Kashif Mateen Ansari
At the moment CPEC is one of the most significant topics under discussion. It is rightly a game changer in the region, especially for Pakistan. However, as soon as CPEC was announced, there was a visible lobby which lost no opportunity to finding fault with the CPEC, the way it is planned or in the manner it is executed. However, if you look at Chinese history for the last thousands of years, China has never engaged with occupational wars. The way CPEC is planned, it is a large infrastructural project having no parallel in the history of Pakistan. It is planned as a network of roads and rail bridges and tunnels and then adding together industrial zones and power generation being the most dominant element of the grand project. Now in the area of power generation we all know that in the early harvest projects, we are looking at almost 10,000 MW of energy ultimately getting to our grids. Already work on grid projects is underway that means the bottleneck created by our old and poorly maintained grid would be solved. Another fear is that the cheap Chinese goods are going to elbow out the Pakistani products. I think this is an unfounded fear because what we are seeing in the core projects of CPEC, they do not relate to any cheap product. First of all we are looking at the power plants. The Pakistani manufacturers and the Pakistani industrial sector have nothing to offer in competition where we can produce the power machinery the turbine generators or the power plants. While we are looking at the roads and the railways most of the raw material in the form of cement and steel will come from the local area. However, what we must look at is that, at the moment at many levels Pakistani businesses do not possess the adequate experience and knowledge in high-level engineering and technology. They will be best served by their interaction with the ongoing and the future projects and working in those areas where they have a competitive advantage and yet being exposed to those areas which are traditionally new to us and thus creating new expertise and understanding. The real trade between China and Pakistan will start and as the numbers go we are looking at hundreds of thousands of containers moving over these arteries. Obviously this will give rise to enormous economic activity ranging from the logistics businesses to the services and supplies en-route for the trade convoys going down to Gwadar and it is believed that the people living in the far flung areas of Baluchistan, KP and GB will see unprecedented economic activity. With the availability of power and increase in the power generation we are sure that the economic activity will grow. It is very easy to criticize the CPEC and the Chinese investment marking it as purely debt. If a foreign debt is used only to pay off for the largesse, then obviously that debt is a trap that would lead any economy to ruin. But in case of CPEC projects, the investment which is coming in the form of debt, will ultimately result in the construction of power plants or the erection of the major grid lines or the network of motorways, rails and roads along with the industrial estates, allied industries and the dry ports, which will have a positive impact on our economy. What we have yet failed to understand is that CPEC requires something more, not only that this is an economic activity creating enormous economic opportunities but also there will be cultural exchanges that will lead to enhanced friendly ties, with not only China but also with all the regional players in Central Asia and South Asia. It is believed the real long term effect of the CPEC would be the integration of this region in a friendlier economic zone lowering of the restrictions on the movement of trade, goods and people. It is likely to enhance the cultural exchanges between us, the Central Asian States, China and rest of South Asia. What we need to look forward is how we can enhance the technical knowledge and the productivity of our people, how to benefit from the enormous opportunities that are going to open in front of us, how not to get carried away by our fears rather to look towards our future with hope and promise.