Despite political events in the country created by some narrow vested interests, the 7th Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting on CPEC was successfully held on November 21, 2017, in Islamabad.
Our Chinese counterparts showed complete resolve and commitment to successfully complete all CPEC projects in a timely manner. The 7th JCC also officially approved the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC. It is a standard practice around the world that a bilateral agreement cannot be made public unless it is approved by both parties. But unfortunately, some cynics in the media tried to generate unnecessary controversy by publishing an incorrect version of LTP. As we promised, we have released the LTP for the public and the media.
The development of any country is based on its industrialization process. The qualitative difference between the developed and the developing countries is the difference in their degree of industrialization. Where developed countries have now entered a post-industrial age, developing countries are still struggling to complete their industrialization process and modernize their economy. The PML-N has believed in and consistently strived for industrialization of Pakistan. In light of this vision, the PML-N government initiated work on CPEC immediately after coming into power. CPEC has assumed worldwide attention due to its significant contribution towards removing energy and infrastructure growth bottlenecks from Pakistan’s economy. It provides Pakistan a great opportunity to leapfrog to expedite the processes of industrialization.
The LTP provides a conceptual framework for CPEC up to 2030; it also gives a framework for the industrialization of Pakistan. To finalize the LTP, the government of Pakistan consulted provinces, federal ministries and their respective technical groups. The plan is completely in line with the seven pillars of ‘Pakistan Vision 2025’; these pillars are founded on the economic principles of inclusive and sustainable development. The seven salient feature of the LTP are connectivity, energy, trade and industrial parks, agricultural development and poverty alleviation, tourism, cooperation in areas concerning people’s livelihood and non-governmental exchanges and financial cooperation. The spirit of the LTP is best captured in the following statement, “…CPEC will greatly speed up the industrialization and urbanization process in Pakistan and help it grow into a highly inclusive, globally competitive and prosperous country capable of providing high-quality life to its citizens.”
I will briefly discuss some of the salient features of CPEC’s long-term plan to illustrate its central role in the industrialization of Pakistan.
Connectivity is the cornerstone of development. It increases the flow of goods, information and people across regions. That is why an integrated transport system is central to the LTP. It includes the construction and development of Kashgar-Islamabad, Peshawar-Islamabad-Karachi, D I Khan-Hakla, Sukkur-Gwadar Port and Dera Ismail Khan-Quetta-Sohrab-Gwadar road infrastructure to improve inter/intra-connectivity in Pakistan and China. The development of Gwadar Port city, Gwadar airport and Easy Bay expressway are going to transform the city of Gwadar into a maritime trade hub and a new smart port city of the region. It will also lead to the industrialization of Balochistan.
Information technology is critical for development. In this regard, we have laid a cross-border optical fiber cable between Pakistan and China and agreed to cooperate in promoting technologies of the fourth industrial revolution in Pakistan.
In the energy sector, both countries will enhance cooperation in the fields of oil and gas, electricity and power grids. The focus is on thermal power, hydropower, coal gasification and renewable power generation and modernizing power transmission networks. CPEC has already addressed the major energy bottleneck in Pakistan. Almost over half of the 10,000 MW energy added recently to the national grid comes from CPEC.
To build the industrial base of the country, new industrial parks/ special economic zones (SEZs) will be built all over the country. Both countries will cooperate to improve efficiency in the textile and garment industries, both of which are the backbone of Pakistan’s export sector. Engineering-based industries will also be developed in Pakistan.
No country has successfully industrialized without modernizing its agricultural sector. CPEC will allow us to modernize agriculture through the introduction of new technologies such as biological breeding, drip irrigation etc. The emphasis is to improve incomes of small farmers by increasing their productivity and efficiency.
Coastal tourism can be a new niche for Pakistan. CPEC will allow us to build a coastal leisure and vacationing centers across the Keti-Bander-Karachi, Sonmiani-Ormara, Jhal Jhao, Gwadar and Jiwani routes. CPEC is about cooperation at all levels between both countries, including non-government organizations and people-to-people interactions. For cross-fertilization of ideas and cultures, exchange of students, tourists and academics will be an integral component of the corridor.
Pakistan and China will be enhancing monetary cooperation between their central banks. Both countries agree on bilateral currency swap arrangements and would prefer making payments in RMB and rupees regarding CPEC projects rather than any third-party currency.
According to the LTP, the implementation of CPEC will take place in three phases, with clear goals. In the first phase, that is – by 2020 – the major bottlenecks in Pakistan’s socio-economic development will be completely addressed and “CPEC shall start to boost the economic growth along it for both countries” (LTP document, p 10).
The second phase will be done by 2025, all the infrastructure of CPEC will be ready and all industrial projects will have been completed. As a result, CPEC will have a major impact on the livelihoods of people living along the corridor. The goals of Vision 2025 will be achieved and there will be more balanced regional economic development.
The third phase of the LTP will mature by 2030. The endogenous mechanisms for indigenous inclusive and sustainable economic growth will be in place in Pakistan. As per the LTP: “CPEC’s role in stimulating economic growth in Central Asia and South Asia [will be] brought into holistic play, and South Asia shall grow into an international economic zone with global influence”.
Pakistan is a democratic country where provincial governments are not just autonomous but are also led by different political parties which are staunch opponents of each other. The federal government and all provincial governments are united in making the LTP and CPEC a game-changer for Pakistan.
Pakistan is a country full of promise and potential but due to strategic mistakes in the past, we haven’t realized our true development potential. The PML-N government is committed to prioritizing the economic interests of the country by engaging in the geo-economics – instead of geopolitics – of the region through CPEC.
CPEC is a major step taken by Pakistan to transform itself as an economic nation and become the hub of trade, commerce and manufacturing in the region. Without industrialization, we cannot resolve many of our socio-economic problems and CPEC is our opportunity to become an industrialized country. The sustainability of this qualitative shift mandates the collective support of all national stakeholders, including the media, to turn this dream project of Pak-China friendship into an everlasting joint enterprise for shared destiny and prosperity.
The writer is the federal minister for planning, development and reform, and interior.