The China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important part of the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), was always planned to be completed in three phases.
In the first phase, substantial work on infrastructure and power needs have already in place. In transport development, 1,456 KM roads are under construction while 1,544 KM are already completed. In the energy category, seven projects are in progress with a 4,170MW power generator project nearing completion, while 5,320MW of electricity plant has already been added to the national grid. A further energy plant for generating a massive 2,844km is already planned. In terms of updating internet connectivity, 820km of optical fiber has been stretched linking Khunjerab to Rawalpindi. Among the other completed projects, the Gwadar port is functional. The Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan has already been approved and is currently going through implementation. Tax concessions and other financial incentives in place which will enhance investment activity in Gwadar.
The second phase of CPEC involves lots more industrialization, socio-economic development, agriculture, blue economy (maintaining and sustaining oceanic resources) and tourism activity. Framework agreements on Industrial cooperation with agriculture and socio-economic development signed in 2018. The second phase of CPEC will reap the benefit of the success of earlier completed projects and will focus much further on economic activity and job creation.
The Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will help to attract large foreign investment into Pakistan and help to reverse the tide of de-industrialization over the last 10 years. The government had also announced incentives including tax breaks to attract businesses to make investments into Pakistan through joint ventures with local industry.
In regards to social sector development, 27 projects in the area of education, health, agriculture, poverty alleviation, agriculture, and water supply have been identified of which 17 are on priority list and will be completed in this phase.
The second phase of the Free Trade Agreement between China and Pakistan came into effect in January 2020, entitled Pakistan’s exporting products such as leather, cotton and garment products for zero-tariff entry into China’s market. 2020 will be a landmark year for CPEC. China will complete its thirteenth Five-Year Plan, with an ambition to eliminate absolute poverty completely. 2020 will be a historical year to usher in a new chapter of cooperation between China and Pakistan.
The projects to be launched in 2020 includes the upgrade of the Railway’s Main Line (ML-1), a $9 billion project, which will significantly enhance the railway infrastructure for trade in goods and services. For the MLI project, the financing committee would work more rapidly on the ML1 Project. Negotiations for the Petro-chemical plant, refinery, and gas pipeline are also ongoing. Projects also include the trade and transport connectivity projects of KKH Phase-II Havelian-Thakot (118km) road and the Sukkur-Multan (392km) highway.
In the FY20 budget, the government substantially increased anti-poverty spending under the PM Ehsas Program, budget for which has been significantly increased to Rs190 billion, which includes an unconditional cash transfer program of Rs 5,500 per quarter to 5.1 million beneficiaries. Also, 3.2 million children in 50 districts are already in the process of receiving funds to reduce dropout rates.. Recently 200,000 Ehsaas undergraduate scholarships programs had been launched for underprivileged Pakistani children.
In 2020, the focus is to shift towards upgrading the Peshawar-Karachi Railway tracks, Special Economic Zones, fiber-optic connectivity, and development in Gwadar City. The government would provide a new impetus to the project in 2020. Minister for Planning and Development in Pakistan, Asad Umar, had stated that benefits of CPEC would start to trickle down to productive sectors of the economy, including manufacturing and agriculture industries in 2020.
CPEC is also strengthening Pakistan’s tourism industry. With improved transportation, there shall be a predicted steady in-rush of people visiting Pakistan. CPEC highways, rail and road upgrades will provide easy access to tourists to major destinations in Pakistan. Major steps have been taken by the Pakistani government for tourism including provision of visa on arrival (55 countries) and improvement of internal as well as regional peace.
The British Backpacker Society described Pakistan as “one of the friendliest countries on earth, with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination”.
CPEC projects are moving quickly into fruition and will complete its promises which will help Pakistan improve its economy in different ways and will provide lots of opportunities to people of Pakistan and international investors.