CPEC: A Gateway of Prosperity | By Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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CPEC: A Gateway of Prosperity

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become an ideal platform for sustainable economic development in the country.

Its projects have become hope for economic revival, speeding of massive industrialization, befitting joint ventures and last but not the least, generation of new jobs to local people.

Undoubtedly, it has further enhanced provincial connectivity and brightened the prospects of greater regional socio-economic integration.

It has become the lifeline of new technologies, artificial intelligence, innovations, smart economy, green energy, health capacity building and last but not the least, macro-economy. That is why CPEC has already been dubbed as a vital X-factor for the future macro-economy of the country.

Furthermore, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has badly disturbed regional as well as global supply chain systems around the world.

Essential food commodities have become a far cry in most of Central Asia, South Caucasus, European Union, US, Middle East and Africa. However, CPEC has become an effective tool for food security in the country.

Lots of new innovative, multifaceted techniques and hybrid seeds have been introduced in the country which have further enhanced productivity of numerous cash crops i.e. rice, wheat, sugarcane, maize etc.

Now the incumbent government of Pakistan is exploring to enhance regional connectivity through advancement of the railway sector under the flagship projects of CPEC in the country.

According to the Economic Survey 2021-22 launched by Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail along with Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal the government considers CPEC as a long-term development project as it has the potential to serve as a corridor with multiple doors connecting China with Central Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe.

According to economic survey (2021-2022) the Chinese and Pakistani workforce, in a large number, was employed to ensure timely completion of the infrastructure projects and launched new projects such as Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway (M-6), Peshawar-DI Khan Motorway (M-14), KKH Alternative Route (Gilgit-Shandor-Chitral), Swat Expressway (Phase-II), Dir Expressway, and Karachi Circular Railways.

In this regard, CPEC comprises a network of roads, highways, motorways, sea ports, and airlines in a country makes it a center of economic activity by attracting investment, raising productivity and reducing cost of doing business.

The new federal government has now decided to take all possible measures to convert the unique geo-strategic location of Pakistan into geo-economics through various transport related projects that would transform road infrastructure of Pakistan and improve access to central Asian, African and European states. Thus CPEC is the gateway of regional connectivity as well as immense socio-economic prosperity in the country.

Unfortunately, the fragile political system of the country along with weak economy has been the critical concern for timely completion of CPEC phase-I projects.

Time and again China, iron-clad partner, rightly urged all political parties and stakeholders in the country to undertake appropriate measures to maintain economic stability and political unity to put the deteriorating national economy back on track in order to create suitable conditions for both countries to secure vested regional interests.

Increasing political uncertainty and unfortunate widening political consensus along with dark & gloomy pictures of wild protests and untamed processions in the country sent negative signals to potential businessmen and investors. That is why FDI has become tried and dollar is trying to reach above skies. Thus the chessboard of power politics has burnt the economic foundation of the country.

Under CPEC flagship, China has undertaken massive investment in communication, energy and road infrastructure projects connecting northwestern China with Pakistan’s southwestern Gwadar port in Arabian Sea.

Luckily, the flagship economic corridor carries the potential to create as many as 700,000 jobs by 2030. Moreover, completion of the strategic Gwadar port would fully spell over its economic benefits to neighboring Afghanistan and Central Asian States together with China in years to come.

Gwadar port has now become a strategic connecting hub. According to official statistics (January 2022), an estimated 5,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas from Qatar and Oman used to offload at Gwadar port every month.

Moreover, as many as 30 to 50 shipping containers are transported every month to Afghanistan from the newly built deep port. Earlier ports in the mega city of Karachi were destinations of off-loading of gas and Afghan transit trade.

However, lack of allied infrastructure such as uninterrupted supply of electricity, clean water, problem free cellular services have not yet been fully operationalized.

At least 40 per cent projects linked with road infrastructure, communication and energy deals out of $62 billion. Nonetheless, challenges to complete CPEC linked projects within deadline should be materialized as soon as possible.

Furthermore, the test flight from Gwadar International Airport would be started from December this year as the construction work on site has been expedited, an official of Gwadar Development Authority.

The new $246 million green field Gwadar International Airport (NGIA) being built at an area of 4,300 acres would be made operational before the deadline which was September 2023.
The government has also expanded the 50-bed Pak-China Friendship Hospital Gwadar to 150 beds state-of-the-art medical centre in order to ensure best health care facilities for the people of Gwadar.

To conclude, hopefully with the launch of CPEC phase-II Pakistan would now have opportunities to collaborate with China and 60 other countries partnering in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Keeping in view the looming food & energy security situation in the country, region and global level there is a need for substantial emphasis on the development of the country’s agriculture sector, which offers huge prospects of growth and trade.

Moreover, there is an urgent need to emphasize the enhancing of the productivity of various potential sub-sectors of agriculture, not only with an aim to address the country’s food security concerns, but also to alleviate it for international trade.

In this connection, CPEC’s phase-II offers a good opportunity to help the agriculture sector to recover, but the onus largely lies with the nation to set targets and strategies carefully in order to benefit from the forthcoming opportunities.

For alleviating the agriculture sector via a business-oriented model, could only be done through value addition i.e. converting raw materials into standard commercial products and brands.
In this context, the combination of different commodities and products being produced alongside the CPEC routes boast significant prospects in this regard.
There is a huge potential for the production and export of fodder, edible oils and palm oil, whereas pulses and oil seeds are some other lucrative areas to invest in.

CPEC stands for social improvement and agriculture development. It is recommended that integrated policies should be initiated in terms of production, diversification, post-harvest handling, processing, certification and value addition aiming at converting the harvest into high-value products while enabling them to maintain apex standards for international trade.

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