The swift grip of the Coronavirus global pandemic took everyone by surprise but most countries are currently seeing a cautious ease of guidance. That easing of restrictions has led to many in the construction industry to go back to work on various projects. This is no different to CPEC and China which has seen past the peak of its epidemic.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was never seen as a doomed project three months ago but only a stalled one. The situation is fluid as you might expect but slowly, the direction is returning back to the path to growth. Construction restarted in earnest and now the CPEC is heading towards the second phase involving heavy industrialization to counter any declining sectors currently experienced in Pakistan. As with all countries emerging from the pandemic, Pakistan has not been immune to some of the negative growth affecting the world. However, things are moving ahead.
The Chairman of CPEC Authority, Asim Saleem Bajwa, has stated that Pakistan job creation is at the heart of the 2nd phase with work continuing on several fronts, particularly in the energy sector where 50% of the $1.963 billion 874 MW Suki Kinari Hydel Power Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) being completed.
CPEC second phase is intended to boost Pakistan in such industrial sectors like farming, health and digital technology. Digital technology is an area keenly seen as an opportunity to expand digital online learning to the benefit of schools and universities. Pakistan is also still trying to push tourism as a key industry in the country, particularly with the development of the New International Gwadar airport. Construction was recently restarted on the airport which is a $230m project being built since March of last year. The airport is located some 26 km north of Gwadar and is expected to be fully open in three years time. Millions of travelers are forecasted to use the airport each year once open.
China Oversees Port Holding Company (COPHC) Chairman, Zhang Baozhong recently commented:
“NGIA to be completed within 3 years and set to be the second largest airport in Pakistan will connect the fast-rising Gwadar port city to the rest of world”
The second phase of construction will include the building of a state-of-the-art terminal and cargo buildings, communication & navigational projects, air traffic control system, runway, water supply, power supply, HVAC, parking space, residential area and schools within the area. Construction of the airport is adhering to all International Civil Aviation Organization (CIAO) standards.
Attracting international investors and commerce will be accelerated in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ). There’s more tax incentives as well as 17 out of 27 economic projects in a variety of areas including education, utilities and health on the priority list.
Key transport and energy projects have been launched in 2020 including a $9 billion upgrade of the Railway’s Main Line (ML-1). Further to transport connectivity, 1,456 KM roads are under development with a staggering 1,544 KM completed so far. For generating power needs for Pakistan citizens, a massive 2,844km planned energy plant is in development. There are seven additional energy projects making good progress with a 4,170MW power generator plant close to completion. In terms of updating the internet reach across the country, 820km of optical fibre linking Khunjerab to Rawalpindi has been implemented.
This is all positive news for CPEC’s progression. With the Gwadar Smart City Masterplan also approved and under development as well, it’s a busy year for Pakistan and CPEC despite the delays. Regardless, China and Pakistan still have the vision and drive to make CPEC a reality and that we can be assured of.