LAHORE: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) investments in Pakistan have led to zero power load-shedding and brought previously inaccessible areas under infrastructure-based economic development, a minister said on Saturday.
“The distracters of CPEC should realise that out of original allocation of $46 billion more than $35 billion is related to power sector projects,” Ahsan Iqbal, minister for interior, planning and development, said while speaking at Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan.
Chinese firms are investing in infrastructure development, including electricity generation and construction sector under the $57 billion worth of CPEC initiative. Chinese investments accounted for nearly half of the total foreign direct investment of $2.410 billion received by the country during the last fiscal year of 2016/17.
“These power projects will benefit Pakistan’s economy only. Not long ago, the country lacked resources to plug demand-supply gap, but in last three years we have added enough power to reduce outages from 18 hours a day in 2013 to zero today.”
Estimates show the country will become self-sufficient in electricity by 2018 with the addition of 10,000 megawatts and another 15,000MW by 2023-25.
The minister said at the same time Pakistan was able to broaden the base its power generation options. “In 2013 we produced only 1 percent of electricity through coal, now it is over 10 percent and down the line, it would be much higher,” Iqbal said.
He said Pakistan was lucky that when it started commissioning coal power projects the technology has advanced to a stage that power from coal generation become environmentally friendly.
“Pakistan was also able to increase its power generation options through investments available from CPEC,” the minister said and added that the country was now producing power from biomass, wind and solar also.
The planning minister stressed the country needed road and rail infrastructure that passed through underdeveloped areas of the country so that development could take root in to these regions.
“The CPEC road infrastructure has facilitated the government to take educational, health, and business facilities to the remotest areas of the country,” Iqbal said adding the availability of power and access to roads would attract foreign investment in the country from around the globe.
Ahsan said China for instance is relocating its low value-added industries to destinations where labour is cheaper. “China will relocate 85 million jobs in other countries and it is now up to Pakistani planners and businesses as to how much investment they are able to attract,” the minister said.
The CPEC, he added has already provided an incentive to China with regard to relocation of its industries in Pakistan. “It would be easier for the Chinese to take those products back to China or export them elsewhere,” he added.
He said the two most attractive benefits of the CPEC are Gwadar deep-sea port that was going to transform the shipping scenario in the region and Thar coal projects, which would help the country generate surplus energy.
“The highest investment in the CPEC projects is in Thar coal projects. This will enable the country to get access to coal deposits that are higher in BTU value than the combined oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he said.
The minister said the first coal mine in Thar would start extracting coal in March this hear. “We have enough coal to fulfill all energy needs of Pakistan for the next 400 years,” Iqbal said