SIGNIFICANCE AND CHALLENGES FOR SECOND STAGE OF CPEC | By Iram Zahid

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SIGNIFICANCE AND CHALLENGES FOR SECOND STAGE OF CPEC

The second stage of CPEC emphasizes industrialization, agriculture, modernization, information technology, employment opportunities and socio-economic growth.

There are eleven Special Economic Zones under the CPEC project being established which will promote industrialization in Pakistan.

The first phase of Allama Iqbal Industrial City in Faisalabad, the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of Punjab under the CPEC project has been completed. Pakistan’s economy has been adversely affected by the pandemic, but it didn’t impact the CPEC projects which are moving ahead in a full swing.

The agriculture sector of the CPEC project has gained in importance since the second phase of the Free Trade Agreement in 2020, more Pakistani agricultural products have reached the Chinese market. From September 2021, Pakistani agricultural products have reached $630 million which is a twofold increase over the previous time.

According to the Chinese embassy, CPEC has created 75,000 jobs in Pakistan since its start in 2013. The second phase of the CPEC project holds a promising panorama for a flourishing future.

CPEC is a game-changer in the region which will assist the state in dealing with unemployment, poverty, energy crisis, infrastructure, economic development and inequalities of undeveloped provinces.

The major initiatives of CPEC include construction of road networks, extending from Gwadar Port to Khunjerab Pass, up-gradation of ML-1, power projects of 10,000 megawatts and Gwadar-Nawabshah pipeline to transport gas from Iran.

CPEC is estimated to generate six to eight billion rupees per annum just in taxes and bridges toll as well as 2.3 million jobs are expected to be created between the years of 2015-2030, leading to more than 2.5 percent annual rise in GDP.

Currently, CPEC is almost completing its first phase and 32 Early Harvest Projects have been already completed.

A lot of substantial work has been done with a total investment of $25 billion in the transportation and energy sectors as well as optical fiber projects. Ten projects related to the socio-development and infrastructure of Gwadar have been done which will make the Gwadar port operational for international transit trade.

The coastal city is being built under the Gwadar Master Plan to come up with the growing trade actions. Some wise strategies are also being articulated to assist maximum resources to local and foreign investors to generate a supporting atmosphere of business and trade.

On the other hand, there are some challenges while implementing the CPEC because it strengthens the economy and infrastructure of Pakistan.

The Balouch Sub-National perspective in which many political parties and Baloch separatist groups have some reservations regarding CPEC like authoritative behavior of the central government, the demographic instability of the Gwadar seaport, political imbalance, lack of education, removal of Baloch culture and identity in Pakistan and disempowerment of local inhabitants.

There are some political parties of the less developed province (KP) that have uncertainties regarding the CPEC project and claim that the federal government has shifted the original route of the corridor and will shift the economic development to Punjab only.

The western think tanks have labeled CPEC a “debt trap” for Pakistan that has embellished the public debt of the state.  The growth of CPEC projects reveals that it is an advantageous project for Pakistan and regional states rather than a debt trap.

As quoted by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, “Beijing would only proceed with projects that Pakistan wanted, this is Pakistan’s economy, this is their society”. By 2037-38, Pakistan must refund Chinese loans which is enough time and Pakistan could easily generate a bulk or money from the CPEC projects.

The first phase of CPEC faced a lot of serious challenges but the second phase has less turbulence as compared to the first.

To conclude, CPEC is the most significant project for China and Pakistan for progressive growth and secure supply for their products, goods, and services. The corridor would support Pakistan to counter Indian domination in the region.

Gwadar seaport would become the key transportation point connecting Eurasia with Southeast and Central Asia. Completion of CPEC would enhance the economic, trade, employment and business opportunities for the region.

The political parties should perform a positive role in the implementation of CPEC and they must play their essential role for joint benefits as well as to solve the problems concerning route controversy. Federal and provincial governments must provide a protective environment to all the workforce of China and other states.

Both governments should create a cooperative environment for better implementation of CPEC. All the facilities gained by CPEC must be given to all the provinces and the share of revenues should be divided into under-developed provinces. Better living standards must be ensured to the local employees at Gwadar seaport.

The establishment of maritime educational institutions must be built for locals to have a better understanding of maritime issues in the region.The government should be dedicated to the timely accomplishment of the CPEC project to strengthen the national economy and to reduce poverty issues.

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