After months of slow progress on CPEC owing to political transition in the country, Pakistan and China have decided to expedite developmental progress on Gawader and formally invite other countries to invest in the project, while bringing in new socio-economic targets under this paradigm.
During a meeting between the Planning, Development and Reforms Commission of Pakistan and the National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) of China that took place on Sunday, the two nations agreed upon formally inviting “third-country” investors to be part of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and add social sector and regional development schemes to the current portfolio of CPEC projects.
The Pakistani and Chinese delegations were headed by Minister for Planning Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar and the NDRC’s vice-chairman, Ning Jizhe respectively. Planning Secretary Zafar Hassan, CPEC’s project director Hassan Daud and officials of the NDRC and Chinese Embassy were also amongst the attendees.
According to sources, the decision to involve ‘third-country’ investors in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) was moved by the Chinese government’s wish to clear all adverse criticism the Pak-China governments were facing from various countries regarding a possibility of secretive deals that ‘remain beyond public eye’.
The meeting also decided upon re-prioritising Gwadar as a centre of industries for export markets where these countries could invest alone or in partnership with Pakistan or China, to take advantage of the city’s trans-shipment potential and location apart from the free-zone incentives it offered. It also decided to further expedite key development projects in Gwadar including New Gwadar International Airport, a technical institute and a hospital.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government wished to make certain changes in the seven central pillars of the CPEC’s long term plan to be able to include social sector schemes to its existing portfolio. The schemes would involve clean drinking water, health, education and technical training as it would be in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s priority areas of human development.
However, the decision to involve ‘third-country’ investors in SEZs will take up time since China and Pakistan have so far not been able to settle crucial issues regarding development of the Rashakai or Hattar SEZ in the first phase of industrial cooperation.
In an official statement, the Planning Commission said that “Realigning the goals of CPEC, Pakistan has introduced new targets of socioeconomic and regional development under this unprecedented mega project,”
To achieve the new targets, the government was dedicated to putting all its energies together to make progress at the earliest, said the official.
The two parties agreed that industrial cooperation should be made the centre of attention so that efforts were to encourage relocation of Chinese industries with a view to increasing exports and maximising employment opportunities.
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