CPEC: Social impact

2666

Muhammad Javaid

CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is critically important for both countries. Pakistan needs it to overcome its economic woes, social and energy problems while China needs it to expand its periphery of influence, consolidate its global presence and securing future supply routes of energy and trade. Since Pakistan has a unique strategic position in the region, CPEC projects are being developed as part of strategic partnership between the two countries which is a long-term plan having a time frame of 2014 – 2030, with its two necessary conditions of the Corridor – development of the port at Gwadar and creating surface transport connectivity between the city of Gwadar in southwest. Three phases programme was planned – short-term programs would be completed by 2020, medium-term programs to be completed by 2025 while the long-term projects will be completed by 2030.

Pakistan remained confronted with the problem of unemployment since long. Its rapidly growing population has been exerting increasing pressure on limited resources of the country. Employment is fundamental in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. The situation demanded to expand the economic activities and generate job opportunities. Pakistan economy could not flourish to provide sufficient job opportunities to unemployed. Every year more than one million youths add in labour force and building up pressure of unemployment. CPEC projects are filling the gap and providing opportunities to Pakistani youth to get engaged economically active. To promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all is considered to be the key to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, which is recognized as one of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’.

Pakistan is facing another problem of regional disparity. There is huge disparity across the districts of Pakistan. Most of the districts of Balochistan are placed in low ranking i.e. Chagai, Qila Abdullah and Dera Bugti. In terms of wellbeing Balochistan ranked as the most deprived province where 62 per cent population is placed in the category of bad quality of life. Some of the other districts of Pakistan are also vulnerable in terms of wellbeing, i.e., Rajanpur, Thatta, D.G Khan and Umerkot, etc. It was predicted that the CPEC investment would have a significant direct and indirect impact on the economy of Pakistan by lifting the GDP growth beyond six per cent for the fiscal years 2016-18 but the targets couldn’t achieved. It was further predicted that indirect impact will be much higher than the direct impact due to the bulk of the investment in energy and infrastructure sectors that have the potential to give a boost to current industry of Pakistan and attract the private investors. These targets unfortunately couldn’t be achieved in time due to inconsistency in priorities however expected to bring the big change in the social life of many remote areas. There are three routes of the CPEC and all routes are touching mostly remote areas i-e Gwadar-Turbat-Panjgur-Khuzdar-Ratodero-Kashmore-Rajanpur-Dera Ghazi Khan- Dera Ismail Khan – Bannu – Kohat – Kalat –Quetta-Zhob. It is expected that completion of these routes will have a great impact on social welfare and it will bring a visible change in social vulnerable areas of Pakistan.

Given the provincial profile, it is predicted that the present CPEC projects would have considerable impact on quality of life at all levels. The break-up of CPEC projects are: Punjab 12, Sindh 13, KP 8 and Balochistan 16. These projects would have great significance in enhancing bilateral connectivity, improving people’s livelihood and fostering pragmatic economic and trade cooperation. It works on the principle of “one corridor with multiple passages” aiming at directly benefitting the socio-economic development of Pakistan, especially the western and north-western regions and providing significant importance to Gwadar port. It is expected that CPEC project of various sectors mainly; energy and infrastructure would create thousands direct and indirect jobs by 2030 and will ease poverty situation. Furthermore, transport and infrastructure projects would not only make easier access to domestic and overseas markets but also would promote inter-regional and international merchandise trade that would further surge private business investment and enhance productivity.

CPEC would have enormous social impact on all provinces and districts of Pakistan related to its three dimensions of welfare: education, health and housing. The development strength of this mega project indicates that there will be around five per cent growth in social welfare in Pakistan, up till 2020. Balochistan will be top beneficiary thereafter Sindh, KP and Punjab respectively. CPEC is a manifestation of the shared dream of unprecedented prosperity for the region.

It is difficult to assess the final impact of CPEC as long as it is not completed. CPEC project is in vicious circle of completions. Many internal and external forces are working against this project. However, there is consensus that CPEC is important for Pakistan’s economy and both parties are determined to complete it in time. The implementation is partially slow down due to political nosiness or changing priorities. So it is difficult to collect the exact data and correct statistical information to predict outcome. All assessments are based on the information available through the government sources and private research work. Finally, it can be concluded that China had already invested considerable amount and 16 projects have been completed or near completion. The realization of CPEC is a manifestation of the shared dream of unprecedented prosperity for the region.