By Yasir Masood
It was promising to see the reaffirmation of brotherly relations between the two countries when Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China in the first week of November. Prime Minister Khan was impressed with China’s rapid economic growth that enabled around 700 million Chinese to come out of poverty in the last 30 years.
PM Khan also showed his outright resolve to overcome the economic challenges faced by Pakistan following the Chinese model of economic reforms and the implementation mechanism to attain the economic goals at the much-accelerated pace. This will help in uplifting the living standards of the unprivileged masses of his country.
The two premiers, apart from exchanging dialogues on diversified issues, pledges, promises, and commitments to take Pakistan out of the ongoing liquidity crisis, also expressed their deep and strong desire to further solidify the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Both the leaders agreed on implementing and expanding CPEC in the just and right directions through mutual consultations.
The CPEC is usually misconceived as just a “construction of a 2,700 km corridor from Gwadar to Kashgar”. In reality, it has enormous multidimensional economic benefits that will increasingly evolve when Gwadar port, main and link roads become fully functional. As per the layout plan, the CPEC projects are likely to be completed in through three different phases — 2013-2020, 2020-2025 and 2025-2030 — stretched over 15 years’ time.
Besides investments in the already defined industrial zones by the Chinese investors, the completion of the all-important Gwadar port and the linked corridors therewith will pave way for enticing international investors. These investors will have the opportunity to invest in the untapped mineral resources, agriculture and the most fascinating tourist’s sites along the sea coast and in the adventurous mountain ranges in the northern part of Pakistan.
China’s proposed 21st century ‘Silk Road Initiative’ or ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), is not only aimed at making Pakistan an economically vibrant and investment-friendly country but the CPEC connectivity to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are aimed at uplifting the economy of the whole region.
In the first phase of implementation of CPEC plans, the main focus was to develop early harvesting energy sector projects to help initiate economic activities in Pakistan. These projects have helped overcome the energy crisis and will play a pivotal role in boosting the economic growth of the country.
The current government, in order to reap up the true potential of CPEC, has signified six foremost areas for the expansion of CPEC in the right direction in the upcoming five years (2018-2023). These areas include; Trade & Market Access; Industrial Development & Global Value Chains; Socioeconomic Development & Poverty Alleviation; Agriculture Modernisation & Marketing; Gwadar Oil City & Blue Economy and; Regional Connectivity & Third Country Participation. These areas are directly or indirectly relevant in elevating the living standard of the people of Pakistan.
Progress in these key areas will definitely help boost the economic growth in both the countries through mutual cooperation, coupled with contributions to the development of the neighbouring Central Asian states in particular and the whole region in general.
Let us not forget that poverty itself is not only a curse but and also a major source of extremism. Therefore, the benefits of CPEC of overcoming poverty and uplifting the living conditions of the masses is actually a way forward to bringing peace and prosperity in the whole region.
The CPEC is a combination of projects of diversified benefits. Trade and market access under CPEC will open up much better business opportunities for all including unskilled, skilled educated and less educated segments of society.
In this connection, following the Chinese business model and transfer of technologies will be the rich sources of bringing improvements in the manufacturing of goods, learning market techniques, and achieving sustainable growth.
Put together, this will help elevate the living standard of the masses in Pakistan during the next five years. In addition, it will also help Pakistan open its trade and transport routes across Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
It is pertinent to mention that the government is strategizing industrial cooperation and import substitution with China in light engineering sector by repositioning of the Chinese selective industries under the fold of Industrial development and global value chains. This relocation of Chinese export-oriented light manufacturing and consumer products labour-intensive industry will help increase our export index.
Similarly, the repositioning expansion of the IT sector through joint ventures, coupled with the transfer of technology and capacity building, will be another significant landmark in improving and stimulating our productivity graph.
Implementation of the Chinese practices for the socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation will help a great deal in generating many direct and indirect jobs to handle unemployment and poverty reduction. Launching a capacity building drive by setting up technical and vocational hubs in low employment areas will also produce required skilled manpower to run the new industries that will be set up under the CPEC fold.
Similarly, in agricultural modernization and marketing sector, the government has prioritized the value addition and co-branding of dairy, livestock and poultry products to significantly uplift these sectors. The transfer of technology in precision agriculture by introducing drip irrigation and sprinklers will help in enhancement of fruits and high-value crops. This will further help in the application of modified and high yield variety seeds for crops diversification to substitute edible oil/pulses imports, resulting in saving of much wanted foreign exchange reserves.
As per the current government’s plan, the Gwadar port will be made more productive and effective with “Blue Economy” through the establishment of an “Oil City” in Gwadar, which will help substitute the import of refined oil with crude oil. Development of aquaculture for fisheries and seafood along the coastal area would also be tapped through various projects. Tourism prospects of Baluchistan coastal areas will bring a new dimension to the tourism industry of Pakistan that will open up new job opportunities in the remote areas of the province.
Moreover, an in-depth analysis and exploration of alternative optimal routes for regional connectivity through Gwadar port will help connect Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Such an inter-continental connection could help achieve regional harmony and prosperity.
In order to achieve these goals through the implementation of various CPEC projects, the mutual understanding and cooperation of relevant federal and provincial ministries, institutions, departments, business groups, and stakeholders are of utmost importance. China and Pakistan require robust advocacy of positive aspects of CPEC and must broaden bilateral cooperation by arranging regular meetings of experts to successfully achieve the targeted goals set for the next five years.
The Author is working as a Deputy Director Media and Publications at Centre of Excellence-CPEC and is also a Lead Editor of CPEC Quarterly Magazine. He frequently writes for the National and International English Dailies and regularly appears on different English and Urdu TV Channels as a CPEC and International Relations Analyst.
The original article was published at The Express Tribune.