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CPEC will help Pakistan progress only if we band together as a country

It has been five years since an aggressive development plan was initiated in Pakistan. What I am talking about is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the pilot project of BRI. The ambitious road network is scheduled to be completed by 2030.

The first five years are gone. The first phase is successfully accomplished with the completion of several infrastructure and energy projects. Everybody knows that no development project can be completed without considering these two sectors.

Today, Pakistan is on its way to accelerated economic growth. This is a splendid achievement for the government. Just a few years ago, such progress would have sounded ludicrous to Pakistanis.

The second phase of the project is expected to focus on special economic zones (SEZs) in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army played a pivotal role in ensuring security for this mega development project. Every single person in the country is trying to relate themselves to the benefits and outcomes of CPEC. But there is a dire need to understand the nature of collective benefit for the country.

“Today, Pakistan is on its way to accelerated economic growth. This is a splendid achievement. Just a few years ago, such progress would have sounded ludicrous to Pakistanis”

Unfortunately, nationalism has been lacking most of the times whenever it is needed. Nationalism has always been seen only during war times. But when it comes to peacetime and development processes, it becomes irrelevant to the nation. People from all walks of life focus only on their particular vested interests.

CPEC has come up with multiple opportunities and diversified goals. Therefore, the nation needs to be united until the end of this project to get most out of it.

Some of the SEZs planned for the country include, Rashakai Economic Zone (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), China Special Economic Zone (Dhabeji, Sindh), Bostan Industrial Zone (Balochistan), Allama Iqbal Industrial City (Faisalabad, Punjab), ICT Model Industrial Zone (Islamabad), Industrial Park on Pakistan Steel Mills Land at Port Qasim (Karachi), Special Economic Zone (Mirpur, AJK), Mohmand Marble City (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), and Moqpondass SEZ (Gilgit-Baltistan). The project will add a lot more to the economy of Pakistan, including several industries that are sure to boost our economic stability, rate of employment, GDP, and more. CPEC includes a plethora of industrial projects – many of which are needed for a transitional economy to succeed.

Some of the projects have already started, and some need more planning and will be completed later on. The amount of foreign investment coming into the country had been on the rise since 2010.However, since CPEC began in 2014, it has been increasing at a faster rate. This change can be seen below:

It is very important to spread word among the masses about the importance of CPEC. We must come together as a nation now so that we can build a stronger Pakistan.

SOURCE:https://dailytimes.com.pk/254333/cpec-will-help-pakistan-progress-only-if-we-band-together-as-a-country/

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‘CPEC is not a gift’: Professor Jia Yu at the CPEC 2018 Summit

Pakistan should not take CPEC for granted, writes Dr. Jia Yu. Both public and private sectors must take ownership of the opportunities.

 

The economic relations between the two countries have been phenomenal, especially since the turn of the century. Early economic cooperation was based on political and security interests, like Karakoram Highway, nuclear capability, arms trade etc. Also, it was focussed on energy and mining, but there is now a need for diversification. Pakistan has to take advantage of China’s rise on the global scene. There is a tendency towards having even better economic relations based on market forces and there is a lot of under-exploited potentials.

When it comes to win-win cooperation, of course, there is a lot at stake for both countries. Pakistan’s interests lie in promoting growth, private sector investment, employment, exports, technology and transfer of skills as well as in the relocation of Chinese firms. China’s interests lie in overseas production bases, new export markets, energy cooperation, and its need for production capacity relocation.

A successful execution of CPEC will ensure economic progress and stability for both the countries, particularly along the border region.

The two countries signed the FTA in 2006 which came into effect a year later. The FTAs play a major role in the general tendency of increasing trade. Surprisingly, the trade has been relatively low compared to the other neighbors (India, Vietnam, Philippines etc.). And there is a large and widening trade imbalance that needs to be worked on.

There has been a considerable increase in FDI since 2014 which is a positive sign for both China and Pakistan. The main FDI sectors by priority are: power, construction, financial services, and communication. There is, however, very little FDI in the light manufacturing sector.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a $900 billion investment, with finance channels targeting green development. It connects more than 60 countries, 60pc of the global population, 30pc of global GDP, and 35pc of global trade.

CPEC, a central link of BRI, cuts 10,000 miles of shipping by sea, and connects ports from Shanghai to Africa and Europe through Gwadar.

PAKISTAN AND CPEC

If things work out smoothly, Pakistan could use the FDI in its power and transport infrastructure and then in the manufacturing sector with the experience of leveraging SEZs to unlock this trio’s potential for rapid gains in job-rich industrialization. This can be done without unrealistic pre-requirements as the work to lay the foundations for industrialization has already begun.

