividends of these new investments and remove any disparities.

These steps however require well-coordinated actions by multiple federal and provincial government departments. We therefore need to carefully think through our governance structure for corridor development. Other countries have established fully-empowered private sector-driven statutory bodies that coordinate actions across a range of departments and are accountable for clear performance indicators such as quantum of investment mobilised and number of new jobs created, rather than showing summits, conferences and roadshows as their achievement.

Investment for CPEC road infrastructure stands around $11 billion. At 2% interest and 20-year repayment period, it translates into $672 million debt-servicing payment every year. The toll payments alone will not be sufficient to pay back this amount. Economic corridor development is therefore the only way to go.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2018.

SOURCE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1727674/6-cpec-transport-economic-corridor/

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Businessmen ask parties to elucidate policy on CPEC

LAHORE – The Lahore Businessmen Front, the opposition group of traders and industrialists at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has urged the political parties to elucidate their policy regarding China Pakistan Economic Corridor in (CPEC) their economic agenda to the business community before the forthcoming general elections.

FPCCI standing committee chairman and LBF senior leader Sardar Usman Ghani criticised the government for not taking into account the concerns of local businesses regarding the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He said the corridor has a deep rooted implication for the region stretching from Pakistan, China, Iran, Central Asia to USA and India.

He said that the inflow of Chinese investment and business enterprises will adversely impact the interests of Pakistani business communities, urging the government to announce the same incentives to the local investors declared for foreign investors of China Pakistan Economic Corridor in  projects.

He said that successive past governments and present rulers had totally neglected the business and industrial sectors. He said that political parties besides convincing general voters should also give a clear road map to improve the falling exports and support the deteriorating economy.

He stressed that all political parties should develop a consensus on the economic roadmap to make Pakistan a strong economy.

He said the charter of the economy was absolutely necessary for achieving better economic growth and all political parties should rise above their political interests and develop a consensus on the economic roadmap and national economic agenda to put Pakistan on the path of sustainable economic growth.

SOURCE:https://nation.com.pk/03-Jun-2018/businessmen-ask-parties-to-elucidate-policy-on-cpec

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CPEC: A momentum for prosperity

In a world defined by unexpected conflicts, CPEC and BRI have the potential to push these trajectories into altogether different directions. For Pakistan it will mean trading conflict and insecurity for peace and prosperity, argues the Senate’s Leader of the Opposition, Sherry Rehman.

The CPEC Summit 2018 was an important event with a distinguished group of thought leaders. In a conference full of unconventional wisdoms and cutting edge info, a lower‑riparian speaker’s job was quite unenviable. In more ways than one, the summit signalled Pakistan’s commitment to change and growth. What it signalled bang in the middle of election year was Pakistan’s agreement across the board on one thing: no one wants to be left out of this momentum.

The first thing that came to mind at a big‑ticket CPEC conference in Pakistan was that we are currently standing at a nodal pivot in Pakistan and China’s long‑established special relationship; but what also came to mind is that we are at an axial point where the world is rapidly turning in a re‑calibration of its priorities. Amidst the noise of dangerous new global conflicts that threaten the peace and prosperity of many nations, and fires that engulf entire regions, CPEC and BRI signal another engine moving relentlessly on, in entirely another direction of growth and peace. We can literally hear the wheels of a bold new order shift its shape under our feet.

We can also see the pulsation of the pointless regional neuralgia this partnership is giving some. My advice to them is that, they really shouldn’t worry, but instead join this enterprise.

It is truly the Asian Century. By linking the Atlantic to the Pacific through BRI, President Xi Jinping’s China is poised to redefine the global economic order as we know it, and change the way we think about the world. As the tracks for new global connectivity reframe human enterprise, with Gwadar as its launching pad, and Malacca not the only option, China becomes a two‑ocean power. This is both commercially relevant and strategically significant. As a key part of the constitution of the Peoples Republic, One Belt One Road (OBOR) has now cemented its place in the wheelworks of China’s long‑term vision of progress through economic partnerships. It is a projection of soft power unparalleled in the 21st century.

All this is relevant to Pakistan obviously in ways no other grand plan for exporting surplus was. Today, as we see China’s investments in Pakistan materialising through CPEC, I am clear that a major part of its success is powered by the groundwork and foundation PPP’s government provided.

Under [the then] President Zardari’s leadership, rooted in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s revolutionary vision to share the Chinese Communist Party’s goals, and PM Benazir Bhutto’s brilliant championing of this joint vision, Pakistan’s relationship with China has gone into another dimension altogether. President Zardari’s vision was based on a grand idea for pivoting to the East at a time when the rest of the world was still busy calling on other capitals. This vision is shared and will be carried on forward by PPP under Chairman Bilawal Bhutto‑Zardari’s leadership.

