Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
AS the Chinese-financed3000 kilometres long CPEC connecting the Kashgar city of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous region with Gwadar Port city of Balochistan province of Pakistan, would be a network of roads, railways, ports, power plants, pipelines, industrial zones and cooperation in agriculture, its development is going to give a quantum jump to the development of Pakistan’s economy. With the huge economic and trade-related opportunities that the CPEC will provide to Pakistan, the project will definitely help Pakistan in achieving economic self-reliance, which is necessary for it to become a strong economic and military power and a true sovereign state.
Thus, the CPEC is going to become a pivot for Pakistan’s economic development by helping it enhance its economic growth and progress on a long term basis, by attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), providing energy producing resources, advancing industrialization, improving internet-based communication, road, rail, air and sea-based transport network, modernizing industry and agriculture, improving services through manpower’s skill development, constructing tourism spots and enhancing Pakistan’s national, regional and international connectivity, to make it a hub of international trade and investment.
Now, let us see the economic benefits of the CPEC-related projects during and after their completion, which will help boost Pakistan’s economic development. Already, out of the 19 energy projects included in the CPEC plan, 10 projects, based on coal, have been completed and approximately 4666MW to 5000 MW electricity has been pumped into the national grid so far. This has greatly helped Pakistan address its energy shortage. On completion of the remaining projects, 17000 MW of electricity will be available for the industry, agriculture, services, construction and other sectors of economic development, which will help in enhancing the economic growth. Also, a network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will be laid as part of the CPEC project.
A vast network of highways and railways is also being built under the CPEC plan. This transportation network will link Gwadar and Karachi seaports with northern Pakistan, as well as points further north in western China and Central Asia. A 1,100-kilometre-long motorway is being built between Karachi and Lahore as part of CPEC, while the Karakoram Highway from Hasan Abdal to the Chinese border is also being reconstructed. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 km per hour. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar.
Gwadar port forms the core of the CPEC project, as it would act as a major link between China’s One Belt, One Road project, and its Maritime Silk Road project and trade of China, Central Asia and South Asia with the outer world and vice-versa. Gwadar Port has been initially expanded to allow for docking of larger ships of up to the tonnage of 70,000. In Gwadar, a floating liquefied natural gas facility will also be constructed and will be connected to the Gwadar-Nawabshah segment of the Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline. In total, there are nine projects in Gwadar’s development plan, including the construction of a modern airport, funded by China.
In Science & Technology, Pakistan and China have signed an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement. The two countries also pledged to establish the “China-Pakistan Joint Marine Research Centre”. Also as part of the CPEC agreement, Pakistan and China have agreed to cooperate in the field of space research. The two countries also agreed to establish the “Pak-China Science, Technology, Commerce and Logistic Park” near Islamabad at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.
As part of the CPEC, the $44 million 820 kilometre long Pakistan-China Fibre Optic Project, a Cross Border Optical Fibre Cable is being laid that will enhance telecommunication and ICT Industry in Pakistan. The two countries have also signed an agricultural cooperation framework agreement to modernize agriculture. To expand and modernize industry in Pakistan, nine special economic zones are also being developed along the CPEC route in phases aimed to bring an industrial revolution in the country.
The above discussion indicates that the completion of the CPEC-related development projects will bring many socio-economic advantages to Pakistan. Whereas the vast transportation and communication infrastructure will make Pakistan a hub for world trade, its domestic trade will also multiply. While Pakistan’s industrial production will increase in volume and quality, its production in agriculture-related fields will also enhance. The construction of CPEC-related projects, the expansion in industry, agriculture and services sectors and tourism will increase employment opportunities in Pakistan. The increased economic activity and production in these sectors will enable Pakistan to meet the domestic demands of products and will also enhance its exports to earn the valuable foreign exchange.
In the overall context, the CPEC-generated huge economic activity will enhance Pakistan production, economic growth, employment, exports and ability to act as route for the international trade to earn valuable foreign exchange and enough budgetary funds to spend on its annual development plans, kill poverty, make its people wealthy and become an economically self-reliant and sovereign state. Therefore, it can be said with certainty that the CPEC mega project is a golden opportunity for Pakistan’s economic development and progress to make it a true welfare state and a strong economic and military power.