The potentials are outlined below along with policy options needed to convert them into actions. At a regional level, Pakistan has been growing steadily in terms of GDP per capita since 2010, according to the World Bank. Investors are very keen to a growing economy. Consistent growth of purchasing power (GDP per capita) really matters for domestic consumption; therefore the growth rate must be maintained to catch up with competitors.

Pakistan is one of the world’s largest reservoirs of human capital and has a tremendous potential consumer base. In 2016, the country was home to 193,203,476 people, being the world’s 6th most populous country. World Economic Forum estimates that it will be among the top five populous countries in the world by 2060.

However, a large population is necessary but not sufficient to attract investors. The population has to be equipped with adequate skills to meet industrialization needs. An effort is also needed to attract global buyers.

Thirdly, China and Pakistan have long hailed each other as “all-weather friends”, or “iron brothers” as close as “lips and teeth” in the words of The Economist. There is already solid trust between the two countries, but the Pakistani officials need to visit China more often to convince the private investors for investment opportunities in Pakistan.

The CPEC will improve road, air, sea, and energy infrastructure. It will ensure land, sea and air security. It will enhance trade and investment facilitation and will establish free trade areas that meet high standards, maintain closer economic ties, and deepen political trust. Also, it will enhance cultural exchanges and promote mutual understanding, peace, and friendship between the people of the two countries.

Having said that, the CPEC should not be considered just a ‘gift’ from China, but the Pakistani government should also establish an FDI Advisory Board that shall promote the new image of the country. This includes visiting China more often and ensuring that investors understand the opportunities and benefits available under the CPEC.

Besides, according to the State Bank of Pakistan in November 2017, the country received net FDI worth $207 million out of which $206 million came from China. Potential investors pay significant attention to first movers, other Chinese investors may follow and eventually stay in Pakistan if the government helps the pioneers to be successful.

In terms of binding constraints, a study case of Malaysia estimates that FDI can effectively contribute to growth if it is at least 3.14pc of GDP. Pakistan should be able to compete. This requires overcoming the binding constraints by addressing security issues and risks, hard infrastructure challenges, especially SEZ-specific constraints like energy, roads to SEZs etc. Soft infrastructure challenges include corruption, rule of the law, coordination among institutions, inadequate capacity and cultural biases. Absorption capacity can be adjusted by setting yearly realistic targets of FDI amount.

There are six steps to identify the right industries, as narrated by Prof. Justin Lin. They include identifying countries with consistent growth, with GDP per capita three times as Pakistan’s or was at the same level as Pakistan 30 years ago.

Next comes investigating the existing private investment in those target industries and encourage its development by leasing the market regulations. Attracting global investors into the target industries which lack existing domestic private investment is the third step, followed by paying attention to new enterprises and supporting innovation in the target industries.

Establishing and developing SEZs to eliminate entering barriers, attracting foreign investment, and encouraging industrial cluster. And, finally, providing policy incentives for the first movers, including tax reduction, foreign exchange access, etc.

THE WAY FORWARD

Development can start from ‘low-hanging fruit’ through SEZs. The government should attract first movers to invest and help the pioneers succeed.

CPEC should not be taken for granted. A proactive and systematic approach is needed for attracting investors, together with strong market factors.

Despite long-term and solid trust at the government level, more mutual dialogues and exchanges need to be enhanced in the private sector. Let the peoples get to understand each other.

CPEC and SEZs are open for all investors, including those from other countries beyond China.

The writer is a professor at the Institute of New Structural Economics (INSE), Peking University, China.

SOURCE: https://www.dawn.com/news/1409721

 

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At SCO summit, India again says ‘no’ to Belt and Road

India on Sunday again said “no” to China’s Belt and Road project, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain merely shook hands on the final day of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Qingdao city.

India, which participated at the Chinese-led security bloc for the first time after being inducted into the grouping last year, did not figure in the list of rest of the member states endorsing Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative in the joint declaration.

 Earlier in the day, Modi made it clear that New Delhi was all for connectivity projects but could not compromise its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India strongly opposes Beijing’s multi-billion dollar project, which aims to connect Asia with Europe through a network of roads, ports and sea lanes.

New Delhi’s objection is to the key artery of the project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which goes through the Kashmir governed by Pakistan and claimed by India.

“We have again reached a stage where physical and digital connectivity is changing the definition of geography. Therefore, connectivity with our neighborhood and in the SCO region is our priority,” Modi said.

“We welcome any new connectivity project, which is inclusive, sustainable and transparent, and respects a country’s sovereignty and regional integrity,” he said at one of the sessions at the Summit.

This is one of the contentious issues between India and China but both seem to have decided not to let it affect other aspects of bilateral ties.

