Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
THE China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has now become an architect for greater national connectivity which is now creating miracles in the life of common people and businessmen alike. Successful completion of various mega projects of infrastructural development has drastically reduced physical distances and saved time, money and energy too. In this regard while visiting to CPEC Authority Chairman, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing has conveyed official approval of his government about M1 project. The Ambassador said ML-1 project would further strengthen the cooperation between Pakistan and China.
It will create new jobs wherein local people will be consumed. Local material will also be used in this mega project. Being prominent regional expert, I expect that approval of M-I project would be a giant step towards modernization of railway system and would also put Pakistan on the path to greater and sustainable prosperity. The project of 1,872 miles length is the biggest development project of Pakistan to be built at a cost of 6.8 billion dollars. It is hoped that more than 200,000 to 250,000 people directly or indirectly would get jobs due to the mega project.
Previously, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the $6.8 billion Mainline-1 railway project, which allows the government to move ahead with its fundraising. The project, which falls in the framework of CPEC, is expected to be about 90% foreign-financing through loans from China. Engineering, procurement, and construction will be dealt and supervised by Chinese contractors, for which a request for exemption from international competitive bidding will be sent to the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet. The rail project is notable as it is the only strategic project being finalised as part of the initial $46 billion in CPEC deals. It will revolutionize railways in the country.
In the first of three phases, Pakistan will commit to around $2.4 billion worth of construction work to stay compliant with an IMF commitment that created a spending limit of $2.5 billion during the same period. The second phase will start a year after phase one and will cost $2.7 billion as the IMF spending ceiling will not apply. The final phase will begin two years after “package one” and will cost $1.7 billion. Completion of Mainline-I project has multiplier socio-economic and geo-strategic effects for the national economy. It will generate immense business activity in the country which will push forward various sectors and sub-sectors of macro-economy mainly, construction industries, cement, steel, artificial intelligence, electronics, ICT, digitalization and above all human capital industry etc.
It will reduce distances and promote capacity building in Pakistan Railways. It will bring drastic changes in overall hauling of the railways system including time management, procurement and commercial cargo fleets. It will definitely further enhance revenues of Railways. It will introduce system of automation in railways which will minimize chances of accidents. It will build double track with the speed increase from 100 KM to 160 KM. Commercial cargos will be increased up to 160 trains. It will be a valuation addition for easy, smooth and speedy movement of merchandized goods and defence commodities. Main-I project has become one of the most important parts of the CPEC which will connect various junctions of railways situated in all the provinces. Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan termed it historic and vial for the development of Pakistan Railways. It will create elements of self-efficiency, productivity and commercial sustainability in local railways.
Most recently, CPEC Authority Chairman Authority Lt. Gen. (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa said that CPEC-related projects in South Balochistan are making progress. He shared that work on the 110-km-long two-lane road from Khuzdar to Bisma was in full swing while work on the N30 highway started in October 2019. The construction of N30 highway will cost Rs 19 billion. Moreover, 20% work of the highway has been completed, this highway will connect Khuzdar to N85, with the completion of the project in 2021, and access to Gwadar will be easier. China and Pakistan have increased their cooperation on infrastructure development in Kashgar. Both countries have also announced to build a 118km stretch of road from Thakot to Havelian as part of a larger road project that runs from Islamabad to Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region.
CPEC is the flagship project of the BRI which is already connected with more than 65 countries having 35% global trade, 31% global GDPs and 62% world population needs a “specialized” outlook and projection which may be achieved with the inclusion of “genuine scholars” of applied economics, international marketing, communication strategists, experts of cultural & commercial diplomacy and likeminded “publication” houses in the country. CPEC’s phase-II should be transformed to have more and more small, medium and mega “hydro-power” dams throughout the country so that somehow, inbuilt “dichotomy” in the CPEC’s phase-I should be ratified now for the betterment of both the countries. Moreover, inclusion of certain projects of “renewable” energy mix (solar, wind, biomass) is the need of the hour which should be pursued having ideal combination of public-private partnership in which innovative credit financing models should also be followed.
The President of China, H.E. Mr. Xi Jinping has already stressed the need to have “Silk Health Route” during pendency of the COVID-19 which may also be included in the CPEC phase-II in the country. It would be a “game changer” for our domestic health industry having potential benefits of further enhancing of national response and capacity building and larger scale localized health products and commodities. Government of Pakistan should sincerely seek assistance and professional guidance from its counterpart. Being prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI I, suggest that since Pakistan is under attack of “locust” (according to many reports and statistics, widespread attack of locust may have collateral damage up to Rs.750 billion to Rs.1000 billion to agricultural as well as macro-economy), the policy makers must sincerely coordinate with Chinese government and companies to eradicate this deadly calamity. Local production of agricultural drones has been started but Chinese expertise in this regard may be instrumental.