PPP understood the grand Chinese dream well. Providing state support and strategic access to our warm waters was part of the vision. Therefore, we knew that Chinese development stewardship for Gwadar Port was pivotal to the CPEC becoming a reality.

CPEC has already created 60,000 jobs and Pakistanis would likely be able to make the most of these opportunities. We need trained manpower though.

Over the years, all of us have worked closely with Chinese officials and investors in facilitating projects, people‑to‑people relationships, cultural exchanges, and, most importantly, ensuring the security of everyone involved in CPEC projects. As we speak, 2,700 students from Pakistan were granted scholarships to study in China with thousands already learning Mandarin across the country. This kind of exchange is as important as big‑scale projects. Because building trust between peoples is what binds countries together in ties that sustain the tests of time, in all weathers and all storms.

As the first container ship sailed into Gwadar in March, CPEC has already started making an impact in all provinces in order to bring prosperity. We have a long way to go in providing safe drinking water and schools to the people of Gwadar, but I am glad to see that social responsibility and signature projects are beginning to complement each other.

This must be something we work on together as early projects start harvesting into reality. Everywhere there is an industrial park or SEZ, a port or energy project, there should be a groundswell of children going to schools, functioning healthcare units and waste‑to‑ energy plants, which China is so good at doing at every level. The responsibility for this lies with Pakistan, and with the provinces too, but I urge our Chinese friends to double their interest and investment in social development as they are doing already in partnership with UNDP in Balochistan.

We are proud to say that the forward‑looking government of Sindh has also been leading the way in renewable energy projects to bring prosperity. Sindh province contributes 930 megawatts of wind energy to the national grid with the help of CPEC projects. In line with this, the federal government should allow the use of renewable energy in Sindh.

As part of our history of joint cooperation, PPP looks forward to continuing to work closely with local and Chinese stakeholders in achieving our common goals and interests for the betterment of our people and the region. Two ports are now operating in their optimal capacities and other commercial ports, including the important Keti Bunder, are under development in partnership with the Chinese.

But CPEC is not a one‑party or one‑province ambition. It is a national project that goes beyond infrastructural development and we will stand by all efforts to create consensus and operationalise this grand ambition. Consensus‑building among political parties and provinces is crucial as the windfall from this venture can change the game for Pakistan.

Pakistan is not equivocal about its relationship with China. Right now, as we see promises turning into projects, the widespread public ownership of the ‘feel‑ good’ factor that China generates in Pakistan continues as do questions about equity transparency spread. With a multi‑billion dollar investment like CPEC, responsibilities and obligations for both Pakistan and China double. Transparency and equitability are the foundations for which an initiative with a scale as grand as CPEC must be built on.

As CPEC rolls out in Pakistan, there are three obvious areas to focus on: economy, environment and security.

It is undeniable that as an infrastructure and investment pipeline, CPEC has the potential of taking Pakistan into a quantum leap of prosperity and peace. It is believed that Chinese investment can stimulate a 15pc increase in Pakistan’s GDP by 2030 and would likely create over a million jobs across multiple sectors in Pakistan which will in return bring prosperity. While still in its very early stages, CPEC has already created 60,000 jobs and we hope that Pakistanis would be able to capitalise on this new job market. We need more Pakistanis trained to hold down these jobs.

However, development does not start and end at infrastructure and economic growth. We must also look into tech‑knowledge sharing and collaborations as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The development of regional value chains, a phenomenon that has entirely reshaped global trade in recent decades, is a particularly exciting prospect. Pakistan is well‑positioned to gain from this shift and CPEC is the perfect opportunity to bring advanced manufacturing and production practices to the country.

We have a responsibility to empower our youth and Pakistan can be a powerhouse of opportunities. Almost 60pc of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30, making it the country’s most important demographic. To put that in context, three out of five Pakistanis are under the age of 30, full of hope and energy, but most without real employment prospects. Close to 60pc of them are currently in unstable or underpaying jobs and about 35pc are working in unpaid jobs. CPEC has given the millions of young people who enter the workforce every year a renewed hope and prosperity. We have a joint task to find ways in which we can tap into the potential of Pakistan’s youth and expand their growth, and look at ways to accelerate youth employment and skill training and to bring prosperity to this region. I look forward to working with the Chinese leadership on ensuring that more jobs and skills are created for Pakistanis.

As CPEC grows, Pakistan and China must look into a broader range of ventures and issues where we can cooperate and work on, one of which is environmental protection and climate change. Pakistan currently is the 7th most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. Pakistan’s carbon emissions are expected to double in two years and surge 14 times by 2050, which is way more than the global average. Given my travels in China, I know that the People’s Republic is no stranger to challenges brought about by climate change.

