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LAHORE: The Punjab government is committed to expanding economic cooperation with China under CPEC and allocated funds amounting to Rs 10 billion for special initiatives for CPEC Economic Growth in ADP 2021-22. From the inception of CPEC, Punjab province has seen a rise in Chinese corporation and companies working in various businesses and projects in public and as well as in the private sector. With the most conducive business environment, Punjab has the potential to take lead in attracting more Chinese investments. This is likely to augur well for economic and livelihood prospects of its citizens. After bridging the infrastructure, energy and connectivity gaps, focus of the CPEC Punjab is now on industrial, agriculture and socio-economic cooperation.

In FY 2020-21, work on the ongoing CPEC project Allama Iqbal Industrial City, Faisalabad, was expedited on priority. Land acquisition process was completed and work on infrastructure and provision of utilities is being undertaken in full swing. Adequate resources have been prioritized in the coming fiscal year for the completion of Phase-I of the project, expected to be completed in June 2022. In addition to this, Punjab government plans to fast-track implementation of CPEC socio-economic projects in FY 2021-22 since this mandate also suffered setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In order to strengthen CPEC development in the province, the Punjab government is developing CPEC strategy for Punjab, which is expected to be launched in the upcoming fiscal year. The strategy will outline the roadmap to capture the full potential of this partnership with China and will focus on development of targeted strategies and plans in key cooperation areas of CPEC long term plan 2030, evaluation of shortcomings/issues hampering growth of key sectors and policy measures for improvement in the context of CPEC, regulatory reforms to strengthen the key sectors and improve overall investment climate and alignment of ongoing development programs of the Punjab with the CPEC investments are part of the strategy.

On the other hand, For FY 2021-22, a pipeline of imminent public private partnership (PPP) projects exists where project proposals are under revision process. These projects pertain to combined effluent treatment plants (CETPs), special economic zones, roads and transportation and real estate development. Additionally, a number of projects have been envisaged by the Punjab government which includes Parking Plazas (one in Rawalpindi, two in Faisalabad and one in Sargodha); commercial use of BOR land on Jail Road Lahore; PPP projects on lands under control of Auqaf department; and Naya Pakistan Housing Development Plan, Faisalabad. Estimated cost of these projects on cumulative basis is Rs 25 billion.

As per budget document, hiring of transaction advisors for these projects is under process and feasibility study of these initiatives will commence shortly. It may be added that the public private partnerships (PPPs) stand as the most viable mechanism towards achieving the targets and long-run vision. This is mainly due to due to influx of private finances, specialist skills and performance-based remuneration in PPPs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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