Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar have reportedly expressed annoyance at the Planning Commission for clubbing non-CPEC projects with CPEC projects as such attempts are giving a wrong impression to the provinces, sources close to Minister for Water and Power told Business Recorder.
At a recent cabinet meeting, Prime Minister urged the federal government to focus on projects which are yet to start and directed that forward planning is required adding that projects in the next phase were much bigger in size and far more complex for which greater efforts and resolve were required, the sources added.
Giving details, sources said the timeframe for CPEC was 2014-2030 and its components include a) the development of Gwadar Port along with projects for socio-economic uplift of people of the area, b) Energy, c) Infrastructure, and d) Industrial cooperation. The nodal points of the Corridor are spread in all the four provinces of the country.
The cabinet was briefed about the institutional framework that had been put in place for planning, co-ordinating and implementing the CPEC projects which included Planning Joint Working Group, Energy Joint Working Group, Transport Infrastructure Joint Working Group, Gwadar Joint Working Group and Industrial Parks/Economic Zones Joint Working Group (under formulation).
Several meetings of Committees and Working Groups have been held to plan and execute different projects under the CPEC.
The cabinet was also informed that special efforts had been made to develop national consensus on the CPEC and remove confusion and ambiguities surrounding its different projects.
The Prime Minister chaired an All-Party Conference on 28th May, 2015 followed by a Senior Leadership Meeting on January 15, 2016 and furthermore, the Minister for Planning, Development & Reform has held numerous meetings with the leaders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan as well as Standing Committees of the Parliament, students, academia, media and civil society.
The cabinet was apprised that a monographic study on transport planning of CPEC for the years 2014-2030 had been conducted to establish a convenient, unblocked, safe, highly efficient and comprehensive transport channel with large capacities and co-ordinated development of many transport modes in Western China and Pakistan.
This study focused on arterial roads, railways, Gwadar port and some airports that had been approved by the Joint Cooperation Committee in its meeting held on November 12, 2015.
The monographic study identified priority projects to be completed before 2017-18, short-term projects to be implemented before 2020 as well as medium/long-term projects covering the period 2025-2030.The status of these projects was also shared with the cabinet.
According to sources, cabinet was briefed about different prioritised energy projects, their estimated costs, expected Commercial Operation Date(COD), issues faced by them and the steps taken by the Federal Government to resolve them.
When presented with the status of Thar coal-based projects, the Prime Minister stated that he had been its biggest supporter and that Thar coal deposits had been lying unutilised for such a long time.
These projects would spur economic activity in the area and bring about a substantive socio-economic change. The Prime Minister directed the Ministry of Water & Power to take up the outstanding issues of Port Qasim Electric Power Company with the Government of Sindh and help resolve them on a priority basis.
The Prime Minister also directed that Gwadar project for generation of 300MW electricity be brought before the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) to discuss and resolve the issues that were delaying it.
The cabinet was also provided a detailed briefing about actively promoted projects in the power sector. It was noted that the Gadani Power Park project was facing problems and its business model needed re-engineering due to a reduction in the number of plants being established there.
The salt range coal based power project had to be abandoned due to non-availability of coal that could be used on commercial scale.
The cabinet was also apprised that the coal project in Lakhra, though not a CPEC project, had also been shelved due to shortage of coal.
It was decided in the meeting that since the salt range coal based power project was being financed by JICA Economic Affairs Division (EAD) may request development partners to sponsor a technical study to assess the commercial potential of coal in Harnai district.
The cabinet was updated about the transport infrastructure projects being implemented under the CPEC. It was noted that work on the Thakot-Havelian section of Karakoram Highway had commenced in May, 20, 2016 and would be completed in 2018; and that the work had been initiated on the Multan-Sukkur section of Karachi-Peshawar Motorway and its completion was expected in 2018.
The cabinet was also briefed on two projects of Pakistan Railways: the expansion and reconstruction of existing line (ML-1) and the Havelian Dry Port.
The need to speed up ML-1 project was emphasised. For both these projects, the framework agreements were under process and financing modalities were being worked out.
The cabinet was informed that the Chinese government had provided either grants or loans on soft terms for different projects in Gwadar and that it was interested to expedite the pace of work on these projects.
The work on both Gwadar East Bay Expressway and the New Gwadar International Airport was likely to commence in December 2016.