The enormous industrial investments and projects that will come with CPEC can be amplified if we prioritise creating a clean energy economy. I can only hope that we safeguard the future of the generations to come and that what we do today, in the name of progress, does not create new challenges for them. We hope that the Chinese government can bring to Pakistan the clean energy initiatives they have strictly enforced at home. We are old friends, and whom else can you ask for more, except from friends. Together, we must resolve to move towards eco‑friendly, sustainable and renewable energy sources.

Let me reiterate, if there is one thing that Pakistanis agree on, it is CPEC’s vision of human security, economic cooperation, reform and joint prosperity. As an economic bloc, South Asia will be one of the wealthiest regions in the world, with markets and growth vectors second only to China. At the same time, the region is also forecast for growing inequality, land hunger, poverty‑based migrations, water stress, and social deficits. These trends can be divisive in a region already crackling with tensions.

We believe that CPEC will create a new engine for reinvigorating innovation and ingenuity not just in both the countries but for the region as well. It is this cooperation, innovation and ingenuity that will drive the project of peace in a world divided by inequities, conflicts and social disorder.

The CPEC Summit once again highlighted the Chinese government’s unfaltering cooperation, support and friendship to the people of Pakistan. The future really does lie in peace through economic partnerships. Let us hope our roadmaps take our young people into a brighter, energised, connected millennium.

The writer is Leader of the Opposition, Senate of Pakistan.

SOURCE: https://www.dawn.com/news/1409514

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Media urged to play role in success of CPEC by discarding negative perception

ISLAMABAD: Local and international media have a pivotal role in ensuring successful execution of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects by discarding propaganda of anti-CPEC and anti-Pakistan elements.

“CPEC has become an important element of Pak-China friendship and its success would be great depending upon the dissemination of correct information regarding the corridor,” Project Director of CPEC, Ministry of Planning, Hassan Daud Butt said while addressing an International Conference on News Agencies here on Monday.

He also stressed the need to enhance interaction with international media players for sharing the true image of Pakistan.

The two-day Conference titled “Pakistan-Media Opportunities and Challenges”, was organized by Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) here at a local hotel to establish direct and hassle-free linkages to cope with emerging competitive environment for news agencies in the world.

The conference was attended by representatives from news agencies of over 20 countries.

Hassan Butt said the government was sharing information to build a long-term and trustful relationship with media to ensure the accurate and positive reporting in this regard.

He said the government had promoted access to information by publications and websites, besides regular engagements with media (press briefings, seminars, summits).

He said besides other topics like politics etc, journalists should promote development communication in Pakistan by projecting the positive aspects of the corridor.

Giving a presentation on the current status of CPEC projects, Butt said most of the Early Harvest Projects had already been completed or were in the final stage.

He said CPEC had helped Pakistan in removing major bottlenecks in the way of the country’s economy, especially in energy and infrastructure sectors, paving the way for increased and sustainable economic growth.

“In 2013, Pakistan’s economic growth rate was around 3 percent. However, after the successful launch of CPEC, the growth rate kept on increasing and this year, the growth rate was recorded at 5.8 percent and next year’s target has been set at 6.2 percent,” he added.

The CPEC Project Director informed that the western alignment of the corridor had almost been completed while the Central route was expected to be completed by 2015.

He said work on up-gradation of railways’ Mail Line-1 project would start soon while up-gradation of ML-II and ML-III had also been included in the Long Term Plan of CPEC.

He said Gwadar was transforming into a state of the art international port city at a rapid pace and soon “we will see Gwadar as the hub of trade in the region”.

Regarding social sector and education projects, he said top ten business schools from China and Pakistan had reached an agreement for mutual cooperation and sharing the research work, done in the development sector.
He said CPEC had become a benchmark for other countries who are part of the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative.

He said the Government of Pakistan wanted to bring the country’s population out of poverty at a fast pace just like China did in the past.

To a question, Butt said CPEC would be a joint venture and will be a win-win model for the two countries as both countries will equally benefit from the project.

SOURCE: https://nation.com.pk/14-May-2018/media-urged-to-play-role-in-success-of-cpec-by-discarding-negative-perception

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Karachi Expo Centre to be re-modelled for CPEC

Karachi: Federal government initiated remodeling and expansion of the Karachi Expo Centre (KEC) at the cost of Rs 8 billion within next four years to accommodate growing number of exhibitors and visitors.

The purpose of the expansion was to make the Expo Centre compatible with China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Groundbreaking ceremony of the project was performed by Secretary Commerce, Muhammad Younus Dagha in Karachi Expo Centre.

KEC is being expanded and re-modelled to incorporate new facilities. A total of three more exhibition halls would be added to the Centre. Presently, the centre has six halls.

