Road to Prosperity
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, inaugurated in Islamabad in August, 2013, is a strategic cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China. Pakistan needs it to overcome its economic and development imperatives and social and energy problems while China needs the project to expand its periphery of influence, consolidate its global presence and secure its future supply routes of energy and trade. It can be said that it’s a win-win situation for both countries. At the moment, CPEC is an under-construction development program that would connect Gwadar Port in southern Pakistan to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via highways, railways and pipelines. It is termed as a ‘game changer’ as it would usher in a new era of economic progress and prosperity for both countries. It has the potential to turn Pakistan into a hub of regional cooperation and is of immense importance for the revival of its economy, resolution of the energy crisis and strengthening the country through development of infrastructure. The Chinese government has said it will finance Chinese companies to build $46 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan as part of CPEC which was conceived by the leaderships of China and Pakistan as a highly significant step. It is fast moving forward, creating immense trade and commerce opportunities for the whole region. The political stability that CPEC promises for the region is clear and can be described as a big forward thrust. It is obvious CPEC has its enemies as well and these are the enemies of both Pakistan and China since CPEC is a project for shared prosperity through broad and solid cooperation. It is a product of China’s vision of regional prosperity since it will make shared connectivity a success on so many different planes and effectively counter today’s conflict-ridden and increasingly polarized world.
CPEC will open doors to immense economic opportunities for Pakistan that has seen nothing so far but a lack of development and progress because of its inadequacies and lost opportunities. The project represents a new era of economic development. It will create new job opportunities in the country, ushering in revolutionary economic development. It will also create vast new business opportunities. In fact, every major corporation and company around the world would want to have a base in Gwadar or somewhere in Pakistan when the project starts coming to fruition because of its geo-strategic and prime location. The fruits of the project would certainly reach all corners of Pakistan – a country that has always been mired in poverty and backwardness. It is commendable that every care has been taken to ensure that no area of the country is deprived of the benefits of CPEC. What is further reassuring is that the Pakistan Armed Forces are ensuring that the development projects proceed without any let or hindrance. Under CPEC, energy and road infrastructure projects have been prioritized. In Gwadar, a 300megawatt power plant is being installed and land has already been allocated for the Gwadar Free Trade Zone with special concessions. In addition, projects pertaining to an Exclusive Industrial Park Processing Zone and a Mineral Economic Zone are also being taken up on priority basis. In addition to the Free Trade Zone, exemptions in customs and taxes have also been granted. Gwadar will also soon get a new airport to serve the region while the port is already well-equipped.
The critical challenge for Pakistan in 2017 will be to manage the social, political, and environmental expectations as a result of operationalizing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Under China’s “One Belt, One Road” regional initiative, Pakistan is implementing an infrastructure upgrade program to build new highways, overhaul and build new railways and provide the infrastructure to support 10,000 MW of additional power besides upgrading cyber connectivity. While this is intended to bring new jobs, Pakistan’s leadership needs to manage expectations more judiciously at the provincial level to avoid potential interprovincial conflicts. It must also be cognizant of the possibility of environmental threats that an initiative of this scale presents to a country which is already vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Pakistan should embrace this huge opportunity wisely and with caution and reap the economic benefits to enhance its regional power and prestige. This is an opportunity that must be capitalized on so that Pakistan can come out of its poverty and set into motion the cycle of progress that it so richly deserves.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal