By: Malik Muhammad Ashraf
People often wonder why some countries are more developed than others and why the countries in Asia which attained their independence just about the same time as we are ahead in terms of economic prosperity? The simple and straight answer is, that development of physical infrastructure i.e better roads, ports, highways, airports and other elements of infrastructure like power, water resources and human capital.
It is a universally recognized and established fact that no nation can leapfrog into the elite club of developed nations unless it invests in all elements of the infrastructure components, as there are no short cuts to economic progress. All modern growth models invariably rely on development of infrastructure and the resultant industrialization as imperative ingredients and catalysts for a sustained economic growth of a country. The phenomenal economic prosperity and industrial development in the Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia during the last three decades is a ranting testimony of this modern reality. Attainment of high level growth is unimaginable without industrialization and gradual lessening of dependence on the agriculture sector.
Pakistan is now poised not only to make up for the lost opportunities but also to become an economic power house within the next two decades. Apart from radically changing the dynamics of regional connectivity and trade it is going to act as a catalyst in the process of transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) is a mix of infrastructure projects, energy producing units and industrial zones along the corridor routes. The development of infrastructure under the CPEC will lay a firm foundation for industrialization. The CPEC has been acknowledged as a perfect recipe for lifting the economic profile of the countries which are part of the initiative world-wide. Even the UN has recognized its economic potential and a collateral outcome of promoting peace through economic independence. To ensure transparency in the implementation of CPEC, China and Pakistan have also signed an agreement for joint audit of selected projects.
The focus of the PML (N) government on the development of infrastructure during all its tenures, undoubtedly represents a right approach to development in conformity with the ever changing development dynamics. Gawadar port, three routes of the corridor and energy projects are the engines of growth. Hopefully the special industrial zones to be set up at Bostan in Balochistan, Rashakai in KPK, Dhabeji in Sind, Sheikhupura in Punjab, Moqpondas in GB, Bhimber in AJK, Mohmand in FATA besides two projects of the federal government at Islamabad and Port Qasim would also nudge the process of industrialization in the country. The coming on stream of the energy producing projects by the end of 2018 and the plans to generate another 30000 MW of electricity by 2030 will surely help not only overcome the present energy crisis but would also cater to the future energy requirements of the country.
The scope of the CPEC was further widened at the sixth meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) held in Beijing on 28-29 December 2016 with the inclusion of Bhasha Dam, Peshawar-Karachi railway line, Karachi Circular Railway, Orange Line Train for all provincial capitals, Keti Bander and special economic zones and three more energy projects in Sindh. Consequently the size of the CPEC in monetary terms has been jacked up to $ 57 billion. This development took place as a consequence of the participation of the Chief Ministers of KPK, Baluchistan, Sindh and GB in the meeting of the JCC, who were invited by the federal government to advocate their case for more development projects in their provinces. At the end of the meeting all the chief ministers expressed their satisfaction over the decisions made at JCC meeting. It was indeed a commendable decision by the federal government to invite them for participation in the deliberations of the JCC to silence dissenting voices emanating from the provinces with regard the benefits of the CPEC.
It is also gratifying to note that as a result of the policies pursued by the PML (N) government there has been a tremendous turn around in the economy, duly acknowledged by the world lending and rating agencies and the international media. Pakistan’s stock exchange has been ranked as the fifth best in the world. Rating agencies have also improved country’s ratings. Transparency International in its three consecutive annual reports have indicated a nose-dive in corruption in Pakistan. No major corruption scandal has been reported in the media. The security environment, which is absolutely essential for the implementation of development projects and attracting foreign direct investment has also improved significantly as a result of operation Zarb-e-Azb and the implementation of NAP. These are all positive portents in regards to kick-start the process of sustained economic growth in the country.
The leadership in Pakistan have an unswerving commitment to implement CPEC projects and to ensure the safety of the Chinese personnel working on those projects as well as to secure the developed infrastructure. A special security division comprising 15000 personnel has been created in this regard. Work on development projects at Gawadar is in full swing and FWO has already completed construction of 850 Km of roads in Balochistan as part of the western route. It is estimated that with the completion of CPEC there will be nearly 3% increasein the rate of GDP growth. This indicates how big a stake Pakistan has in the timely implementation of CPEC. It surely represents a transformational change that will accrue economic benefits to the country on perennial basis.
CPEC is a very vital component of the Chineseflagship project “One Belt One Road” that contemplates to benefit nearly 3 billion people residing in the countries which will be connected through this participative effort. It is probably the biggest economic initiative in the history of the world. Pakistan due to its geo-strategic situation will surely benefit the most, particularly the backward areas like Balochistan where Gawadar port is situated. With the contemplated regional connectivity, Pakistan will become the hub of economic activity for the entire region. China of course will also benefit from the project in a big way. The CPEC presents a win-win situation for all. Unfortunately some regional and global powers due to their strategic and geo-political consideration are trying to sabotage the initiative. That indeed is a big challenge but given the will on part of Pakistan and China. There are strong possibilities of CPEC becoming a catalyst to regional growth and prosperity.