Under the remodelling project, a convention centre for holding trade related conferences, a multi storey information technology (IT) tower for offices and other facilities including a parking lot would be constructed.

The master plan of the project has been designed by the National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK).

“We studied studied all major expo centers existing around the world and came up with the most modern concept of the designing. The project will have its own parking plaza which will be able to accommodate around 5000 vehicles”, said NESPAK Managing Director Arif Chengezi while expanding on the remodeling project.

Federal Secretary said that the purpose of the expansion project was not only to modernize the present centre but also to create capacity for meeting the ever increasing trade related needs of the country.

He said that the remodelling project was in perfect conformity with the government’s trade objective of earning more foreign exchange for financing the developmental needs of the country.

The Commerce Secretary applauded the role of trade development authority of Pakistan in pursuing the project and completing its legal formalities diligently.

He said that the Ministry of Commerce through video conferences with missions abroad had achieved quite a lot. In these conferences, added the secretary, the hurdles were identified and removed through collective expertise to enhance trade.

Commerce Secretary also appreciated the role of business community in increasing exports of the country this year. In the year 2017-18, the exports increased from July to April by 14 percent.

The Secretary added that there was a broad based expansion, in terms of both product sectors and destinations, in the exports this year.

He added that over all from July to April this year, our textile and clothing export had shown a growth of 8 percent, agro food had grown by 30 percent and other sectors like mineral and metal, engineering goods and surgical instruments had also respectively grown by 12 percent, 13 percent, and 14 percent. Exports to the USA had also increased by 17% . There was also an 8% increase in exports to UK and China both.

The expansion of the Karachi Expo Centre was not an isolated effort of the government. Only last year, Ministry of Commerce had launched an initiative titled “Emerging Pakistan” with the aim of promoting various strengths of the country and dispelling negative stereotypes about Pakistan, abroad.

The secretary informed the gathering that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had approved the three year expansion for the prime minister’s (PM) Export Enhancement package. He hoped that the same zeal would be shown to complete the project within the scheduled timeframe.

“The construction of IT tower is a special feature in the expansion and up gradation of the KEC, which will soon meet the needs of the service sector”, Secretary Commerce stated.

Secretary of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) Inam Ullah Khan while giving a brief overview of the Karachi Expo Centre said that many national exhibitions were held there. He explained that in these exhibitions, select buyers, from around the world, were shown the entire range of products made in the country.

Inam Ullah Khan said that KEC was being expanded and modernized in order to create a capacity for holding larger exhibitions for the country.

He also was of the view that the intended expansion of the KEC was in keeping with overall up-gradation of the infrastructure of the country under the CPEC.

He added that the expanded KEC would provide an export outlet to the series of special economic zones (SEZ) being established under the CPEC program in the country.

 

SOURCE: https://dailytimes.com.pk/247785/karachi-expo-centre-to-be-re-modelled-for-cpec/

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China-Pakistan Economic Corridor developed faster than expected: Chinese experts

BEIJING : The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has developed faster than expected: Chinese experts, but political stability in Pakistan will be the backbone of future sustainable growth, experts said Wednesday. The recent inauguration of a superhighway project under the CPEC will improve regional connectivity, which will be a positive outcome of the multi-billion-dollar project, Zhou Rong, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

“The development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is getting better and better, as improved infrastructure will help link upstream and downstream businesses,” he said. Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

On last week inaugurated the Sharqpur-Rajana section of the Lahore-Abdul Hakeem Motorway, or M-3, in Rajana Town near the textile city of Faisalabad in eastern Punjab province, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The 138-kilometer section is a vital part of the 230-kilometer M-3, which is being funded by the Pakistani government and built by China Railway 20th Bureau Group.

“Besides the motorway project, other projects – for example, some power plants – have already begun to deliver benefits to local people,” Zhou said.

He noted that China-backed energy projects had resolved electricity shortages in major industrial cities, which also made those areas much more competitive than previously.
The Pakistan Neelum-Jhelum project, one of the most significant hydropower stations in Pakistan, saw its first turbine generator, which is designed to generate 243,000 kilowatts, officially start supplying electricity to the national grid, according to Beijing-based Economic Daily. Construction work on the project began in 2008, with China Gezhouba Group Co as the major contractor.

“In the past few years, investors from both China and Pakistan got too excited about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and they overlooked the problems with the Pakistan economy,” Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. He told the Global Times. “Now, they need to carefully assess potential risks in some projects, and Pakistan’s ability to repay its debts,”

Mei warned. In the first 10 months of the fiscal year 2017-18 which ends on June 30, Pakistan’s government borrowed $9.6 billion from foreign countries. Of that, loans from China stood at $1.5 billion.

