Projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are moving ahead of schedule and so far these schemes have generated 13,000 local jobs, China’s Ambassador to Islamabad Sun Weidong told participants at a forum organised by the Express Media Group on Monday (6 March).
Developments in relation to CPEC were occurring rapidly and both countries recently made minor adjustments to the priority list by upgrading schemes placed under ‘actively promoted projects’, said Ambassador Sun.
Speakers highlighted challenges and opportunities that the $54 billion investment package brought for Pakistan.
Last month, the Energy Expert Group agreed to upgrade another 660-megawatt (MW) Hubco coal-fired power plant to the prioritised list but downgraded the 1,320MW Rahim Yar Khan power project on its actively promoted list, which catalogues projects to be completed over the next five years. The group also upgraded the Oracle power project to the priority list.
The CPEC was ‘open and inclusive’ and other countries could benefit, said Ambassador Sun Weidong while responding to a question about linking Gwadar port with Iran’s Chabahar port.
Before the ambassador’s address, Ports and Shipping Minister Hasil Bizenjo said that Pakistan had proposed building an 85-kilometre-long road, creating a road link between Gwadar and Chabahar ports.
“Chabahar port cannot survive without Gwadar and both ports can complement each other,” said Bizenjo. The minister also underscored the need for prioritising railways projects, which are not progressing at a quicker pace. “Without a rail connection, CPEC is incomplete”, said Bizenjo.
The Chinese ambassador said that CPEC had already entered the implementation phase, and so far 18 under-construction projects generated 13,000 new jobs for local people. Sun said in its last meeting of Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC, both countries had agreed upon a new list of priority projects, medium- and long-term plans. He said this had given a new impetus to the CPEC implementation.
The ambassador said that many energy projects would become operational this year and the next year while construction of industrial zones was also set to begin soon. He said that a medium-term plan would be finalised this year.
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal stressed upon the need for early groundbreaking of the New Gwadar International Airport and Eastbay Expressway – both projects are critical for making Gwadar port fully operational.
The Chinese authorities have not yet cleared these two projects, although they are part of the priority list.
Iqbal said that the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Gwadar International Airport and Eastbay Expressway would take place in a few months – this was also stated by the minister last year.