China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has become household mention as a great game changer with its abbreviated title CPEC, is making steady progress towards bringing the peoples of the two time-tested, all weather friendly countries further closer to each other and ushering in a new era of progress, development and prosperity through implementation of number of projects mainly I energy and infrastructure sectors launched under its overall umbrella in different parts of the country.
According to the latest figures available from official sources out of total 46 billion dollars, as much as 35 billion dollars was purely investment from China for energy sector and the rest has been given to Pakistan as soft loan at very low rates for infrastructure development. This quite appreciably sets at rest questions being raised by some quarters from time to time about loans for CPEC piling up Pakistan’s foreign debt burden and how this will be repaid on being mature after more than a decade period.
It has also been made point clear by the Chinese government at the appropriate level that the recent political developments and change of the government from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since disqualified to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will not effect CPEC in any manner.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of China Dr Baige Zhao during his visit to Pakistan in the second week of August 2017 quite emphatically said that change of government in Pakistan is not a problem at all that can affect CPEC as the comprehensive project aims at uniting people of both the countries who are the real stakeholders. He said that CPEC is a huge project that will change the fate of both the nations. He said the people of China and China are going to greatly benefit from the project especially young entrepreneurs and engineers studying at the universities will have ample opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills for CPEC.
Before briefly mention the energy and infrastructure development sectors projects already launched and under implementation in Pakistan, it is pertinent to mention here that besides increasing connectivity between different areas of Pakistan as well as countries of the region, the CPEC will also be greatly contributing towards elimination of unemployment in the country through creation of employment opportunities.
Other priorities of the CPEC included transport and communications, industrial parks,special economic zones and people to people cooperation besides energy and infrasdtructure sectors.
According to the facts and figures available in this regard, already more than 30 thousand Pakistani engineers, technicians and workers have been employed at different CPEC projects who are working with some 7000 Chinese engineers and technicians. While on job, Pakistani engineers and technicians are also availing the opportunity to learn about Chinese technology and know-how.
A study by Karachi-based Applied Economic Research Centre in December last year had estimated that as per very conservative estimates, minimum of seven lakhs Pakistanis will be getting direct jobs in the CPEC projects. Indirect jobs opportunities to be so created and the number of beneficiaries is pretty difficult to count.
Quite obviously, in case the scope of CPEC is expanded, of which there are great chances, then the number of Pakistanis getting employment on all CPEC projects over the years will still be higher than the present figure of seven lakhs. Scope of CPEC is enhanced through mutual consultations by main stakeholders China and Pakistan at the highest level of the leadership of respective countries and progress is reviewed periodically jointly either in Beijing or in Islamabad. CPEC initially involved estimated investment of 46 billion dollars and after inclusion of more projects at the request of Pakistan, the investment has soared higher to 57 billion dollars.
CPEC related activities are expected to galvanize Pakistan’s economy and propel it onto a higher growth trajectory by lowering transactions costs, improving productivity, encouraging research and development and spurring innovation.
Some other likely outcomes of this mammoth project, which is being implemented in phased manner from 2015 to 2030 can be listed as the expansion of the economy from 229 billion dollars to 1.30 trllion dollars by 2025, escalation of the per capita income to 5000 dollars by 2025, increase in exports from current level of less than 25 billion dollars to 150 billion dollars by 2025 and increase in the national savings to 26 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by terminal year.
Some economic features which have made CPEC important for Pakistan are reinforced investors confidence, besides achieving GDP growth above 7 per cent, accelerated economic activity led by construction sector, overcoming energy deficiency, infrastructure development, greater employment opportunities in Balochistan and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah , establishment of new special economic zones in all the four provinces, FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan as well as in Azad Kashmir and more significantly and importantly, all provinces and regions of Pakistan are equal beneficiaries of the benefits accruing from the CPEC.
All these have been agreed by both the countries to be undertaken under CPEC umbrella but are at varying stages of planning and approval whereas as many as eleven energy sector and eight infrastructure projects are under implementation or completed in different parts of the country by the Chinese companies.
Out of 11 energy sector projects, four have already been completed adding 1500 megawatt of power to the national grid and remaining projects at various stages of completion and on completion in due course of time will be adding substantial 8000 megawatt of power to the national grid thus eliminating lingering electricity load shedding to a great extent.
On the other hand, eight infrastructure projects are under implementation and at various stages of their completion according to their time schedule.
ENERGY SECTOR PROJECTS
Out of eleven energy sector projects, 1320 megawatt coal fired power plant has been completed 6 months ahead of schedule and has earned the distinction of being the first large power plant to be completed under CPEC .
Port Qasim power 660 MW Unit 1 is all set to start generation in November 2017 meeting power needs of as much as three to four million families.
Thar Block 11 Lignite Mining and Coal Fire Power project is located in Tharparkar district in Sindh and is designed to produce cheap local coal energy to end circular debt.
Three Gorges second phase wind power projects (2×59 MW) are located at Jhimpir, Thatta district, Sindh and presently completing different construction milestones.