Pakistan expects to obtain new Chinese loans worth $1 billion to $2 billion to help it avert a balance-of-payments crisis. On May 24, China increased the size of a currency swap agreement with the South Asian country by 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion) to 20 billion yuan.

“Political instability and widespread corruption are still serious issues in Pakistan, and it is crucial to strike a balance between political strategy and business profitability,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China.”Still, the CPEC can be an example of regional growth and stability,” he noted.

As Pakistan’s general election which will take place in July nears, the international community is keeping a close watch. The results may affect the continuity of policies, Zhou noted.

“More importantly, the country has to push forward construction of industrial parks under the CPEC, which can be a driving force for attracting clusters of industries,” he said.—APP

SOURCE: https://pakobserver.net/cpec-developed-faster-than-expected/

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CPEC: CDWP clears Pakistan Railways’ Mainline-I project at $3.4b cost

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan haphazardly cleared on Thursday the Pakistan Railways ’ Mainline-I project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at an initial price tag of $3.4 billion, as ambiguity remains over financing, scope and exact cost of the ‘strategic project’.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) recommended the project for final approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec). The CDWP has a mandate to approve projects worth up to Rs3 billion or $26 million, and all other schemes over the threshold are cleared for final approval of Ecnec.

Keeping CPEC on track

Projects that are referred to Ecnec include up gradation of Pakistan Railways existing mainline-1 (ML1) at a cost of Rs381.1 billion ($3.4 billion), according to an announcement by the Planning Commission on Thursday. The Mainline project of Pakistan Railways has been declared as a strategic project by both China and Pakistan.

It was for the fourth time that the mainline project, which is part of CPEC, has gone for CDWP’s endorsement. Earlier, the CDWP cleared the project in June 2016. Then, in September 2017, it again discussed the scheme due to changes in the design cost. Again in March, the project was put before the CDWP but was withdrawn.

Just three days ago, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said that the project was not yet ready and Pakistan was waiting for China’s response on the exact financing modalities of the scheme. The total cost of the two phases of the project will be far higher than $8.2 billion, which had been estimated four years ago. Iqbal had given the statement after chairing the CPEC review meeting.

The CDWP’s endorsement is just the beginning of the process of approval and it is not the final approval, said Sartaj Aziz, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. Aziz chairs the CDWP meeting. He said the important part will be financing terms, as Pakistan wants competitive pricing.

Aziz said the mainline project was very critical for Pakistan Railways, as this single project can revive the state-owned enterprise.

However, the CDWP has cleared the scheme in a haphazard manner, which may further delay its execution. The government neither knows the project’s exact cost and financing, nor does it have any idea about the terms of Chinese loan that will cover 85% of the total cost.

“Pakistan Railways was categorically asked to submit a firm cost and scope, however, to date it is not available with Pakistan Railways,” according to the working paper of the project that was submitted to the CDWP for its decision.

On May 12, Pakistan Railways informed that the Design Consultants, Creek, will submit the complete working of cost including drawings during the first week of June and only then the Review Consultant would be able to verify the firmed up scope and cost of the project, it added. The PC-I based on such firmed up cost could be submitted to the Planning Commission in the second week of June, the working paper noted. Yet the CDWP went ahead with the decision to clear the scheme.

The Member Infrastructure suggested that even before launching the ML-I project, the newly developed Railway Strategic Master Plan including management and regulatory changes should be adopted. A Railways authority should be set up as an independent watchdog and Pakistan Railways be restructured, according to him.

A third party must certify not just the price and specifications but also the scope and the underlying principles driving the project programme and project design. He also proposed to set up a ML-I corporation as a separate company under Pakistan Railways to handle the project.

CPEC and skills development

The CDWP cleared the scheme at $3.4 billion cost but the Chinese have estimated the cost of the first phase at $4.1 billion. Initially, the total cost of the project, which has a length of 1,872 kilometres, had been estimated at $8.2 billion. But the government subsequently decided to split the project into two due to its high cost and the work that requires refurbishment and expansion of the main rail line.

Now, Pakistan wants to construct only the 748km track under phase-I of the project, according to the new PC-I of the scheme.

The Planning Commission has already mishandled the 969MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower project that had also been approved without first securing the financing and incomplete design. The project cost jumped from Rs15 billion in 1989 to Rs507 billion in 2018.

SOURCE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1718404/2-cpec-cdwp-clears-pakistan-railways-mainline-project-3-4b-cost/

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Gwadar: From ghost town to gold rush town

From the sky, Gwadar (gold rush town) looks like a dust bowl as the ATR aircraft, which regularly flies along the Makran coast from Karachi, circles in for landing. The new airport, currently being designed, will be the largest in Pakistan once it is completed, but for now one has to settle for the old airport. Its VIP section is used often as ministers, senators and even the prime minister and the army chief regularly visit this once sleepy fishing port. They have all proclaimed Gwadar to be the jewel of the upcoming China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC).

