CPEC and Strategic Priorities of New Government

Eurasia Diary presents an article titled "CPEC and Strategic Priorities of New Government" published in Pakistan Observer. 

Article was written by Dr Mehmood Ul Hasan Khan, expert on geopolitical and regional studies. 

Time and again, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged China’s strong willingness to work with Pakistan to accelerate the building of a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era, bring benefits to the people of the two countries, provide impetus for regional cooperation and contribute to world peace. Moreover, Xi recently announced the Global Development Initiative (GDI) has further consolidated the concept of sustainable development in which early completion of the CPEC project may play an important role in the country.

Right from the beginning, the incumbent government has been striving hard to speed-up the CPEC and remove all irritants to start its phase-II as soon as possible. Series of high officials meetings, consultations and consensus have been carried out to provide a perfect security system for all the Chinese living and working in ongoing projects of CPEC in the country. Moreover, policy flaws in the approval, allocation, disbursement, coordination and last but not least implementation has been further streamlined and systematized.

In this regard, the sincere efforts of prime minister Shehbaz Sharif the “Speed-Man” and federal minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal “die had” spirits have been revisiting all the policies, programs and projects pertaining to CPEC and trying to introduce the culture of efficiency, productivity, honesty and nationalism in the early completion of ongoing projects of CPEC in the country.

In this connection, time and again, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif termed CPEC as “life-line” and “X-factor” for socio-economic prosperity of Pakistan and pledged that all efforts will be made to transform the outlook, utility, scope and importance of CPEC project mix changing from coal, gas to green energies especially to hydropower generation in the country.

Moreover, the Federal minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal reassured that the new government would actively engage China to speed up various projects under China CPEC in the country.

He termed revival and further strengthening of macro-economy as the top priority of the new coalition government because it was the only pre-requisite for any country’s sovereignty. Pakistan’s first National Center for Artificial Intelligence is near to completion. It would be a game changer for youth. Furthermore, artificial intelligence, automatic robotic, big data cloud, cyber security and applied mathematics are driver sectors of the fourth generation industrial revolution, so that the youth could apply their skills globally. It is being built with the help of China. In this connection, Pakistan plans to train 100,000 youths so that they can become part of the global digital intelligence”.

Now let us discuss the strategic priorities of the incumbent government. Paradigm shift from traditional sources of energy to greener means (wind, solar, hydro), expanding canvas of outdated agricultural production methods to modern ways of cultivation inching towards agriculture revolution, isolated policies, programs and projects of health to integrated and coordinated national system of health capacity building mechanism (vaccine, medicines, equipment, research, training, JVs etc.), energy consuming industries to energy efficient production units, costly housing system to affordable and environment friendly ways of living, import syndrome to export oriented policies and last but not least, massive industrialization and completion of already selected 9 special economic free zones in the country under the flagship projects of CPEC I & II in the country.

Ours is the age of innovation and artificial intelligence. The government should try to include some important projects under CPEC Phase-II for that widening gap between energy may be managed. A plant of “electric car”, “lithium battery” production, joint venture with transfer of technology in “solar & wind panels”, agricultural drones, smart technologies of water conservation, climate change and bio-diversity apparatus should be re-negotiated and ultimately included in the CPEC Phase-II in the country.

Moreover, Chinese have rich expertise in transforming deserts into “greenery” which should be sought and implemented in the desert landscapes of the country. It would be a giant leap in the overall agriculture production in the country.

Integrated efforts should be initiated to attract more and more Chinese private companies in the special economic free zones. That is why prime minister  Shehbaz Sharif has already instructed all the ministries, department and stakeholders to remove all hurdles in the early completion and operationalization of special economic free zones in the country which would catalyst for rapid FDI, industrialization, innovation, modern technologies, reduction of poverty and last but not least generation of new jobs in the country.

It is a good omen that the present government is determined to meet the deadline for the completion of development projects under CPEC in order to compensate for the delay made in the tenure of the previous government.

The Prime Minister termed the joint venture of Chinese industry and technology with Pakistan’s labor and investment as a win-win corporate model of development for both countries. Energy production, road infrastructure and Gwadar port have been completed as part of the first phase of the CPEC.

Massive industrialization will be one of the top priorities of CPEC Phase-II. Special Economic Zones will be further developed in this phase. It hopes that with the completion of SEZs, the Chinese industries will also be shifted to Pakistan and the country’s industrial sector will also get a boost.

It is a positive sign that the incumbent government values the development projects of CPEC. The CPEC has the potential to change the landscape of the country. The first phase of this mega project was dedicated to energy production and in that phase Pakistan managed to add 10,000MW electricity into the national grid. The focus in the second phase of CPEC will focus on boosting industrialization. It hopes that in Phase-II many Chinese industries will be relocated to Pakistan. The industrial sector in the country will definitely get a boost with the Chinese support. The government is determined to address the energy issues prevailing in the country on an emergency basis.

To conclude, the incumbent government should strive hard to complete the pending or derailed projects of CPEC in the country. It is determined to restart the delayed projects with new vision, determination and accurate planning.

Unfortunately, somehow, the previous government did not pay attention to actively engaging China to speed up various projects under the CPEC.  The politicians and policy makers of the country should understand that CPEC has become a “strategic asset” for the national economy, industry, energy and people alike which should not be used/ misused for any personal gain or political mileage. CPEC is not a play-ground or political gallery; rather it is an ideal platform for socio-economic prosperity in the country. Thus a “Charter of Economy” is the dire need of the country and its people.

Obviously, CPEC will ensure and promote greater regional connectivity and make possible fast pace development in the region. CPEC extended projects in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Central Asia by clubbing with BRI (proposed mega projects of transportation and energy) would be game and fate changer.