Col ® Muhammad Hanif
Recently there has been a vicious propaganda campaign at home and abroad against the feasibility of the CPEC saying that Pakistan’s debts are piling up due to CPEC-related Chinese loans and it will be difficult for Pakistan to pay back the loans in the coming years. Such propaganda has been put to rest through necessary coordination and response given by the Chinese and Pakistani officials, based on economically viable financial support in the form of heavy investment and low interest loans by Pakistan’s strategic partners, Saudi Arabia and China respectively. The corrective measures also include making of some Pakistan-favourable adjustments by China in some CPEC-related projects, as already agreed to by China, as published in the Wall Street Journal, Asia Edition, dated 24 September 2018.
According to the Journal, Beijing has recently said that “the two sides agreed to determine a CPEC’s future course of development and cooperation through negotiations based on Pakistan’s next-stage, socioeconomic development priorities and the needs of its people.”The Pakistani government has also asked the Chinese government to include some projects in the CPEC that help in poverty alleviation in Pakistan, including setting up of factories in Pakistan to create jobs. Accordingly, the top leaders of both the countries, the Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan have emphatically declared that the CPEC will be completed on time.
The newly-installed PTI Government in Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan understands very well that the construction of the CPEC is very important for economic development of the country and the welfare of its people. Some very important points of PTI’s election manifesto are creation of jobs, increasing foreign and domestic investment, developing industrialization and increasing agriculture production. The implementation of these manifesto points and the other ones, including providing better health and education facilities, can be facilitated by continuing work on the CPEC projects and ensuring their timely completion.
The continuation of the construction of the CPEC is the only option to enhance Pakistan’s economic growth. Already, due to investment in the CPEC, Pakistan’s economic growth rate has increased from 3.2 percent in 2014 to 5.2 percent in 2018. Due to economic activity related to the CPEC, while the growth rate for the Year 2019 is projected at 5.8 percent, it is also estimated that it will rise to 7 percent by the Year 2020. If this happens, it will not only help in creating more jobs, it will also help in the reduction of Pakistan’s budget deficit and increasing its foreign reserves by enhancing exports and limiting imports.
The continuation of the CPEC will also reassure other countries of the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and Russia, even European countries, that are interested in joining the CPEC, that the CPEC is going to be completed on time and it is going to be a success story, then those countries will invest in the CPEC, as Saudi Arabia has recently pledged to make an investment of Rs. ten billion US dollars to build an oil city at Gwadar as part of the CPEC mega project. Likewise, many other countries are likely to invest in the CPEC that will help the government to increase foreign investment.
It is a good thing that the government has asked the Chinese government to set up factories in Pakistan by investing in some industrial zones on priority. This will help in providing employment opportunities for the poor people and will also help in enhancing industrial growth. It is a live example that it is due to the CPEC-related investment in the generation of electricity, and completion of such many projects during the last few years that the electricity shortage in the country has been considerably addressed, as the electricity is very necessary for the industry, agriculture, various commercial businesses and for the domestic use. This proves the importance of the on-time completion of CPEC-related projects, for the country.
Building the infrastructure including roads and railway network as part of the CPEC project is also very important. Whereas the construction phase itself creates employment opportunities and attracts investment, the roads and rail enhance trade and create many commercial activities. Therefore, CPEC’s on-time construction is very important for the overall economic development of the country and poverty alleviation. Hence, it is a prudent decision by government to further expedite the CPEC’s development and completion (of course with already agreed upon adjustments between Pakistan and China), by rejecting the negative propaganda about the CPEC by the forces, having vested interests.