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Supplements Print 2021-12-22

CPEC 2.0 Expanding the Bilateral Economic Relationship

TEXT: Asad Umar Federal Minister - Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform CPEC is a pivotal part of the...
Published December 22, 2021

TEXT: Asad Umar Federal Minister - Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform

CPEC is a pivotal part of the breathtaking global vision of Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), the most ambitious global undertaking of the 21st century. The Corridor, connects Pakistan to the world of shared prosperity through enhanced economic linkages, envisioned under the BRI. Vision of lifting entire regions out of low level of economic development and putting them on the path of high economic growth and prosperity are common to BRI and CPEC. The first phase of CPEC focused on setting up power generation plants and building highway infrastructure. After formation of PTI government, work continued at full pace on these projects. In addition new infrastructure projects were started with a particular emphasis on the western alignment of CPEC which connects the most underdeveloped regions of Pakistan with Gwadar and the major urban centres of Pakistan. In the power sector, emphasis has shifted to projects based on hydel energy like Azad Pattan and Kohala, in line with the governments focus on green energy. Gwadar development has also seen significant progress. New international airport is under construction, the connection with national power grid is underway, dams for increased water supply have been built, eastern expressway is nearly complete and a number of socio economic projects for the people of Gwadar and nearby areas are being implemented.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision is to build Pakistani economy based on strengthening the productive sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. In addition, the Prime Minister believes that, our youth can become a force in the technology sector and make a massive contribution to the export led growth strategy. The 2nd phase of CPEC is aligned to these very objectives. To accelerate industrialization, it was decided to set up special economic zones (SEZ) in each province. The 1st of these, Allama Iqbal Industrial City (AIIC) became operational in Faisalabad in early 2020. This SEZ has attracted a number of investors and is expected to grow rapidly. The second SEZ has been set up in Rashakai in KP. The unique thing about Rashakai is that the developer of this SEZ is a Chinese company and it is responsible for marketing this SEZ to Chinese and other investors. It has already attracted foreign investors and the first of these projects is under construction. The 3rd SEZ is in Dhabeji, Sindh. The Sindh government has awarded the contract for its development. Bostan SEZ in Balochistan has also been launched. Local, Chinese and European investors have already started making investments in these SEZs. The provision of infrastructure, including gas and electricity, to these SEZs has been made a priority. These new developments will see the industrial cooperation become the most vibrant element of the overall CPEC scope.

China has made significant progress in the agriculture sector. On the basis of which China has lifted more people out of poverty than any other nation. Pakistan must also increase agricultural productivity to achieve the same. The Agriculture Joint Working Group (JWG) under CPEC was set up last year in March 2020. One of the first projects in this domain has been started for high quality cotton seed production and field experiments are ongoing. Large pieces of land in different provinces have been identified for collaborative investments for different high value crops. Research collaboration between Chinese and Pakistani research institutions is being discussed to inject new vitality and global connection for our agriculture research efforts. A JWG for Science and Technology had been set up last year. It is extremely encouraging that both sides have agreed to start a new JWG for Information Technology. The potential in this field is limitless and which will is sure to increase collaboration between China and Pakistan in the economic sphere. With the CPEC 2nd phase accelerating, the economic ties between the two friendly neighbours will get even more broader and stronger. This bilateral relationship has already stood the test of time and I firmly believe that it will rise to further heights in the future.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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