Runway at the airport had been designed to accommodate large wide-bodied aircraft, while the airport terminal would be a modular one and would be enlarged with increase in the number of passengers.
The other Gwadar projects presented before the cabinet included provision of fresh water, construction of 300 MW coal-based power plant, and the establishment of technical and vocational institute and Pak China friendship hospital.
The cabinet was also briefed about the development of free zone, construction of breakwaters and dredging of berthing areas and channels in Gwadar.
The source said, cabinet was apprised that the pilot project of digital television DTMB (Digital Terrestrial Multiband Broadcast) had been completed at a cost $2.0 million, while the work had commenced in October, 2015 on cross-border fibre optic project (Khunjrab-Rawalpindi) and was likely to be completed in December, 2017. The latter project would give a big boost to the bandwidth/digital infrastructure in Pakistan.
An overview of industrial parks proposed to be set up under the CPEC was also shared with the cabinet. It was noted that sites for industrial parks, one in each province, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad, had been selected in consultation with respective governments and that a holistic strategy and action plan were being developed in cooperation with stakeholders. An MoU had also been signed by Board of Investment with Tianjin in April, 2016.
The cabinet was informed that as per decision of the CCoE, 1 percent of the total cost of CPEC projects was being allocated to cater for the security requirements of the CPEC; and that pursuant to the decision, Rs 1.3 billion had been released to Ministry of Interior and modalities were being worked out. It was pointed out that Government of Pakistan had already spent substantial amounts on raising wings of civil armed forces in different parts of the country and the money so collected should be transferred to Ministry of Finance to recoup the cost already incurred.
The cabinet was intimated that out of the total cost of $45.0 billion meant for CPEC, projects worth $35.0 billion had already been energised, which meant that projects of more than 75 percent of total value of CPEC had been initiated and were at different stages of implementation.
The Prime Minister directed that work on Gwadar projects should be expedited for which forward planning was required.
He stressed the need to establish a committee to watch the progress and speed of implementation of CPEC projects.
He proposed the name of Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Minister for Ports & Shipping, for monitoring the CPEC projects based in Gwadar.
He asked the cabinet to brainstorm on the issue and suggest an institution for monitoring and its mechanism to ensure that the CPEC projects were implemented within the stipulated time frame and without any controversy.
He insisted that correct position of CPEC projects should be appropriately projected in the media (print and electronic) through consistent and well-articulated campaigns.
Prime Minister pointed out that Mansehra-Abbottabad-Havelian-Burhan Motorway was not part of CPEC and should be reflected separately.
The Finance Minister had also stated that the presentation of non-CPEC projects with CPEC projects creates a wrong impression.
The Cabinet considered the presentation made by Planning, Development & Reform Division on CPEC current status of implementation and way forward, and showed satisfaction at the progress being made in different CPEC projects.
After a detailed discussion, the cabinet took the following decisions : (i) work on Gwadar projects should be expedited and an institutional mechanism should be developed to ensure speedy implementation of different projects; (ii) cabinet should be given a detailed presentation in its alternate meetings on the implementation of CPEC projects; (iii) start-off and completion dates of each CPEC project or the period of completion, where a project is yet to start, should be provided; (iv) the Federal Government should place focus on projects which are yet to start and forward planning may be done for them; (v) priority should be given to the development of Gwadar Free Zone which can play an effective role for growth in the region; (vi) Mir Hasil Bizenjo, Minister for Ports & Shipping should ensure smooth progress of Gwadar projects by helping to resolve issues faced by them;(vii) there should be complete co-ordination between the Ministries of Interior and Finance to ensure fool-proof security of CPEC projects; (viii) with regards to the Hydel Project (Suki Kinari Hydro Power Project) under CPEC, Prime Minister directed that land acquisition issues be resolved with the Government of KPK; (ix) correct position of CPEC projects should be appropriately projected in the media (print and electronic) through consistent and well-articulated campaigns; (x) Ministry of Water & Power should take up the outstanding issues of Port Qasim Electric Power Company with the Government of Sindh and help resolve them on a priority basis;(xi) project for generation of 300MW at Gwadar shall be implemented on priority.
Ministry of Water & Power shall decide on the full option for Gwadar in consultation with Chinese Counterparts/NEA; and (xii) EAD should explore the possibility of finding a sponsor for conducting a technical study to assess the commercial potential of coal in Harnai district. -Business Recorder