ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday vowed greater transparency and lesser reliance on loans during the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
CPEC Authority Chairman and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information retired Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said the Phase-II of CPEC would be started after “full preparation and in an institutional manner”, while ensuring “full transparency”.
He was speaking at the signing ceremony of business cooperation agreements between leading Chinese entrepreneurs and Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) in Taxila for revamping of the facility.
Pakistan and China had agreed in April on the launching of the second phase of CPEC during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing for attending a meeting of Belt and Road Forum.
The second phase was then envisioned to focus on development of Special Economic Zones, agriculture sector and socio-economic development.
The multi-billion-dollar joint Pak-China undertaking for infrastructure development was launched in 2015 during Chinese President Xi Jingping’s visit to Islamabad. The Phase-I of the project was mostly about setting up of energy projects and developing road networks linking Gwadar Port with Kashgar.
Gen Bajwa said that all projects of Phase-I of CPEC held up or delayed because of procedural or technical issues would be completed on priority basis.
Eight power generation projects have been completed, which added nearly 6,000MW of electricity to the national grid, while another nine are in the pipeline.
The CPEC has faced criticism from the United States. American officials say its projects lack transparency and have added significantly to Pakistan’s foreign loan burden. Both Islamabad and Beijing have strongly rejected US criticism as propaganda.
The Foreign Office, while rejecting US allegations, had earlier said that CPEC was transparently contributing to national development and issues in the execution of the project were bilaterally addressed by Beijing and Islamabad through existing mechanisms. It had further clarified that public debt relating to CPEC projects was less than 10 per cent of the total debt burden.
Gen Bajwa said reliance on loans would be decreased through promoting business-to-business ties between Chinese and Pakistani entrepreneurs in Phase-II.
“We are looking at foreign direct investment in the next phase, and foreign companies and entrepreneurs partnering with local investors and businessmen,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2020