If past experience is any guide, the economic policies of PML-N government projected by the Ahsan Iqbal in different capacities were long on rhetoric and very short in substance. His brain-child Prime Minister’s Program 2010, announced in 1997 could not take off till 12 October 1999 when Nawaz Sharif government ended. Likewise, in 2013 as Planning Minister he produced a document of economic development of hardly five pages titled “Vision 2025. It is an inferior quality short research paper which does not stand the rigor of statistical analysis. The priorities of economic growth envisaged in this document are yet to see the light of the day on ground although the term of the present government will end in the next few months.
The third baby of the Federal Minster for planning and economic Reforms,”CPEC Centre of Excellence “has failed to perform its assigned task. Tis policy think-tank was established two years ago at a cost of Rs. 1.2 billion. But it failed to provide policy guidelines for this project of 62 billion dollars. Due to the absence of home-grown policy and misplaced priorities of the government, the implementation multi billion dollars CPEC is guided by a voluminous study carried out by China Development Bank., which became the basis ofits long term plan. It was the same Planning Commission which produced comprehensive documents of first and second five year plans in the decade of 1960s. These plans brought wonders in the government of President Ayub Khan, catapulting the growth of manufacturing sector to 8.6 percent and that of agriculture to 7.5 percent per year.. These documents were then borrowed by South Korea to start the process of its economic development from scratches. Now South Korea is an economic giant of South Asia.
At the time of approving the CPEC Centre of Excellence, there was a hope that country will soon have research based studies in important areas of this mother of development projects.. The objective behind this center was to produce policy-based research guidelines for the federal and provincial governments and implementers of CPEC related projects for their efficient and coordinated implementation with a view to ensure maximum benefits to both economies and society at large. The department was also supposed to offer masters in Chinese economy and Cultural Studies. Two years down the line, the Centre’s work is limited to only holding Round -Table Conferences and commissioning publicity articles in print media to counter propaganda against CPEC. It has also moved away from five thematic research areas which have been showed by the internal papers of this Center of Excellence. Since its inception, the center has not generated a single research paper in thematic areas of job growth, human resource development, financing and financial centers integration, regional connectivity, trade and industry linkages and socio-economic impact of CPEC on different regions of Pakistan.
The present government was anxious right from the day one that it will keep CPEC shrouded in mystery and will only use it as propaganda tool for political gains of the ruling PML-N. This mystery factor created doubts in the minds of political leaderships from small provinces that the province of Punjab will be the major beneficiary of the projects executed under the umbrella of CPEC. All parties’ conferences were held to allay the reservation of small provinces particularly Khyber Pukhtunkhwa but the document of CPEC was not presented in the parliament. No body knows how the $ 100 plus debt servicing will impact Pakistan’s economy from 2018 and onwards,particularly the poor people because as ofnow every Pakistani is under the debt burden of Rs.180000. The planning minister off and on boasts that large number of Chinese industries will be relocated in nine special economic zones of CPEC but he does not tell how many Pakistanis will get jobs in these industries. Do the federal and provincial governments have any short term strategies and long terms plan for human resource development enabling the local youth to take up technical and managerial responsibilities in the high-tech Chinese industries? There is no credible information about the participation of Pakistani entrepreneurs’ participation in the investment opportunities in the Special Economic Zones being set up along CPEC. Chambers of golem industrial triangle, comprising the Federations of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Gugrat, Gugranwala and Sialkot have expressed grave concerns abot these zones fearing the closure of local industries.
The socio-economic milieu of Pakistan is entirely different from that of China. How the large number of Chinese tourist facilities and resident Chinese will impact Pakistani culture? The federal government has agreed to give Chinese Currency Yuan (Renminbi) the status of legal tender for bilateral trade between the two countries and global trade in Gawadar. It is not yet clear as to whether the currencies ofboth the countries will be freely convertible. The questions agitating the minds of businessmen and people about CPEC long term plan must be answered in empress language and not in the confused verbosity of the planning minister.