Chinese and Pakistani workers work at a construction site of the Karakoram Highway in Islamabad on April 24, 2017. The highway is one important project of the CPEC (XINHUA)
Despite political events in the country created by some narrow vested interests, the Seventh Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was successfully held a month and a half ago in Islamabad.
Our Chinese counterparts showed resolve and commitment to successfully complete all CPEC projects in a timely manner. The Seventh JCC also officially approved the Long Term Plan (LTP) of CPEC. It is standard practice around the world for a bilateral agreement not to 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 the LTP. As promised, we have released the official version of the LTP for both 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 degrees of industrialization. With developed countries now entering a post-industrial age, developing countries are still struggling to complete their industrialization process and modernize their economies. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has believed in, and consistently strived for, the industrialization of Pakistan. In light of this vision, the PML-N government initiated work on CPEC immediately after coming into power in 2013. CPEC has attracted worldwide attention due to its significant contribution toward removing energy and infrastructure growth bottlenecks from Pakistan's economy. It provides Pakistan with a great opportunity to leapfrog some, and expedite other, processes of industrialization.
The LTP provides a conceptual framework for CPEC up to 2030, and also delivers a framework for the industrialization of Pakistan. To finalize the LTP, the government of Pakistan consulted the provinces, the federal ministries, and their respective technical groups. The plan is completely in line with the seven pillars of the Pakistan Vision 2025, which are founded on the economic principles of inclusive and sustainable development. The seven salient features of the LTP are connectivity, energy, trade and industrial parks, agricultural development and poverty alleviation, tourism, cooperation in areas concerning people's livelihoods and non-governmental exchanges and financial cooperation. The spirit of the LTP is best captured in the following statement from the document itself: "...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."
Route to success
Below are some of the significant 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, Hakla-Dera Ismail Khan, Sukkur-Gwadar Port and Dera Ismail Khan-Quetta-Sohrab-Gwadar road infrastructure, which seeks to improve connectivity within Pakistan and interconnectivity with 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 for the region. It will also lead to the industrialization of Balochistan.
Information technology is another crucial aspect for development. In this regard, we have laid a cross-border fiber optic cable between Pakistan and China, and agreed to cooperate in promoting the 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, renewable power generation and modernizing power transmission networks. CPEC has already addressed the major energy bottleneck in Pakistan, and over half of the 10,000 MW energy added recently to the national grid comes from CPEC cooperation.
To build an industrial base, new industrial parks and special economic zones will be built all over the country. Both countries will cooperate to improve efficiency in the textile and garment industries, which together make up the backbone of Pakistan's export sector. Engineering-based industries will also be developed in Pakistan.
It is important to note that no country has successfully industrialized without also modernizing its agricultural sector. CPEC will allow us to modernize agriculture through the introduction of new technologies such as biological breeding and drip irrigation. The emphasis is to improve the income of small farmers by increasing their productivity and efficiency.
Coastal tourism can also become a new niche for Pakistan. CPEC will allow us to build 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 the cross-fertilization of ideas and cultures, the exchange of students, tourists and academics will be an integral component of the corridor's plans.
Pakistan and China will also be enhancing monetary cooperation between their central banks. Both countries agree on bilateral currency swap arrangements and would prefer making payments in renminbi 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, each with clear goals. In the first phase, to be achieved by 2020, the major bottlenecks in Pakistan's socio-economic development will be addressed in their entirety, and "CPEC shall start to boost the economic growth along it for both countries," as stated on page 10 of the LTP document. The second phase will be completed by 2025, when 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, and by then the mechanisms for indigenous, inclusive and sustainable economic growth will be in place in Pakistan. As laid out by 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 only autonomous, but are also led by different political parties which are staunch opponents of each other. Nonetheless, 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 the strategic mistakes of 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 geoeconomics, as opposed to the geopolitics, of the region through CPEC.
CPEC is a major opportunity for Pakistan to transform itself as an economic nation and become a regional hub for trade, commerce and manufacturing. Without industrialization we cannot resolve many of our socio-economic problems, and CPEC represents a fantastic chance to become an industrialized country. The sustainability of this qualitative shift mandates the collective support of all the stakeholders in our nation, including the media, to turn this dream project borne of the Pakistan-China friendship into an everlasting joint enterprise for a shared future and prosperity.
The author is minister for planning, development and reform and minister for interior of Pakistan
Copyedited by Laurence Coulton
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