The drive from the airport along the newly built corniche (a wide road bordering the blue sea) is promising. However, other than this new road, there is very little visible development. Billboards proclaiming future housing estates are still to be found everywhere. Land speculation is continuing at a frantic pace, with property being bought and resold at exorbitant rates. However, a recent ad taken out by the Gwadar Development Authority in one of the Urdu papers has just declared a major chunk of these “housing estates” to be fraudulent.

The vision of a city of skyscrapers rising out of the sand is still far from being realised.

“The dream of a new Dubai is downloading at the moment – we are just having connectivity problems”, joked Sajid Baloch, one of the local journalists we met.

For now, Gwadar is a thirsty gold town where electricity comes and goes and water is so scarce that the local fishermen tell me they haven’t bathed with clean water in years. The last cyclone hit Jiwani in 2007, bringing heavy rains along the coast. In the last three years, it has not rained at all, drying up the local Akra Kaur Dam, which provided drinking water to Gwadar. At the moment, everyone is dependent on tankers to fetch water from as far as the Mirani Dam in Turbat.

“Tube wells are no good here – we only get brackish water which is not even fit for bathing,” said Abdul Majid, one of the fishermen we met.

Fishermen in Gwadar complain about lack of electricity and water

There is garbage everywhere, for no one comes to collect it and the wind whips it up. Gwadar means “door of winds” in the local language, and there is always a breeze on the hammer head shaped peninsula jutting into the Arabian Sea.

We walk around the old part of town the next day – the roads are full of potholes and there are demolished buildings everywhere. It is disappointing to re-visit the oldest and most historical part of Gwadar (gold town), the Ismaili quarter. It has fallen further into disrepair, and it seems almost all the Ismaili families (followers of the Aga Khan), who had been living here for four generations, have now moved abroad.

The crumbling old Ismaili quarter

The multi-storied buildings, which could easily be restored, with their wind catchers and wooden balconies, are now rotting away. The 16th century Portuguese watchtower, made of sturdy coral bricks, is still intact, but the staircase leading up to the rusted canon is boarded up. Near the tower is the Ismaili Jamaat Khana, which was built in 1805, and one can still see the Portuguese influence in the architecture. The building is well maintained but padlocked – it only opens up during prayer timings.

The Portuguese watchtower in the old part of Gwadar

Gwadar has always had an interesting history. Long after the Portuguese left in the 16thcentury, for almost two centuries it was owned by the Sultan of Oman. In 1781, the Khan of Kalat granted an exiled prince of Muscat the revenues of Gwadar as maintenance, while he lived on the Makran coast. The prince later returned to Oman and became the Sultan, but he did not return Gwadar to Kalat. In 1839, the British conquered Kalat. After Pakistan came into being in 1947, the Pakistani government once again took up the question of the ownership of Gwadar. Finally, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Sir Feroze Khan Noon entered into negotiations with the British, which resulted in Gwadar being returned to Pakistan in 1958.

Today, the idea is to capitalise on Gwadar’s location near the Persian Gulf and turn it into a high-tech duty free zone and regional shipping hub. The state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company Group is working at a furious pace at the deep sea port, which we visited on our last day in Gwadar.

The deep sea port

According to the Director Operations for the port, Phase I is now complete, with four ships being handled per month, and work has started on Phase II, which will see the port being expanded. With its smooth roads, greenery and signs in Chinese, the port seems like another country once you pass the security checks. The Chinese workers live in their own China Town inside the port, and in a span of just six months, they have completed a brand new Business Centre, complete with hotel rooms, an auditorium and office spaces inside the duty free zone.

The new Business Centre in the duty free zone of the port

In the lobby is a large marble mural showing the map of Asia with China in pink and Pakistan sticking out in green. A line of dots, which light up at night, show the new trade routes to be created by CPEC, from the west of China, through the high mountains, and down across Pakistan to Gwadar and beyond to the Middle East by ship.

The lobby of the Business Centre with the map of China and Pakistan

The lobby of the Business Centre with the map of China and Pakistan

The deep sea port has now been dredged to a depth of 14.5 metres, and ships are regularly coming in to berth. The people working for the Gwadar Port Authority say there has been a lot of progress in the last two years. The duty free zone opened up in January this year and already they have held a large expo at the Business Centre.

There are now two state of the art desalination plants inside the port built by the Chinese. The larger one, which can provide 254,000 gallons of clean water per day, has just signed an agreement with the Government of Balochistan to supply water at Rs0.80 a litre for the people of Gwadar (gold town). Now the tankers can fill up here and no longer need to go all the way to the Mirani Dam. The Pakistan Army is also hurriedly making a large new desalination plant with the assistance of the UAE and Swiss governments, which will provide the local people with 4.4 million gallons of water per day soon after Ramazan.

