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Balochistan cabinet shocked by CPEC presentation

Khurram HusainUpdated December 11, 2018

Cabinet members call CPEC spending "a joke", blast previous government for inaction. — File photo

KARACHI: The Balochistan cabinet was left shell-shocked at the end of a briefing on the progress of CPEC projects in the province when it was revealed that no progress has been made in any projects outside Gwadar and the meagre share of the province in the overall portfolio of CPEC projects.

The briefing was provided by the CPEC Cell that the Balochistan government has recently established with help from the World Bank.

Also read: Balochistan voices concern over its share in CPEC projects

According to a source who was present during the meeting on Monday, which lasted all day, almost four hours were spent on the briefing from the cell.

The major finding of the cell was that all projects connected with the western route have seen no progress whatsoever, and the overall size of the portfolio of CPEC projects in Balochistan is miniscule where less than 9 per cent of the total committed, around $5.5 billion, is for the province and less than $1bn has been spent in four years. Of this $1bn, around $200m is accounted for by the Hub power plant.

The cabinet members described the CPEC spending thus far as “a joke” and they blasted the previous government for its inaction.

In the energy sector, the cabinet was informed that the current shortfall of 700MW in the province means that all the new power injected into the grid as a result of CPEC power projects has not found its way to Balochistan and that Makran Division has still not been connected to the national grid.

Two projects negotiated by the previous government — Quetta Mass Transit and PAT feeder to Quetta water project — will both be revisited by the new government.

“The debt and liabilities of both projects will be borne by the Government of Balochistan and the costs revealed in the feasibility are very high,” according to the source.

The Quetta Mass Transit cost, for example, is $912m which is larger than the total development budget of the provincial government. The cost of land acquisition, displacement and resettlement and income tax and customs duties are not included in this figure.

For the PAT feeder, the water will need to be pumped up to an elevation of 6,000 feet across a distance of 280km to reach Quetta, using 9 pumping stations at different points across the pipeline. The project cost is Rs40bn, also to be borne by the Balochistan government.

Outside of Gwadar, the cabinet was informed that the roads of the western route have seen no progress, and more than half of the Balochistan component of the western route is still not officially part of the CPEC agenda.

Without the inclusion of these projects in the agenda of the Joint Working Group on Transport and Infrastructure, the projects are not eligible for concessionary financing from CPEC funding lines. The federal government has committed to fund these from its development budget, but thus far the allocated funds have not been released despite a passage of three years.

The cabinet members were also annoyed that the Hoshab-Basima-Sorab section of the road has been shown as part of the western route by the federal government even though this project began in 2006 and is part of the common alignment.

The cabinet members agreed that the Balochistan government will take a bold and firm line for their province in the forthcoming Joint Cooperation Committee meeting scheduled to be held in Beijing next week.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018

https://www.dawn.com/news/1450773

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