CPEC: unprecedented boost to Pakistan’s economy

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Aisha Safdar

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), massive bilateral project to improve infrastructure within Pakistan for better trade with China and to further integrate the countries of the region. The project was launched on April 20, 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping and the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed 51 agreements and Memorandums of Understanding valued at $46 billion. The goal of CPEC is both to transform Pakistan’s economy—by modernizing its road, rail, air, and energy transportation systems—and to connect the deep-sea Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China’s Xinjiang province and beyond by overland routes. This would reduce the time and cost of transporting goods and energy such as natural gas to China by circumventing the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea. CPEC is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative—to improve connectivity, trade, communication, and cooperation between the countries of Eurasia—announced by China in 2013.

Work is in full bloom on the CPEC and some projects are already complete while others are near completion. The pace and progress on these projects is satisfactory and work is continuing in a steady manner. It will effectively promote economic and social development of Pakistan as well as other countries in the region.

If we talk about CPEC Social Sector Development Projects we will find its positive impact in a number of areas running under the umbrella of CPEC. Under CPEC, effort will be made to promote people-to-people contact, media and cultural exchanges (including movies, drama, theatre etc). Both sides have resolved to promote Chinese and Pakistani culture and heritage for of long-term partnership.

The second major social sector development project is transfer of knowledge in different sectors. Under this initiative, experts from both sides will exchange expertise in industrial, rural and urban development, job creation & SMEs, water resources management and treatment as well as agriculture uplift.

Planning Commission of Pakistan is expecting 27 SEZs to be set up across country under CPEC by introducing Gwadar SEZ as first model based on area of 3000 acres on special discretion of China. The corridor will bring rapid industrialization and new techniques and technology as well as greater investment to Pakistan.

The industrial and technological revolution would create several opportunities in the country and to introduce and equip the youth with new techniques’ advancements in these sectors, enabling them to grab these opportunities. These changes will bring both social and economic advantages in Pakistan. One of the major social impacts of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)is flourishing of tourism industry. Tourism within the country is expected to boom in the years ahead making it a very attractive hub for investment in the tourism and hotel business.

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government plans to build a tourism corridor in the valley to facilitate travelers coming to visit scenic spots. Around 190km long tourism corridor will be constructed in the State. The estimated cost of this infrastructure project is around Rs.22 billion and the AJK government is also taking concrete steps to upgrade the existing infrastructure in the territory, under CPEC, which will also boost tourism in the region. Similarly, the region of Gilgit- Baltistan (GB) is considered paradise due to its sky-kissing mountains, lakes, valleys and lush green surroundings. With CPEC realization, number of visitors from across the world to Pakistan will enhance thus helping our tourism sector and generating revenue.

CPEC will also contribute to improving standard of living. As a result of increase in trade tourism and investment, Pakistan’s economy gets a boost and the government is now spending more on public employment opportunities. People’s income and standard of living are likely to increase.

Over the years, Pakistan is hospitable nation and its culture is convivial to accommodate other cultures. The inflow of Chinese people can create harmony among cultures. With completion of CPEC, Pakistan will avail itself of great opportunities from Chinese experts in various sectors like education, health and energy. The CPEC would also do the groundwork for further association among institutions of higher education and enable intellectual exchange between the two people.

CPEC will also help reduce travel cost and travel distance that cause decrease in illegal trade. Pakistan is today facing the menace of terrorism and militancy and CPEC will help the government to counter it. Prosperity and development discourage forces of obscurity and extremism. Another fruit of CPEC is that it will help in gaining internal stability because it will provide maximum opportunity to all provinces to get benefits. Gem and jewellery sector of Pakistan will also get a boost because of the CPEC as Peshawar is hub and the only direct market for all gems and precious stones found both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also China is the biggest exporter of both gems and jewellery so CPEC will help us to improve our imports and exports in gems sector and make new innovations and introduce new techniques by sharing with China.

Pakistan has a huge endowment of mineral deposits including precious metals, dimension stones, industrial mineral.

Each area of Pakistan is blessed with natural resources. However, there is huge gap between the potential and actual production.

In short China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a win-win strategy. The investment and construction of energy and infrastructure projects under CPEC will contribute to Pakistan and China in social, economic, cultural, mineral resources and others.

This is a long-term project and the impact will stay for a long long period.