CPEC, Pakistan Agriculture News

Special economic zones take centre stage as CPEC talks advance

ISLAMABAD: Amid some roadblocks on long-term plan (LTP), the Pakistan-China Senior Officials Meeting on Monday decided to formally move towards financing at least three special economic/industrial zones (SEZs) and some important rail, electricity and road projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A senior government official told Dawn that Pakistan was not ready to allow Chinese yuan (renminbi) for free use in Gwadar or its treatment on a par with US dollar in the country and this was really disappointing for the visiting Chinese officials.

He said the use of yuan for common use in any part of Pakistan or exchangeable like dollar has to be reciprocal but hastened to add that the issue would be discussed again for some kind of institutional arrangement at the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting on Tuesday to be co-chaired by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is also Minister for Planning and Development Reforms, and Wang Xiaotao, vice chairman of National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) of China.

The official said the $3.5 billion worth of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) was also unlikely to be cleared for inclusion in the CPEC at this stage because of some unsettled issues between the two countries. The project is likely to be dropped for now.

Informed sources said the two sides appeared to have settled issues relating to $8.5bn Main Line-I (Karachi-Lahore-Peshawar Railway Line). The discussions were positive and two sides are also expected to sign agreements on actively promoted power projects like 1,280MW RLNG-based Rahimyar Khan project, 1,100MW Kohala (AJK) Hydropower Project and two wind projects of 50MW each in Sindh, an official said.

The two sides agreed to also include a few road projects mostly relating to much talked about Western Route between Gwadar, Nawabshah, Zhob-D.I.Khan-Hakla in the CPEC portfolio besides Karrakoram Highway (KKH) in the Gilgit-Baltistan.

The JCC will also clear for formal financing of Multan-Sukkur Motorway project under the CPEC. They agreed that Faisalabad in Punjab, Rashakai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Dhabeji in Sindh to be made part of the CPEC financing in the first phase because of their preparedness.

An official statement said the the meeting was jointly chaired by Secretary Planning Shoaib Siddiqui and his Chinese counterpart as a kickstart before the actual commencement of the JCC. It was attended by the senior government officials, members of the Joint Working Groups (JWG) on Long Term Plan, Energy, Infrastructure , Gwadar, Industrial Cooperation and Security from China and Pakistan.

Secretary to the Prime Minister Fawad Hassan Fawad, federal secretaries of the relevant ministries, chairmen of Gwadar Development Authority and Gwadar Port Authority and representatives of the provincial governments also attended.

Pakistan welcomed the visiting delegation and reported that successful execution of the ongoing projects by now showed strong commitment and resolve of both China and Pakistan to execute every single project under the CPEC framework in letter and spirit.

The time-tested friendship has “further transformed the two countries into iron brotherhood and economic partnership…CPEC is a project of shared destiny and framework offering equal opportunities to the people of China and Pakistan”, said Mr Siddiqui.

The secretary planning said the pace of work and fast track execution of the projects was quite satisfactory since most of the projects underway were following the timelines agreed by the two sides and hoped the keeping with the momentum the completion of early harvest projects would be in time and on par with the international standards.

He said the economic corridor was entering into the next phase of industrial cooperation which would make Pakistan a manufacturing hub and epicentre for connectivity in the region.

The meeting noted that after the initial work the stage was now set for industrial cooperation to attain new heights. It said a lot of work had already been done as the energy and infrastructural projects have been completed to support industrial development.

In the initial phase, the Chinese side shared its experiences regarding planning and developments of SEZs. It was agreed that to initiate first phase of development of provincial SEZs.

Representatives of provincial governments, GB and Fata made interventions highlighting their priorities and current status of their SEZs.

Pakistani side also highlighted the importance of skill development for successful implementation of industrial projects and requested Chinese assistance for establishment of centres for vocational training at Islamabad and other cities on the CPEC route.

The two sides also agreed to enhance cooperation in various sectors such as petrochemical, steel, textile, leather processing and machinery etc with specific reference to relocation of industries from China to provincial SEZs. Chinese side will motivate their enterprises for setting up of their industries in SEZs. In this context they can leverage the province to province or sister city arrangements. Both sides agreed to have frequent face to face interaction preferably on a quarterly basis.

Source Dawn