Perception of CPEC slowdown
Consul General Peoples Republic of China in Karachi, Wang Yu has complained against the bureaucratic delays in the implementation of certain mega projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He strongly repudiated the impression created by a section print and electronic media that change of government in Islamabad and the new political leadership is a factor in the slowdown of this flagship project of Chinas Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of global connectivity and trade facilitation. The diplomat made these remarks in a meeting of media persons from Baluchistan at the Chinese Consulate before their departure on a visit of China on Saturday.
The terms of shady agreements made by the last PML-N government for the implementation of CEPEC related project had been a hot subject of objective critique in mass media. The inflated capital expenditures; the agreed irrational high tariffs of thermal and hydel power projects; and violation of PPRA rules in award of construction contracts to the Chinese Companies, ignoring the well established principle of international competitive bidding, have raised transparency issues. It merits mention here that former US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale, while speaking at function hosted by Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) in 2017, had expressed reservations about not entertaining the bids of reputed American Construction Companies in the competition biding process of CPEC projects. These components of CPEC related projects invited a genuine critique from the Federal Minster for Communication Murad Saeed, a gentleman of dynamism and impeccable integrity. He spoke of involvement of former Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal in misappropriation of funds in some CPEC projects. Earlier, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Textiles Abdul Razzaq Daud had given his views about the transparency issues of these projects. It explains the rationale behind the Planning Commission proposal of cost validation of 1750 kilometer main railway line ML-1 project by a third party. The total cost of the project is $8.2 billion. The Prime Minister had given September 15 to the Planning Commission for the approval of PC-1 of first phase of ML-1, the estimated cost of which is $2.4 billion. The multilateral donor agencies the World Bank and Asian Development Bank had to the debt sustainability risk of the project.
Former spokesman of Baluchistan government Jan Muhammad Buledi told the German electronic media Deutsche Welle that the projects pertaining to the construction of an airport and thermal power stations have come to a grinding halt. The comments of Chinese diplomat on the perception CPEC slow down need serious consideration. Hopefully, the issues relating to the project cost, debt sustainability risks and lack of transparency shall be resolved at governments’ level.