CPEC – regional connectivity

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Muhammad Javaid

CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a framework of regional connectivity and aims at economic regionalization in the globalized world. CPEC will not only help China and Pakistan but will have positive impact on Iran, Afghanistan, India, Central Asian Republics, and the region. It originated peace, development, and win-win model for all of them. The development of geographical linkages having improved road, rail and air transportation system, activity of higher volume of flow of trade and businesses, will result in well connected, integrated region of shared destiny, harmony and development. CPEC is hope of better region of the future with peace, development and growth of economy. Pakistan desires participation of other countries to become part of the CPEC. Participation of other counties in the CPEC is a positive thinking, since it will enhance the stakes of regional countries in the project by reducing the rivalries.

Instead of joining, some countries especially India and its allies have made a lot of efforts to create controversies. These countries also tried to influence the international financial institutions by disseminating narrative that CPEC being a debt trap project. Pakistan being a sovereign state exercises the right to choose economic partners from around the globe on mutually beneficial basis. All related projects are being pursued as per laws and regulations of Pakistan and through an institutional mechanism wherein transparency is a priority consideration. Necessary/due diligence with all financial implications is being undertaken before finalization of any projects. Pakistan’s debt sustainability strategy has an endorsement of International financial institutions.

CPEC projects under the overarching umbrella of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a well thought out initiative involving mega development projects for the economic and social development of Pakistan. These projects are intended to rapidly upgrade Pakistan’s required infrastructure and strengthen its economy by the construction of modern transportation networks, numerous energy projects, and special economic zones. The projects completed so far in Phase-1 have already brought relief and started yielding dividends and tangible socio-economic benefits. CPEC projects will accelerate the pace of development in the country boosting economic growth and ensuring ultimate prosperity for the people of Pakistan.

However the pace of implementation should further be accelerated and priority should be to operationalize the Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The SEZs would enable setting up of joint ventures in manufacturing which would integrate the enterprises from both sides. It is important for Pakistani manufacturing industries to become part of the global value chain by partnering with the Chinese companies. Chinese side is also keen to promote such relationships between businesses and manufacturing industries. It is important to focus on it during new phase of CPEC. All relevant departments have been instructed to expedite the work on SEZs especially those at Rashakai, Dhabeji and Faisalabad, where some work had already been done. Provision of electricity and gas to these projects should be a priority.

Collaboration in the agriculture sector is extremely important for the Pakistani economy especially after COVID 19 effects on international economy and need to be accelerated as massive potential exists in agriculture sector by modernizing and upgrading its various subsectors. Hopefully, bilateral partnership between the two countries will be taken to new heights in future. After overcoming the immediate financial problem the government has made efforts to fast track the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.

It is an understatement to say that our world has changed dramatically over the last few months. The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in unimaginable loss to the global economy. Not only is the virus alarming but, the speed at which the economic challenges have emerged is intimidating. Governments are calibrating the response to these economic challenges and frequent strategic adjustments are being done. However, a comprehensive short and long term policy would be required to coup with the new structural changes at national as well as at international level for revival of economy. Pakistan’s economy will be really affected by the unemployment of Overseas Pakistanis and resultantly reduced remittances. The economic gaps that are emerging around the world from this virus indicate agricultural products will be more important in the future because no one could live without food whereas compromise could be made on industrial manufacturing things.

At the moment we need a roadmap for revival of industries as well as CPEC projects and a strategy to review the priorities keeping in view the future requirements. The CPEC plan should be reviewed immediately by both sides. Agriculture sector should be given priority as more than 60% population is engaged in this sector which has been ignored in the past. Perhaps this is a warning from God Almighty to review our policy towards agriculture to enhance the productivities and protect agricultural land from housing societies. For the execution of CPEC, both countries have already set up a ministerial-level Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC Long Term Planning (JCC). CPEC should be reviewed by Joint Cooperation Committee keeping in view the emerging effects of COVID-19 on international economy.

(The writer is ex-Chief Planning Commission)