Like India, Pakistan also became a member of the SCO in 2017 and attended the event for the first time.

“It was noted that the SCO had asserted itself as a unique, influential and authoritative regional organization whose potential had grown remarkably following the accession of India and Pakistan,” the 17-page Qingdao declaration said.

With the inclusion of India and Pakistan, the grouping has expanded into an 8-member bloc. China, Russia, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are SCO’s other members.

Modi, who had bilaterals with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders, just had a handshake with the Pakistan head of state.

The ties between the two countries have plummeted following attacks at Indian Army bases and continuing violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

The bloc vowed to fight terrorism.

“The SCO’s coordinated policy of waging an effective fight against challenges and threats to security remains unchanged. Practical interaction in this area will be facilitated by the adopted Programme of Cooperation between the SCO Member States in Opposing Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism for 2019-21.”

During the summit, Modi and Xi had a “substantive” meeting on Saturday. India struck major deals like the export of rice and Indian pharmaceutical products to China.

The bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2020 was another important announcement by both sides.

The Kyrgyz Republic will take over the Presidency of the organization. The next meeting of the Council of SCO Heads of State will be held in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2019.

SOURCE: http://m.greaterkashmir.com/news/world/at-sco-summit-india-again-says-no-to-belt-and-road/287805.html

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Colorful cultural exchanges between China and Pakistan

China and Pakistan are not only friendly neighbours but also two major ancient civilizations that have maintained close ties in cultural exchanges and mutual learning.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1951, the two countries have made great efforts to promote cultural exchanges and cooperation. The Cultural Cooperation Agreement between China and Pakistan was signed in March 1965. During her official visit to China in February 2018, Marriyum Aurangzeb, federal minister for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage, signed the Executive Programme of the Cultural Agreement for 2018-2022 with Luo Shugang, minister of Culture and Tourism of China, which outlines the overall framework for China-Pak cultural exchanges and cooperation in the next five years.

In 2018, the CPEC Cultural Caravan was implemented with the support of the Ministry of Information of Pakistan. Artists from China and Pakistan carried out a series of exchange activities along the ancient Silk Road and CPEC construction sites. This further strengthened China-Pak friendship and promoted the mutual understanding of our two peoples. Apart from that, artists from the two countries have visited each other frequently so as to learn from each other and enhance the oriental civilization jointly.

The Pakistani government attaches importance to the development of broadcasting and film industry. The programme has made it clear that the two sides will strengthen the mutual cooperation in the technology fields of radio broadcasting, films and television among the state radio, film and television organizations of both the countries. China and Pakistan are maintaining close communication and coordination and actively expanding exchanges and cooperation in this area. The film industry is booming in both China and Pakistan. China will adopt measures to further cooperate with Pakistan in this field, including introducing Pakistani films to Chinese film festivals, importing Pakistani films into Chinese cinema lines, and promoting the film companies of the two countries to jointly produce film and television programs.

The writer is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Pakistan

SOURCE: https://dailytimes.com.pk/247261/colourful-cultural-exchanges-between-china-and-pakistan/ 

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Chinese ambassador meets Caretaker PM, briefs him on CPEC

Ambassador of China Yao Jing, Tuesday, called on Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (R) Nasirul Mulk and briefed him about the historic friendly relations that existed between China and Pakistan. He was paying a visit to Prime Minister to congratulate him on his assuming office of the prime minister of Pakistan.
The ambassador while congratulating the premiere briefed him about the various projects under the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and informed that these projects were going on fast-track and will be completed on their expected time. Ambassador Yao Jing also conveyed greetings from the Chinese leadership to the Prime Minister on assuming office.
He said that China attached great importance to China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership. In recent years, with the joint efforts of both sides, China-Pakistan relations have achieved fruitful results. The CPEC embodies the achievements of the two countries’ mutually beneficial cooperation and marks a new height in China-Pakistan relations.
At the same time, comprehensive exchanges and cooperation in various fields such as economy, trade, people-to-people exchanges and education have been conducted. The two countries have cooperated closely in international and regional affairs, effectively safeguarding the common interests of both parties. China hopes that Pakistan will maintain political stability and complete major domestic political processes smoothly.
China wishes the caretaker government to successfully organize the election, and hopes that the PM and the caretaker government will continue to promote friendly cooperation between China and Pakistan. China believes that regardless of the outcome of the election, China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership will continue to advance. Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk while expressing his gratitude to the Chinese envoy held that both the countries had the same vision of common prosperity and shared destiny of progress of their people.

SOURCE: https://pakobserver.net/chinese-ambassador-meets-caretaker-pm-briefs-him-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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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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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/