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It has been a decade since the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which brought with it promises of massive investments and development opportunities for Pakistan.

With project valuations soaring above $50 billion, Pakistan was filled with optimism and excitement. However, as time has passed, it is important for Pakistan to reflect.

It seems that the Special Investment Facilitation Council’s (SIFC) success depends heavily on the way we speak about significant investment numbers and manage and balance their execution vis-à-vis important interests.

To start off, we must learn how to discuss large investment amounts in order to build financiers’ trust while demonstrating accuracy. The investment capital suggested by officials and talk show hosts ranges from $25 billion to around $100 billion in the coming years. This amount has been estimated by some to be precisely $75 billion, which, if accurate, offers a considerable possibility for economic growth.

The CPEC should teach us that disclosing significant amounts of money and terms in public is not prudent before completing any deals. Ten years since the project’s inception, we are still in the process of renegotiating some CPEC deals and reach investors about them. It’s puzzling why we’ve acquired such a strong obsession with discussing investment sums in the billions.

These numbers may occasionally be made public since we admire Pakistan and the prospects it might offer prospective investors. Other times, we might use it to influence market sentiment.

Sometimes we simply speculate to grab attention.

One-sided declarations of expectations and wishlists frequently result in trouble, especially when people involved on the other side have not announced any.

CPEC — a game changer for Pakistan

When discussing large sums of money, the public is left with expectations from investors, and when those expectations aren’t met, hostility often grows towards the actors in the spotlight. For instance, we’ve been trying to associate SIFC investments with particular nations, but we haven’t actually heard from any possible investors just yet to match our excitement.

This doesn’t necessarily imply that investment won’t happen, but it could indicate that the discussions are just getting started or that potential financiers are waiting to see Pakistan’s commitment to clean up its act before bringing teams to explore the possibilities for investment.

We can learn a lot from the Saudi leadership’s recent visit to India, during which New Delhi and Riyadh quietly signed dozens of agreements and treasured their partnership.

India, Saudi discuss ports-rail project, local currency trade

The Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to India has generated a lot of excitement in the Indian media, which has dubbed the event a “ditch” and a “snub” for Pakistan.

Do we dislike it in any way? Yes, we do, especially in light of reports we’ve received suggesting that Saudi leadership was ready to travel to Pakistan and sign contracts in Islamabad rather than in New Delhi.

The Pakistani media has speculated on whether the Crown Prince will visit Pakistan before or after leaving India. This hasn’t happened, though, in part because Saudi Arabia didn’t have anything planned when they went to India for the G20 and then for a bilateral visit afterward.

The Saudi leadership and other Gulf states will probably plan a separate visit to Pakistan that is suitable for the scope of SIFC work once it becomes clear that projects are discussion worthy and can be pitched.

Saudi Arabia to consider Sovereign Wealth Fund office in India’s GIFT City

There have been times in the past when Pakistan’s internal political issues prevented Chinese President XI and even the Crown Prince from visiting. Are we making the same mistake of annoying our potential financiers by stating things before they have been properly thought through and giving project dates and numbers of our choosing?

We really need to calm down and rethink how we go about discussing ties with other countries and speculating about them for domestic purposes because the world perceives things differently than we do.

While many Pakistanis believe that projects under the newly-formed SIFC will complement CPEC, it is essential to think critically about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Pakistan has never had the opportunity to manage significant investments from numerous countries, necessitating the creation of a policy by Islamabad to maintain a balance in relations.

‘Under CPEC various projects, including Gwadar port, have achieved full operational capacity’

The sum that would probably come from Gulf countries is being compared to the amount of Chinese investments made under CPEC years ago. By making this comparison, it is implied that Pakistan believes SIFC-approved projects are more likely to help it immediately restore its economy.

This effectively suggests that Pakistan would allocate funds in the coming months to favor SIFC-related projects and placate new investors.

Pakistan will have to walk a fine line between maintaining good relations with China and luring investors to SIFC-mandated projects.

In order to fully harness this potential, careful consideration must be given to ensuring that all stakeholders’ interests are taken into account. We must also behave suitably when discussing potential investments, both in terms of the sequence of events and how our investors may like us to communicate discussions.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Umair Jamal

The writer is Head of the Political Desk at Business Recorder (Digital)


