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imageISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal on Friday said the first phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would bring in $35 billion to $37 billion investment in energy projects, which would produce 16500 MW for meeting energy requirements of the country.

This would be a commercial transaction as Chinese firms would give loans to Pakistani partners and Government would ink agreements with the latter to acquire electricity, he told editors and senior journalists along with Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting and Heritage Pervez Rashid and Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi at a briefing here.

Ahsan Iqbal dwelt at length on different aspects of the Economic Corridor as Chinese President Xi Jinping would be landing in Islamabad on April 20, to start his state visit, which was being considered very important in further cementing economic relations between Islamabad and Beijing.

He said with CPEC, the missing link of bringing Pak- China economic ties at par with their geo-political ties would be restored. Seeing the massive Chinese investment in Pakistan, the investors across the globe were also likely to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan, he added.

The minister said coal projects would be completed within three years while solar and wind projects would be accomplished in six to 12 months.

Giving details, he said, four provinces would benefit from these projects, which would generate 10,400 MW power under early harvest projects by tapping coal, hydel, solar and wind potential of Pakistan.

The government would ensure the upgradation of transmission and distribution lines because current transmission lines were unable to carry that load. At least 10 coal-fired projects would be set under the Economic Corridor, he added.

It was for the first time that a Memorandum of Understanding worth $45 billion was signed in July 2013, which was backed by the vision of both Pakistan and Chinese leadership, he said.

Hence within a month, a Joint Coordination Committee was set up to translate it into reality.

He said experts from both sides identified the projects following a scientific and step-by-step approach to ensure these projects were accomplished within time and in a transparent manner.

He gave minute details of a network of highways and link roads linking the four provinces from Gwadar to rest of the country where all these projects would be undertaken. The work on some projects were already underway, he added.

Ahsan Iqbal said that Chinese firms would give concessional loans for infrastructure projects spreading over 15 to 20 years period.

The loan would be on far less mark-up than available anywhere in the world and the difference in mark-up will be paid to them by the Chinese government.

The minister said the only challenge for Pakistan was to ensure it kept pace with investment vision of the Chinese leadership by turning itself into an economic nation by ensuring success of the CPEC.

During question-answer session, the minister told a questioner that given diligence, transparency and tough negotiations, all the projects envisaged under the Economic Corridor would be able to stand any scrutiny by the court.

For an example a project of the Punjab Government for which $2.2 billion credit line had been approved, but it was tough negotiations of the chief minister Punjab with Chinese firms that brought its cost to $1.4 billion.

Questioned whether Council of Common Interest was taken into confidence, he said all the leaders of the political parties were taken on board Thursday and all of them welcome the CPEC.

The time-tested Pak- China relationship, he said, transcended all political divide as all the governments in Pakistan worked for expanding ties between Islamabad and Beijing. Ahsan Iqbal said all the provincial governments have been involved in working out details of these projects hence these enjoyed their full support.

Asked about rate per unit of electricity generated under CPEC, the minister said it would be as per the energy policy announced by the government.

The investment in hydel and coal projects, he said, would help reduce the country's reliance on furnace oil-run projects for meeting its power needs which would help bring the price of electricity down.

Fielding a question on how timely completion of energy projects would be ensured, the minister said, the utmost effort of the government would be that bulk of these projects were given to the private sector.

The CPEC would create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities in construction and engineering industry and the firms would always prefer to hire local labour and would bring along them only critical staff, he said.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2015

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