Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law and a former defense attache in South Asian countries
The second "Belt and Road" International Cooperation Forum will be held in Beijing late this month. Pakistan, China's all-weather friend, is enthusiastically looking forward to attending the forum and is actively doing all-round preparations.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will lead a delegation to attend the forum, personally expressing to the Chinese leaders the Pakistani firm support for the "Belt and Road" initiative.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor（CPEC）is the flagship of "Belt and Road". With the joint efforts of China and Pakistan over the past 5 years, more than half of the CPEC projects have been completed and put into operation, gradually producing good economic benefits.
The 22 projects in the first phase of the development of the CPEC have basically alleviated the power shortage and greatly improved the infrastructure in Pakistan. Now, all walks of life in Pakistan have seen the achievements of the CPEC construction and are more confident about the future.
On April 11, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting before his upcoming visit to China. Imran Khan said that the second phase of the CPEC development will focus on agriculture, education, health, water, skill-based education, skill development projects.
At the same time, industrial parks will be developed in the second phase. Therefore, concerned policies will be formulated to attract and encourage enterprises from China and other countries to increase their investment in the development of industrial parks in Pakistan.
At present, Pakistan has planned 9 industrial parks along the CPEC, of which 3 are already under construction. The development of these industrial parks and the construction of the New Gwadar International Airport will drive Pakistan towards industrialization and modernization.
"Debt trap" is a groundless accusation
Some western media have accused China of trying to drag Pakistan into a “debt trap” by building the economic corridor. The CPEC is a cooperative project jointly discussed, planned and constructed by China and Pakistan. China has invested a total amount of around 19 billion U.S. dollars in the 22 CPEC projects. Actually, more than 80% of these projects are directly invested by China or using Chinese government's gratuitous assistance, while less than 20% use Chinese loans. The CPEC projects have not increased any burden of Pakistan. Therefore, the so-called "debt trap" propagated by some western media is a groundless accusation.
Most of the 22 major projects under the framework of the CPEC are electric power and transportation infrastructure. The completion and operation of these projects will provide vitality for the sustainable socio-economic development of Pakistan. Electricity is the “heart” of the country and transportation infrastructure is the “artery” of the country. With enough electricity and more developed transportation infrastructure, the development of the country will be vigorous, and Pakistan will have the hope of maintaining a high rate of economic growth.
Self-reliance will be achieved
For a long time, Pakistan has been facing economic difficulties and financial crisis from time to time. Its foreign exchange reserves often fall below the warning line of 10 billion U.S. dollars. The root causes are the shortage of electricity supply, backward transportation infrastructure, underdeveloped industry, poor export capacity of industrial products and the import of people's necessities of life.
When construction of all the 22 CPEC projects is completed and put into operation, not only will the power shortage be alleviated, the traffic backwardness be improved, but also the financial situation will be improved significantly. For example, over a year after Qasim Coal-fired Power Station was completed and put into operation, it has paid more than 167 million U.S. dollars in taxes for the central and local governments of Pakistan. Experts estimate that if construction of all the 22 projects is completed and put into operation, the annual financial contribution to the Pakistani government will exceed 4 billion U.S. dollars, and when construction of all the 9 industrial parks is completed, the figure will further exceed 10 billion U.S. dollars. By that time, Pakistan will have a strong ability of exporting industrial products and substantially reduce import of necessities of life, therefore enjoying a comfortable financial status.
Strategic investment value
I firmly believe, driven by the construction of the CPEC, sooner or later, Pakistan will enter the track of fast development, achieve economic soaring and become an emerging market economy. Recently, Saudi Arabia and some other Middle East oil-producing countries have decided to invest in the CPEC development. This shows that more and more countries have realized that the CPEC has strategic investment value. To this end, the Pakistani government is making efforts to continuously improve the policy and security environment for foreign investment in Pakistan.