He added: “We believe that the China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership will not be affected by the change of the situation inside Pakistan. China stands ready to work with Pakistan to continue jointly building the One Belt and One Road”. “As a friendly neighbour, China hopes that all parties and sections in Pakistan can prioritise state and national interests, properly deal with their domestic affairs, maintain unity, stability, and keep focusing on the economic and social development,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan has withstood the test of times, Lu added. The CPEC is a flagship project of China’s OBOR. Beijing also calls the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor as part of the ambitious design. The 3,000 km, over $50 billion CPEC corridor stretches from Kashgar in western China to Gwadar port in Pakistan on the Arabian Sea. Along the way, China is funding and building several mega infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks, and power plants.
According to estimates, over 30,000 Pakistanis are working on the corridor project. It should be remembered that two-day [May 14-15, 2017] ‘Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation’, held in Beijing, was attended by the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and all the four chief ministers. It extended great opportunities of economic progress for Pakistan.
During his stay in Beijing, our Prime Minister had meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and many agreements were reached, especially one for international airport for Gwadar. The events after the verdict proved that CPEC is not confined to Zardari, Nawaz or Shahbaz or any other political figure.
It is bilateral accord that is not only beneficial for both the countries but the entire region. Nawaz Sharif in his speech in Beijing on May 14, 2017 also noted that “the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor was an economic project open to all nations in the region and it “must not be politicised”.
While taking potshots at India for boycotting China’s high-profile Belt and Road Forum, he rightly pointed out: “Let me make it very clear that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries”. “As OBOR unfolds across continents we see it fostering inclusion, creating tolerance and promoting acceptance of cultural diversity,” he said.
He rightly observed that the most significant impact of OBOR would be on the lives of poor and marginalised people who would get better incomes, education and health facilities.
Since 1947, Pakistan has been struggling to become a self-reliant economy that can end its dependence on foreign donors that entails with its political subjugation. The challenges on the economic front include huge fiscal and current account deficits, burgeoning debts, perpetuation of elitist economy, growing gulf between the rich and poor, economic disparities, uneven development model, oppressive tax system, sluggish economic growth, lack of investment to accelerate growth and create new jobs, dearth of skilled labour, dwindling exports, rising imports, inadequate infrastructure development-just to mention the major ones. Hopes are now pinned upon the CPEC to turn Pakistan into one of the largest economy in the coming years.
After taking into account the size of CPEC-related projects, all credit rating agencies made positive remarks that energy projects throughout the country would ultimately reduce the cost of power generation, lowering the need for electricity subsidies-a key burden on the federal budget-and “improving economic growth, which would in turn increase tax revenues for the government.” Obviously these two factors can substantially reduce the budget deficit and resultantly ever-increasing debt servicing. It is true that much of the key benefits of energies projects under the CPEC would not materialise until 2018 but some have started accruing during 2017.
CPEC envisages 21 agreements for energy (gas, coal and solar energy) and 14 out of these will be providing up to 10,400 megawatts (MW) of energy by March 2018, to make up for the 2015 energy shortfall of 4,500MW. According to China Daily, these projects should generate up to 16,400MW of energy altogether. Execution of all projects related to the CPEC and those yet not conceived, but bound to come after infrastructure is completed, can bring prosperity for Pakistan-making it one of the largest economies of the world. The challenge of removing inefficiencies from our administrative structures that are change-resistant is formidable but not impossible.
There is realization with fast growing need that we should move towards modern and efficient delivery systems. The CPEC being a multi-faceted project will essentially pull public and private sector onto a fast track development mode proving a blessing for Pakistanis who are otherwise suffering on account of lethargy and indifferent attitudes. The fruits of CPEC connectivity would be enormous for the entire region without which, the huge potential of trade within South Asia cannot be achieved.
Imagine hundreds of service stations along the roads giving employment to our youth, acceleration of trade between different parts of Pakistan, boost to tourism, peace and prosperity as Afghanistan, India and Iran transit trade through the CPEC.
There is no doubt that this would bring prosperity to the millions inhabiting South Asia. It is thus imperative for the government of Pakistan and all stakeholders to highlight the advantages of the CPEC and create an atmosphere of love and fraternity among all the beneficiaries. The new dawn of economic well-being for Pakistanis is still a dream but it can be turned into a reality-the only thing we need is to ensure that all citizens get adequate opportunities to prosper and benefit equally from economic growth.
We must move fast to end economic apartheid that is presently inbuilt in our elitist structure. Without removing these distortions, the real benefits of even mega project like the CPEC could be concentrated just in a few hands-the rich and mighty having control over resources. Equitable growth can come through great initiative like the CPEC if we implement Chinese model suggested by former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Hu Jintao: “A harmonious society should feature democracy, the rule of law, equity, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality.”
It is time we should come out of “economic despair” and political shenanigans. If we really want to utilise the CPEC as an opportunity, we must reform our out-dated elitist structures that are the main impediments for robust economic growth. A new era of economic development is at our doorstep. We need to upgrade all our delivery systems to make this historic opportunity a success. Much-needed foreign investment and development of infrastructure is coming from China-this is a reality and not an illusion as many skeptics portray. We need to make best use of it. It hardly makes any difference for the CPEC as to who is Prime Minister of Pakistan. Political system has continuity even after disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and it is a good omen for Pakistan.