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Pakistani1 Sep 14, 2023 07:31pm
Those who govern and manage affairs of Pakistan continue to chase money from somewhere else. This pattern has been there for several decades. Generally a small part of the plan materializes, individuals who are in power, benefit and move on leaving the next batch. The country has not benefited while the individuals have. How about, for once trying to live within own means, cutting costs and giving justice to everyone?
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Tulukkan Mairandi(Salem) Sep 14, 2023 07:50pm
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KU Sep 14, 2023 09:18pm
The CPEC has the same potential as it did on day one, if ground realities and truth is put forth, there is no doubt that we are our own worst enemy. One should not reflect on lies and excuses given by our baboos and their masters. The Chinese are still committed but our administration, tasked with speeding up the progress, is nowhere to be seen. To name a few realities, the carnage of mismanagement is spread over a vast field and is littered with our own induced delay in acquiring lands and permissions, lack of infrastructure, bureaucratic hurdles, selective suppliers/raw material, even sub-letting the security to private companies, and the list of this litter is much more than is told in media.
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TidBit Sep 14, 2023 10:49pm
SIFC is a ghost. It is nothing but a power point presentation. Just because you put projects on a list, does not mean international investors will start flocking to Pakistan to invest. As if they dont have other places to invest their hard earned money. What benefit does Pakistan offer, over India or Bangladesh in terms of return on investment. Why would anyone invest billions when those who have already invested are having a hard time taking their dollars back home. Bangadelsh is a better option.
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test Sep 15, 2023 12:51am
I want to say three things about CPEC: 1-Back in 1990s when China asked Musharraf to align Pakistan's interests with China and in return China will move its factories to Pakistan but Musharraf refused by saying that he will lick western shoes by begging for dollars because this way elite class of Pakistan will accept him since he is a part of that elite class. 2-Imran Niazi was launched in 2013 by the establishment to derail the CPEC and the brotherly relations between Pakistan and China. From the very begging Pakistan was formed by the elitist group as the vessel state of the west because they licked western shoes for dollars and they studied in western universities and learned english language so that they can communicate with the west to beg for dollars by licking their shoes and drinking their urine as well. 3-Nawaz picked China because jewnited snakes of america had picked up india as their strategic partner in south asia to balance the China's growing influence in the South Asia.
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test Sep 15, 2023 12:57am
The Elite class of Elite Republic of Pakistan has always licked western shoes to beg for dollars so how those elite could have allowed CPEC and our strategic partnership with China to succeed ? Tip of the day: "There is a common pattern from Liaquat to Ayub to Bhutto to Zia to Benazir to Musharraf to Zardari to Nawaz to Imran which is they all begged for dollars by licking western shoes". Remember Nawaz said it is better to die than to take loan from IMF and then he forget about it and gone begging for dollars and didn't died. Also Remember Niazi said that he will commit suicide but he will never go to IMF and then he forget about it and gone begging for dollars and didn't committed suicide. Just look at the patterns. TTP, BLA and others they are all fictional terrorist organizations and they are all run by the elite armed forces of Pakistan in collaboration with the Elite Class of Pakistan. Believe me or not its up to you but all i am offering is truth. One day or the other you will.
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test1 Sep 15, 2023 12:58am
@Pakistani1, Elite Class in Elite Republic of Pakistan has always licked western shoes to beg for dollars. Believe me or not its up to you but the history is same from the past 75 years in consistence with IMF begging.
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Az_Iz Sep 15, 2023 04:11am
Without the power plants built under CPEC , and other infrastructure, Pakistan would have been in much worse shape. Industries were beginning to leave the country due to chronic power shortages. That has stopped. The upcoming Bhasha dam will also contribute to the development of the country. If not for CPEC, who else was willing to invest in the country? The problem was expectations very sky high.
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Az_Iz Sep 15, 2023 04:17am
Germany and India used their lignite coal for industrial development. Pakistan discovered huge deposits of this coal about three decades ago. And yet it didn’t use this resource. CPEC at least got this going. The country cannot build a 100 km railway line to this place. The country cannot come up with $200 million for this project. But will spend $1 billion in importing cheese. And everyone wants Gulf countries to invest here, so the consumption binge can go on.
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Az_Iz Sep 15, 2023 04:22am
Bangladesh and India have always had better savings rates at every stage of development, compared with Pakistan. These savings when invested in their economies will encourage others to invest in the country as well. If a country just spends money on consumption, others will not be encouraged to invest.
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Sher Afzal Sep 15, 2023 03:40pm
Totally agree with writer of this article. We hardly gain 25% of CPEC benefit as compared to slogan a decade ago. Single penny not increased in export. Economic zone yet not established. China did not start routing her export through this shortest route. Things are going worst day by day. We are really enemy of ourselves. No ray of hope. All assumption.
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TidBit Sep 15, 2023 05:03pm
The Gwadar port data shows no shipping traffic or hardly any like 1 ship a month. There is no trade happening at Gwadar which is one of the largest in that area. In contrast the Indian built Iranian port Charbar has more ships docked right now. Even people in India did not know India was building a port and it was only announced at inauguration. In contrast Pakistan politicians have be cooing and hoowing about Gwadar this Gwadar that. Watch out for one of the most wasteful airport ever built in the World. The A380 landing capable Gwadar airport. What goods and trade is exactly going to land at Gwadar airport by plane?
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zh Sep 16, 2023 10:24pm
It is wishful thinking to expect large investments from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Although President Sissi of Egypt is an ally of MBS and MBZ, these two personalities have not made any significant investment in the country, despite the fact that the Egyptian economy, like that of Pakistan, is suffering.
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