Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
CHINA-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a flagship project of the Belt and Road (B&R) mega initiative of China. This is a promising project worth comprising US $ 52 billion investment of China to connect Kashghar city of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region with Gwadar port of Pakistan. The project comprises a network of roads, railways, airports and fibre optic based communication systems. Alongside the corridor route, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have also been planned in all the provinces of Pakistan. Basically the CPEC is meant to interconnect China, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, Russia, Middle East, Africa and Europe for an easier and less time consuming flow of trade and investment, to promote trade and investment oriented economic development of China, Pakistan and aforementioned regions.
Whereas the CPEC will accrue many economic benefits to China, Pakistan, Russia, Central Asia, and other South Asian countries in terms of trade, investment and people to people contact, it is also likely to create a regional environment whereby South Asian countries would be attracted to seek peace based on the incentives of CPEC related economic benefits by joining it. In this context, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, in support of China, Russia, Central Asian Republics (CARs) and other South Asian countries, are likely to get convinced for joining the CPEC and seeking peace in the region for the sake of their economic development.
As has been stated and published by the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan on 29 December 2018, to implement the CPEC project with mutual cooperation, China and Pakistan has set up a ministerial-level Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC Long Term Planning (JCC). There are 7 joint working groups (JWG) under JCC, namely Planning, energy, transportation infrastructure, Gwadar port, industrial cooperation, social economic development and international cooperation. JCC is responsible for overall planning and coordination under CPEC, while the JWGs are responsible for the detailed planning and implementation of the projects.
As per the Chinese Embassy the JCC secretariats are established by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China and Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms of Pakistan respectively. The two secretariats are responsible for communicating and coordinating with the ministries related to the projects of CPEC. Until now, JCC has convened eight meetings and since 2015 it has been held on an annual basis. The 8th meeting was held in Beijing on December 20, 2018. During the 8th JCC, both sides reviewed the progress of the CPEC and reached new consensus. The two sides also decided to establish Joint Working Groups on socio-economic development and international cooperation. The JCC has been effective in planning and construction of CPEC projects through equal, friendly consultations and mutual accommodation. The list of the projects as well as priorities are decided in the JCC meetings.
Based on the above mentioned mutual cooperation between Pakistan and China a fair progress has been achieved in the construction of the CPEC, especially in the energy generation sector, infrastructure development and development of the Gwadar port, but still there are a number of coordination and monitoring difficulties being faced in Pakistan. The major ones are the provision of one window facilities for the foreign and local investors, involving the ministerial staff of all the provinces having decision making power being present in Islamabad, deciding the priorities of projects in the provinces and coordination with the provinces, coordination of security issues, timely provision of the funds for various ongoing projects, monitoring of the progress of the construction, and keeping a focus on the development of the CPEC.
To ensure smooth development of the CPEC by addressing the above mentioned difficulties, the recently announced decision by the Government of Pakistan to establish a CPEC Authority would positively contribute to the coordination and development of the CPEC in many ways. Since long many concerned quarters were suggesting the formation of a CPEC authority, and it is a welcome news that the government of Pakistan is soon going to establish this Authority.
After its formation, the Authority will work to remove all snags mentioned in the above mentioned paragraph, and ensure that all difficulties and impediments coming in the way of the construction of the CPEC are removed and the progress is monitored. The major task of the CPEC Authority would be to provide a window operation facility in Islamabad so that the investors do not have to run between the provinces for coordination. The other major tasks would be coordination of the security and to remain focused on the development of the CPEC and keep the Prime Minister of Pakistan abreast on the development of the CPEC.
[The writer is a former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad and Senior Research Fellow, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad].