WEB DESK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing the inaugural session of a China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Summit declared it a fate instead of a game changer, and maintained that it was synonymous with his administration’s vision 2025.
There is no doubt that such a large inflow of investment would benefit the country and in this context there is a need to appreciate the efforts of not only the Zardari-led government that began negotiations with China on the CPEC but also the Sharif administration that finalised the deal as well as the military leadership that agreed to extend security to the Chinese nationals engaged in implementing the CPEC.
The Vision 2025, designed by Ahsan Iqbal the Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, envisages seven major pillars consisting of a comprehensive list of targets in all sectors – physical/social/human development – reflecting a wish list more than achievable targets.
The CPEC focuses on one full pillar, modernising transportation infrastructure and greater regional connectivity and one half pillar as the entire pillar is not part of the CPEC – energy, water and food security given that the CPEC is focused only on energy. Over-ambitious components of the remaining pillars not likely to be achieved within the next nine years include: (i) join the ranks of the top 75 countries as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report; (ii) increase water storage capacity to 90 days, improve efficiency of usage in agriculture by 20 percent and ensure access to clean drinking water for all; (iii) reduce food insecure population from 60 to 30 percent; (iv) place in the top 50th percentile for Political Stability (from bottom 1 percentile), No Violence/Terrorism (from bottom 1 percentile), and Control of Corruption (from bottom 13th percentile) as measured by the World Bank’s World-wide Governance Indicators; (v) increase primary school enrolment and completion rate to 100% and literacy rate to 90%; (vi) increase proportion of population with access to improved sanitation from 48% to 90%; and (vii) Pakistan will be World Champions in 2 sports and win at least 25 medals in the Asian Games.
While some of these subjects are devolved, for example, education, with provinces bearing the responsibility for meeting targets set by the federal ministry, targets that should have varied from province to province given the difference in their status, yet other targets are clearly not achievable within the time stipulated given low budgetary allocations.
The CPEC is carefully designed to ensure regional connectivity to Gwadar port. China as the operator of Gwadar port and engaged in designing and constructing roads from its border to the port would, without doubt, be a principal beneficiary. However, the Prime Minister was correct when during his speech he pointed out that the CPEC would not only create a strong overland link between China and Pakistan but also strengthen Pakistan’s own inland transportation and logistic infrastructure.
However, Pakistan government has not revealed the terms and conditions of the 46 billion dollars envisaged as Chinese investment under the CPEC and reports indicate that Pakistan has extended sovereign guarantees to Chinese investors even though such guarantees are universally not extended to private sector investors. In addition, a Chinese company with shareholdings from Qatar is installing a power plant at Port Qasim for supply of electricity at 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour while a similar plant in Mexico is to supply it at only 4 cents per kilowatt hour.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif maintained that “we can never forget the confidence China has shown in Pakistan when it was isolated on economic front. While others were looking at political risk of investment in Pakistan, China put its weight and dividend of trust behind Pakistan.”
That is certainly correct and irrespective of criticisms/lack of trust hurled by opposition parties on the road routing the fact remains that the CPEC is fully supported by all as reflected by the fact that the chief ministers of provinces where the PML-N is not in majority also attended the summit. Needless to add, it is not quite known as to how long it would take for the completion of the CPEC and given Pakistan’s low absorption capacity it may well take longer than the completion of the Sharif tenure.
However, China has never linked assistance to a long list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ or indicated political preference towards any party/government and hence the CPEC is unlikely to suffer reversals or cessation irrespective of whoever is elected in 2018.
The CPEC has generated a considerable envy in not only neighbouring countries, most particularly India, but also in developed countries desirous of not only participating in the CPEC projects but also in accessing such massive investment. It can indeed be a game changer for us.
Source: Business Recorder