CPEC hangover

CPEC is not losing charm at global forums. It is one of the much-debated projects among businessmen, scholars and policy makers. Unfortunately, most of times it is analyzed through biased and negative prism. Economic dimension remain sub-ordinate and geo-strategic dimension try to be dominant factor. It gives rise to conspiracy theories and sometime controversies. Leading factors contributing to conspiracy theories from Pakistan side are, a) lack of awareness campaign about dimensions of investment and creation of jobs, b) overselling of CPEC and c) poor planning and execution.Globally, debt trap, lack of transparency, environmentalissues and contribution of Chinese companies in national development are being used to create controversies.

On awareness front Pakistan was unable to share the basic information at mass level. First all, there is general perception that it is sole investment of China, which is not true. According to data, when project was signed total committed contribution of Pakistan was US$ 18.1 billion from US$ 45.1 billion. Contribution was spread over a number of projects including energy, IT and transport infrastructure. The share of Pakistan has increased with the increased volume of CPEC. Second,most of the time CPEC is being attacked that it is not creating jobs or Chinese are taking over jobs.

However, the reality is opposite to the claims. According to latest available statistics, 75000 jobs have been created for Pakistanis during the last 4 years, these are conservative estimates. It means 75000 families has directly benefited and it helped them to improve their life. Indirect job creation was not calculated for the last 4 years. The jobs created by local industry after improvement of energy and infrastructure will multiple the numbers.Further it has been projected that till 2030, 1.2 million jobs will be created from the current proposed projects of CPEC. It is also hoped that industrial cooperation will further contribute to create good number of jobs.

Overselling and politics on CPEC badly impacted it. Some people started to portray that CPEC is a source of free dollars. Government kept data with itself for certain period which created unnecessary curiosity. Besides, government forgot to highlight that it is an investment venture with a focus of win-win cooperation. From here the global players started to look at CPEC with curiosity. Furthermore, regional politics among political parties further aggravated the situation. Governmentsold the initiative as great win of government and oppositions did not accept the claim. It led to compromised planning and execution. Weak planning and execution by Pakistani government is one of the main culprits of controversies.

Globally,first, the notion of debt trap was used to undermine the importance of initiative. CPEC was and is being portrayed by interest groups as main or only culprit of Pakistan’s debt. Though facts tell us different story. Pakistan’s debt problem emerges from IMF, World Bank, ADB and other development partners’ loans.Pakistan is struggling to pay back these loans and it is impacting national economy on multiple dimensions. Second on environmental issues, everybodytalks about the coal plants but there is very limited mention of renewable energy projects. Pakistan and China under CPEC are investing on solar, wind and hydro-power projects. Operational projects include hydro China Dawood wind farm, Quaid-e-Azam solar park, UEP wind farm, Sachal wind farm and Three Gorgess Second and third wind farms. Karot Hydro-power and Suki Kinari Hydro-power projects will be completed in 2021 and 2022. Hydro-power projects will produce cheap energy which will be helpful for enhancing competitiveness of national industry. Investment in dams will also help to combat the challenge of water scarcity.

CPEC is helping Pakistan to create basic infrastructure for future investment, which will pave way for investment for Western countries and companies

Third element is transparency, which has been highlighted regularly at global, regional and national levels. It has been touted that China and Pakistan are not sharing details of CPEC. The argument gets diffused when China and Pakistan invite other parties to invest in CPEC. Both countries are open to all international companies and countries. It gives rise to a simple and logical question, if both countries have to hide something then why they are inviting international investors to be part of CPEC?

Fourth the role of Chinese companies is being questioned in national development and social sectors. Apart from CPEC, there are a good number of big companies which are creating jobs and livelihood opportunities for Pakistani people for many years. For example, Haier Pakistan is creating jobs and contributing in social development for the last two decades. It has created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Haier is also contributing in skill development by engaging fresh graduates through internship. It has also established trainings centers to impart skills. Social contribution has always been a top priority for Haier Pakistan. However, the most important contribution is that it has changed the face of home appliances industry of Pakistan.

Zong has revolutionized the telecom sector and it is also investing in welfare projects. Huawei is also working in working in Pakistan for last 21 years. It has helped Pakistan at multiple fronts. It is creating jobs. It is producing high skilled personals and helping to earn foreign exchange. There are other Chinese companies which are creating jobs and contributing in the welfare of society. Chinese companies in recent times have invested in education and health sectors of marginalized areas of Pakistan.

These all evidences suggest three very important dimensions of CPEC and China-Pakistan’s cooperation. First it is a win-win economic project. It is necessary for Pakistan to break the shackles of poverty and uplift the living standards of the people of Pakistan. Second, it is helping Pakistan to create basic infrastructure for future investment, which will pave way for investment for Western countries and companies. As, Western countries’ company like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Excelerate etc.already started to invest in Pakistan after the start of CPEC. Third, it is neither secret or against any one. It is open project, everyone is welcome to invest.Therefore, all countries should benefit from it by investing in CPEC.

Lastly, CPEC can serve a good model of open cooperation for future joint ventures. It is open fact that the need for infrastructure investment is increasing (US$ 5 trillion in Asia-Pacific) and no country alone can bear this cost. Therefore, there is need of more CPEC like projects in future and world need to focus on cooperation not undermining the efforts of others. It is necessary to achieve the Agenda “No One Lift Behind” till 2030.

The writer is a Political Economist, Work on China

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