by Shafqat Ali
ISLAMABAD, Oct. 31 (Gwadar Pro) - Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his ministers that he will not come under any international pressure to slow down work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
At a federal cabinet meeting here, the PM said he was committed to further cementing ties with China and CPEC was only one part of a historic and time-tested relationship.
A senior minister who attended the meeting said that PM Khan ruled out going slow on the mega project which was bound to bring prosperity in the country.
“The PM had a very successful visit to China recently. He is satisfied with the talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and others. The PM wants to expedite work on the CPEC projects rather than going slow,” said the minister.
He said PM Khan had made it clear he will not come under any pressure to be sluggish on the CPEC projects. “China has been and will remain our top priority. CPEC is more important to us than to China itself,” he quoted PM Khan as saying.
The premier said Pakistan’s relations with China were not due to CPEC or any other agreement. “Actually, CPEC is a result of our strong ties. All other agreements are also the outcome of our unbreakable relationship,” the minister said, quoting the PM.
Last week, Prime Minister Khan said his government will support joint investment projects involving companies from Pakistan and China under the CPEC.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the 1,320-megawatt China Hub Power Generation Plant in Balochistan, the PM said that he wanted to see the pattern of joint projects continue under CPEC.
“I am happy that under CPEC, the first joint project is being inaugurated. We want to see the pattern continue. Big Chinese companies want to come to Pakistan. The joint projects are welcome; the government will fully support such projects,” he said. The project, he said “will help us reduce the Current Account Deficit.”
He also urged the local and Chinese companies which built the power project to accelerate work on a desalination plant for Karachi “as water is a big issue for the city.”
PM Khan said Pakistan was committed to fulfilling its pledge on ease of doing business. “Since we came to power, we have been working for ease of doing business. We are continuously striving to create ease of doing business,” he added.
President Arif Alvi recently promulgated ordinances to establish the CPEC Authority and grant tax concessions to Gwadar Port and its free zone.
The aim of the government is to reinitiate the CPEC project and achieve its goal of not only greater economic development in Pakistan but also integrating the national economy into regional and global economies.
The purpose of the CPEC Authority and the new tax laws is to oversee and implement CPEC projects and ensure that Gwadar and its free zone are provided with necessary tax and tariff concessions.
The authority will have considerable autonomy and vast financial and administrative powers. It will ensure that CPEC projects are completed without major bottlenecks that otherwise plague development projects in the country.
However, it is important that the major objective of the authority encompasses an increase in overall exports from Pakistan and improved competitiveness of domestic firms, for which it must be kept insulated from lobbies with a protectionist mindset.
Along with the establishment of the CPEC Authority and tax concessions, the government has also realized the importance of fast-pacing the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and providing incentives for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to widen the industrial base and ramp up exports.
The cooperation with China is critical for developing the SEZs across Pakistan. The Chinese are likely to aid the development of SEZs in Pakistan.
The World Investment Report 2019 says Pakistan has seven SEZs. They exhibit minimal participation in global value chains. Pakistan is planning an additional 39 SEZs. It is important to improve the existing infrastructure in industrial areas along with developing the new SEZs.
Last month, Pakistan and China said their partnership was key to the regional peace and stability. A joint statement after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s two-day visit, read “Both sides reiterated that the time-tested All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between China and Pakistan is an anchor of peace and stability in the region and beyond.”
This partnership, it said, “remains unaffected by any adverse regional and international development and continues to move from strength to strength. Both sides reaffirmed that China-Pakistan relationship is a priority in their foreign policies, and committed to build a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.”
State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi, paid an official visit Pakistan on September 7-8. During the visit, Wang Yi called on President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, held talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and met with Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. During the meetings, both sides had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
The ‘iron brothers’ as they call themselves, agreed to maintain frequent mutual visits and meetings at the leadership level and continue to hold bilateral meetings between their leaders on multilateral occasions.
“China and Pakistan have enjoyed mutual understanding and support on issues concerning each other’s core interests. They reiterated the resolve to implement consensus reached by the leadership of both countries to enhance strategic mutual trust and improve all-round cooperation so as to jointly promote regional peace, stability and prosperity,” the statement said.
Both sides believed that the CPEC, as a pioneering project of the Belt and Road Initiative, had entered a new phase of high-quality development.
The two sides agreed to continue to firmly push forward the construction of CPEC, complete its on-going projects in a timely manner, and realize its full potential by focusing on socio-economic development, job creation and better livelihood and accelerating cooperation in industrial parks and agriculture.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed - who also chairs the Pakistan-China Institute - lauded the leadership of President Xi Jinping where he has placed China at the centre stage of global politics leading the struggle against climate change, supporting globalization as well as launching the Belt and Road Initiative of which the CPEC is the flagship project.
The lawmaker termed BRI as the most important diplomatic and developmental initiative of the 21st century. He thanked China not just for supporting CPEC but also to provide strategic support to Pakistan at all international fora including the UN Security Council, G-20 and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
He called CPEC a “success story” and said that the “best of CPEC has yet to come” since the second phase of CPEC had begun with the launch of Special Economic Zones.
International relations expert Dr. Farooq Hasnat said ”CPEC is a great God gifted opportunity for Pakistan” to come out of economic crises.
“It is appreciable that incumbent government is taking corrective measures by providing conducive and safe environment to business community and foreign investors. Now, it is our responsibility to bring efficiency and work ethics to the satisfactory level in order to compete with international economic markets,” he added.