CPEC: Western prejudice & Pakistan’s resolve
OURS is the age of “commercial” diplomacy and China is the “champion” of it. Two divergent forces namely propaganda and prosperity are going side by side to pollute the minds and souls of people and rescue the struggling people from deep seas of poverty, unemployment, economic marginalization, stagnation and last but not the least socio-politico disorder in the world.
In this context, China represents the force of progression, prosperity, productivity, positivity and peaceful persuasion of equitable socio-economic goals through its projects of the century, “One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) and “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)”.
Abrupt withdrawal of the US and its allied forces from Afghanistan was a “strategic defeat” to their “hegemonic” designs which have now compelled them to scheme a series of propagandistic episodes of false news, articles and commentaries in Pakistan and around the globe.
Sudden rise to all these ill designs and burning of egos of the US and the West have vividly reflected in the shape of false articles against BRI & CPEC and thus has once again started so-called superiority of their self-inserted national narratives. But unfortunately, it has been based on presumption of truth not the “Absolute Truth”.
In this connection, while addressing a press conference the Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar “categorically” upheld that Pakistan did not have a “China debt” problem pertaining to loan financing from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
He acknowledged that Pakistan had a debt servicing and debt sustainability challenge but clearly stressed that “Pakistan does not have a China debt problem.”
It was a timely “rebuttal’ of the Planning Minister because a recent report of US-based International Development Research Lab, Aid Data, strongly criticized CPEC.
He pinpointed that the said report had raised four main issues about CPEC, lack of transparency, imposition of secret loans on Pakistan, loans being expensive and Pakistan’s debt rising to a dangerous level because of CPEC.
He strongly “dismissed” the “biased’ report of the US-based lab because CPEC has been “transparent” and “accessible”.
In this connection, information on CPEC projects had been shared a number of times and that the Senate and the National Assembly Committees had even had their queries answered. “Parliamentary oversight is present over it,” he further elaborated.
Dispelling the false allegations, Asad Umar clarified that data on energy and power projects is easily available with the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and that the government had provided information about CPEC to the International Monetary Fund at the start of its program. Thus there is no “fudging of figures” or “hidden transactions” in the CPEC since its inception.
While responding to a question about the existence of secret loans he “dissipated” the untrue, un-factual and fictional narration of the US based report and called it sovereign guarantees for any loan or project as secret or hidden debt.
He further explained that sovereign guarantees were provided to all independent power producers whether domestic or foreign and “nothing new was created in this and neither is it a secret”.
The Minister further elaborated that there were numerous other projects where the government initiated diversified but integrated measures such as sovereign guarantees or standby credit to support the private sector in making investment instead of putting up its own cash.
He claimed that CPEC loans for private power projects were comparatively “cheaper” than loans from other international agencies such as the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank.
Thus so-called self-inserted and self-designed narratives of the US-based report were dashed to the ground.
In this regard, the US report also created serious doubts of the Chinese loaning to infrastructure projects however, he said a majority of them were taken at a “concessional rate” of two per cent interest.
He further added that China had provided various grants as well for different CPEC projects and if they were included then “the average rate of the government-to-government loan is less than 2pc”.
So, ongoing Western-sponsored propaganda against the CPEC does not have any “substance”.
He clarified that Pakistan’s debt did not reach a “dangerous level”, because Chinese debt comprised only 10pc of the country’s general debt (domestic and foreign) and 26pc of its external debt.
He termed it a completely “wrong” argument. He upheld that Pakistan’s debt sustainability challenges were not due to Chinese loans but the country’s own “internal” issues. He also strongly rejected that preferential treatment was being given to Chinese investors, because the same conditions were devised and offered to the world for setting up power projects.
He further highlighted that only Chinese investors showed keen interest and “heavily invested” in the country so this policy was not made just for the Chinese but for the whole world.
For “dissemination” of creditable news about the US-based lab report the Minister urged the national media to get “prior verification” form different “reliable” and “independent” sources about its so-called fabricated claims. He labelled it neither good journalism nor serving Pakistan.
While responding to a question about the progress made on CPEC projects, he showcased that the government had already verified all the facts and figures that more work was done under the current administration than the previous one”, adding that there was no criticism from the Chinese quarters as well.
Thus, he successfully diminished all fake, false and fictional claims of the US-based lab report.
Furthermore, he explained that the first phase of CPEC consisted of infrastructural development and capital-intensive projects which were not intended to generate employment.
However, even its Phase-I has generated “substantial” new jobs in the country. Hopefully the momentum of CPEC Phase-II consisting of industrialisation ventures, industrial investment, manufacturing and agricultural projects would generate more and more new jobs in the country.
The Planning Minister categorically upheld that both countries would welcome the participation of other countries in CPEC, adding that it would be a “very good idea” to make it a regional corridor and “Pakistan will completely support it.”
Even, most recent news-item of Business Recorder reported by Mushtaq Ghumman published on October 5, 2021 titled “Second Phase of CPEC: Chinese companies showing some reluctance” did not reflect a “true” picture.
It raised certain so-called concerns of the Chinese companies especially engaged in power sector under the flagship project of CPEC in the country which the report claimed to drive from background interviews with officials dealing with Chinese companies, discussions at a recent high level Joint Working Group of Pakistani and Chinese officials meeting as well as available documents paint a depressing picture.
Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, this scribe totally negates this news item because there has been “constant continuity” in the ongoing projects of CPEC since its inception.
In this context, any issue regarding any term & condition has been further resolved through amicable means.
CPEC is the project of greater socio-economic prosperity, regional connectivity, massive industrialization and persuasion of green energies, eradication of poverty and last but not least, generation of new jobs which should also be supported by the government, different organs of the state, main stakeholders, scholars, researchers, think-tanks and, of course, mass media outlets in the country because it is the last resort for sustainable development in the days to come.