Chinese engineer sampling clean water from the new desalination plant

An imported coal-based power plant, which will supply 300MW of electricity to Gwadar (gold town), is also being constructed by the Chinese around 20 kilometres from the port. There is also talk of getting electricity from nearby Iran, and opening up the border for trade and visitors. The Army has supplemented the local hospital, bringing in specialist doctors, while the security in this area has also vastly improved.

Currently, there are security check posts all over Gwadar, and everyone carries their ID cards with them. Baloch nationalists have opposed this new development but in the last two years, the Army, which is guaranteeing security of CPEC, appears to have taken control of the area. The army officials we met during our visit all explained that Gwadar and CPEC are in fact vital to Pakistan’s future economic survival, and they are just as determined as the Chinese to ensure this dream becomes a reality.

SOURCE: https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/66919/gwadar-from-ghost-town-to-gold-rush-town/

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Gwadar opens new avenues of business, jobs

ISLAMABAD: Once an ignored tiny indolent fishing town located at the Arabian Sea in Balochistan, Gwadar has now witnessed a wave of development projects that is opening new avenues of jobs and business opportunities for locals and will lay a strong infrastructural foundation for the country’s future.

From 2013, the deep-water port is making its new identity. It has become fully functional since late 2016. Its free zone first phase and business centre have been constructed within an astonishing six months earlier this year and embraced its first liner in March. Now, people in the remote Gwadar could also enjoy speedy 4G mobile connection to interact with the rest of the world.

4G services launched in Gwadar

According to the port operator China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC), some 20 companies in different businesses have already joined the Gwadar free zone with direct investment of 3.0 billion Chinese yuan, or some $460 million. The annual output could reach more than 5.0 billion yuan after full operation of the enterprises.

Abdul Ghaffar, owner of a grocery shop and a restaurant near Gwadar port area, enjoys the development of the port.

“Around 150 people come to my restaurant for lunch and as many for dinner. In the past, my sale was very low, but now my earning has become better and I have also extended my business. In the past, I used to open my shop and restaurant occasionally when the port opened in 2008, but now I don’t close my shop because work is in progress continuously.”

MoU inked to address water shortage in Gwadar

Ghaffar, who came to Gwadar for a better future from Quetta in 2008, said, “I have seen a big change here. There was nothing in this area, but now several buildings have been built all around. Whenever there was rain, all ways were blocked here, but now things have changed. They (Chinese) have made a big thing from nothing.”

Ghaffar is an early bird who came to Gwadar. Now, thousands of people have migrated from across the country to Gwadar to grab emerging business and jobs opportunities since the launch of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Gwadar’s population has increased from some 85,000 in 2007 to 138,000 currently. The amount of mobile SIM cards issued in the area also jumped from about 100,000 chips to over 200,000.

Rahab Ali Meerani is a laborer who travelled some 1,080 kilometres from Shikarpur district in southern Sindh province to work on a project in Gwadar port.

Chinese Red Cross medical team to arrive soon

“I came here because in our area wages are not as high as in Gwadar.”

He added, “Chinese companies are coming to Pakistan and starting projects which are bringing a great support to poor people. Now, the poverty is being eliminated.”

“There was a lot of unemployment in Gwadar, there was only fishing work, which is not a regular job. Now people are getting a variety of jobs and they are very happy,” said Muhammad Ibrahim, a worker in Gwadar, adding, “I am very happy because this area is being developed. Some people say there is no development, but actually, development is taking place.”

Ibrahim has started learning the Chinese language to advance his contacts with Chinese people.

Gwadar ignites spark for science, discovery

Gwadar’s local people are also feeling the development impetus triggered by the rapidly developing port, construction of new roads, laying of new sewerage lines, establishment and upgrading of educational institutions and hospitals, construction of a new airport and installation of water purification plants in Gwadar due to CPEC.

Javed Mehmood, a local fisherman whose family is in the fishing business for almost one century, highlighted several development projects in Gwadar and said that “the port has developed, roads are being constructed, a road has linked Gwadar with China. First, we had only one hospital named Civil Hospital, now another hospital has been established.”

“Three people from my area now have got jobs at the port, possibly around two to three people from every area got jobs,” said Mehmood, who wished that all people in Gwadar get employed.

Gwadar port aims to become new Dubai

Liaqat Muhammad, who works in a fish preservation unit, also enjoys the development as their business has multiplied after the construction of a road linking Gwadar with Karachi, the country’s southern port city.

