S M Hali
THE much awaited “Long Term Plan” of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was finally unveiled on 18 December 2017, two and a half years after its launch by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The early harvest projects are already close to fruition; many Doubting Thomases are now on board but the detractors of the project, demanding greater transparency, are still adamant to find faults with it. For the first time, a formal definition of the mammoth development project has been provided. It has been depicted as a growth axis and a development belt featuring complementary advantages, collaboration, mutual benefits and common prosperity. With the comprehensive transportation corridor and industrial cooperation between China and Pakistan as the main axis, and with concrete economic and trade cooperation, and people-to-people exchange and cultural communications as the engine, CPEC is based on major collaborative projects for infrastructure construction, industrial development and livelihood improvement, aimed at socio economic development, prosperity and security in regions along it.
CPEC’s coverage, key nodes, spatial layout and key functional zones have been spelt out comprehensively. Ground realities illustrating the basic conditions reveal that China-Pakistan cooperation on economic and social development has made remarkable progress with the trade between the duo, growing at a rate of 18.8% on average in the past five years. The potential for China and Pakistan to strengthen cooperation based on complementary resources is immense. Utilizing natural resources of both countries, coupled with China’s advancement in infrastructure construction, high-quality production capacity in equipment manufacturing, iron & steel and cement industries as well as financing for investment will ensure the success of CPEC.
China has been forthcoming in admitting that besides the growth and development of Pakistan, it is implementing western development strategy, by virtue of which, its heretofore less developed western province of Xinjiang will come at par with the more affluent eastern Provinces. Kashgar, once the hub of activities on the ancient Silk Route, is rapidly being transformed into not only the Terminus node of CPEC but the launching pad of the massive One Belt One Road plan of which CPEC is the flagship project, fanning out into Central Asia, Africa and Europe.
The short term projects of CPEC will reach fruition in 2020 while the midterm ones in 2025 and the long term in 2030. It is a happy marriage between CPEC and Pakistan’s Vision 2025, which seeks to transform Pakistan into an “Asian Tiger”, a term that appeared to be political rhetoric, now seems achievable. In a spate of realism, the possible challenges to CPEC, including the geopolitical and security risks, the restraints of natural and geographical factors and constraints of economic growth prospects have also been elaborated. Every project initiates with the vision statement and delineation of goals. Though belated, now the visions of the project partners, Pakistan, China and the international and regional community have been defined. Simultaneously, the goals of the short term, midterm and long term plans of CPEC have been identified.
The guidelines for executing CPEC are the all-weather Sino-Pak strategic partnership of cooperation, concepts of harmony, inclusiveness, mutual benefits and sustainability. Distribution of responsibilities and the fruits will focus on “1+4” collaboration pattern (featuring the CPEC as the centre and four priorities, namely the Gwadar port, Energy, Transport Infrastructure and Industrial Cooperation). The protagonists of CPEC will follow the principles of: Government guidance and market-oriented operation; Spirit of partnership towards prosperity; Openness and inclusiveness; Livelihood improvement and sustainable development and Orderly development with priorities highlighted.
In essence the Long Term Plan is a live document and it is recommended to be reviewed every two years by both sides. The key cooperation areas have been identified as “Connectivity”, which includes Construction of an integrated transport system, Information network infrastructure, Energy Related Fields; Trade and Industrial Parks. Pakistan’s agro-based economy has been finally accorded due cognition through Agricultural Development and Poverty Alleviation plans. CPEC long term plan also takes into consideration the oft neglected segment of tourism, which has vast potential in Pakistan’s naturally endowed coastal region.
China and Pakistan will give full play to their own comparative advantages to strengthen agricultural infrastructure construction within the CPEC coverage and play their own roles in agricultural personnel training, technical exchanges and cooperation. They should cooperate in key construction areas such as biological breeding, production, processing, storage and transportation, infrastructure construction, disease prevention and control, water resources utilization, conservation and protection, land development and remediation, ICT-enabled agriculture and marketing of agricultural products to promote the systematic, large-scale, standardized and intensified construction of the agricultural industry. They need to promote the transition from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture in the regions along the CPEC to effectively boost the development of local agricultural economy and enable ordinary Pakistanis to come out of the shackles of poverty.
Both China and Pakistan should further exploit the potential advantages of the tourism resources in the regions along the CPEC, especially the China-Pakistan border areas. They should actively research comprehensive development of coastal tourism within the CPEC coverage, with Gwadar and Karachi as the hubs, expand cross-border tourism and improve the quality of tourism services to effectively promote the socio-economic development of the two countries. Financial Cooperation has been a source of some doubts thus the Investment and Financing Mechanism comprising Government funds; Indirect financing of financial institutions; Direct investment of enterprises; Loans from international financial institutions; Other innovative investment and financing methods have been named. The establishment of a database for goal assessment mechanism and feedback will play an important role in the success of CPEC.