“Now, the road infrastructure has improved and we can send fresh fish outside. The distance we covered in 24 hours in the past, can be covered in six to seven hours now,” Muhammad added.

Muhammad couldn’t have a chance to visit the newly constructed port area, but he has watched many videos related to the port development and activities.

“A lot of development works are taking place here. Imports and exports are in progress at the port, expo centre has started. I have not visited the port yet, but I have seen the development through videos on my mobile,” said Muhammad.

CPEC starts bearing fruit for people

“In one or two years, our fish containers will be exported from the Gwadar port.”

Availability of the potable water is a common issue in Gwadar, and almost every person, whom Xinhua talked to, pinned his hope on China to solve their water issue. And the COPHC has signed a contract with the Balochistan government to provide clean drinking water to Gwadar.

Zulfiqar Bajwa, a tourist who came to Gwadar with his family from Karachi, told Xinhua, “I have come here to see the port because international focus is on it. As we have seen it, it will be one of the biggest ports in the world.”

“The future of our generations depends on it (Gwadar). When it will be completed, Pakistan’s status will increase in the world. It will bring great benefits to the Pakistani nation through industrialization,” said Bajwa.

SOURCE: https://tribune.com.pk/story/1710317/1-gwadar-opens-new-avenues-business-jobs/

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Central Asian Republics urged to utilize potential of Gwadar port

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan truly stands at a historic juncture. The country’s strategic location, once being a liability is now a bridge between Europe and Asia. Center of economic power is shifting from the West to East. Over the years Asia Central Asian Republics (CARs) has become a leading player in the emerging economies of the world, stated Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz.

He was speaking at the seminar on “Dynamics of Geo-Politics, Regional Security and Economic Connectivity” organised by National Security Division in collaboration with the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in Islamabad, which was attended by the ambassadors of Central Asian Republics (CARs).

He said that regional connectivity in Asia now lies at the center of the Chinese-led Belt and Road initiative which aims to connect Asia with Europe and CPEC, a central part of this network, is an all-inclusive economic corridor for the region.

National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua stated that Pakistan by connecting 86%  of the people of the world is a massive potential trade and industrial hub.

The NSA urged Central Asian Republics (CARs) to utilise the huge potential of Balochistan and sea access through Gwadar which is the world’s largest deep sea port.

“Balochistan is our face,” he added. “Pakistan will multiply the economy of the entire region.”

Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan Ali Alizada enunciated that the landscape of the world is changing dramatically and countries are changing their state policies swiftly in the wake of unfolding global crescendos.

“Peace is the only option to move towards sustainable future. Pakistan has always backed peace and stability in the region and Azerbaijan is grateful to Pakistan for their positive role in this regard,” the ambassador added.

Giving Turkey’s perspective Professor Erhan Dogan from Marmara University Istanbul stated that Turkey has some regional calculations and some international.

“What China, USA and Russia envisage their role in other parts of the world definitely has significant impact over Turkey’s equation with the global world?”

The Turkish professor said that Pakistan and Turkey have common cultural heritage and people of Turkey have a great respect for Pakistan.

Kazakh Ambassador Barlybay Sadykov stated that confidence building measures should remain on the top agenda in order to maintain global security and ensure peace. “International terrorism is a common threat and requires collective response.”

He further stated that Afghan peace process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, with that all share responsibility to assist Afghan peace process. “Geopolitical and geo-economics of the region both offers opportunities and face threats. Geo-economics can press for the need of cooperation among nations,” he added.

Gwadar is very important for Uzbekistan, said Uzbek ambassador to Pakistan Furqat A. Sidiqov, as the country needs access to warm waters. Furthermore, he stated that stability in Afghanistan is pivotal for both Central Asian Republics (CARs) and Pakistan in this regard for strengthening economic connectivity of the region.

Kyrgyz Ambassador to Pakistan hoped that the planned railway link from Kashghar in China to Karachi and Gwadar in Pakistan under CPEC, after completion, will connect Pakistan to Kyrgyz Republic through rail network, leading to more economic opportunities.

In the search for optimal solutions to the accumulated problems of the region, Tajik Ambassador Sherali Jononov was of the view that the response to the global and regional challenges requires broad dialogue and concerted efforts of the entire international community.

Speaking on the common challenges faced by the region, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Asif Yasin stated that good governance and governance alone would lead to internal stability, fight against terrorism and poverty in the region.

He also added that Pakistan and Afghanistan have common stakes. Trans-Afghanistan and trans-Pakistan are the contemporary phenomena that will spell out future relationship between the two.

Pakistan’s biggest challenge is to ensure security and security challenges are not solved by military means but development, said Lt. General (retd) Talat Masood in his concluding remarks as the chair and moderator of the seminar.

SOURCE: https://arynews.tv/en/central-asian-republics-gwadar-port/