KARACHI: President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday said that about 90 projects of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have so far been completed whereas 28 projects are in implementation phase and 41 are in the pipeline.

Addressing a Webinar on ‘CPEC and its impact on the region’ organized by Karachi Council on Foreign Relation (KCFR), Alvi said that a lot of progress has been made on $62 billion project which keeps on increasing as prosperity increases and as the needs for communication through rail, fiber, port, energy and pipeline and all kinds of trade become more popularized.

The Multan-Sukkur Motorway of 392km has been completed, KKH Hawelian-Thakot expressway has been completed in March this year. ML-1 rail link project between Karachi and Peshawar is going to be inaugurated soon, the optic cable from Kunjerab to Islamabad have been laid, but from Islamabad to Karachi and Islamabad to Gwadar is under the process.

He said Gwadar has the greater significance in context of CPEC because it links Chinese North-western regions as well as to Central Asia. The Gwadar International Airport links to the world.

As far as energy is concerned, he said a 300MW coal-fired plant, and a desalination plant, with a capacity of 1.3 million gallon per day (MGD) are also under process.

The President said that in the initial phase of CPEC, Pakistan focused on energy production. So far 9 projects are operational with a 5,320 MW, and three such projects are still under construction.

Pakistan is looking for conservation of water. The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is also in the process of being built, it will produce some 16,000 jobs, 4500 MW energy production and it will store 6.4 million acres foot (MAF) of water. We are looking for export enhancement as well. The industrial sector has been producing goods for exports despite lockdowns.

He rejected the impression that Chinese loans overburdened Pakistan’s economy, “I assure the people it doesn’t overburden our economy, but it improves our financial system. The CPEC corridor is based on development and focused on the needs of different countries”

In my context, the president said as peace returns to Afghanistan, the contribution of Pakistan and China through CPEC would be crucial to rebuilding of Afghanistan.

CPEC Authority Chairman Lt General Asim Saleem Bajwa (Retd) said, “We are currently preparing work on the phase-II of CPEC, which is also an expansion of phase-1 and there are four areas which are being focused.

“Number one is the mass industrialization through special economic zones. There were total 9 SEZs to be built and we are working on three prioritized zones one in Rashakai, one in Faisalabad, and one in Dhabeji next to Karachi.

He said the country is moving towards industrialization as we have recently added one SEZ in Balochistan in addition to Bostan. “The Faisalabad SEZ’s groundbreaking has been done and we are opening the tendering for Dhabeji this week.”

Besides industrialization, our focus is also on the agriculture sector as well. Our focus is on three things including enhancing the agriculture yield, induction of technology and water conservation and farm management.

So we are going in collaboration with the provinces identifying the vast land stretches which is lying uncultivated/unutilized. We are bringing Chinese company trying to club them with Pakistani business models, so that we can go for corporate farming and then going beyond that we also want to go into some cooperative models.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology, we are working on production of batteries to solar panels, pharmaceutical, and to chemicals etc. There is a huge potential in IT sector which offers huge job opportunities.

“We are taking CPEC into Tourism Sector; which is one area where we have lot of potential but at the same time we are suffering because of lack of infrastructure.” Bajwa said. As we bring in the Chinese here under a framework so that they will start coming and filling the gap of infrastructure of cellular coverage, transportation, and power shortages particularly in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan, identifying tourists zones. We can lease out land for building of hotels and restaurants at all. We want to prepare well before we go into industrialization. We are establishing technical institutes, and working with the Chinese they have one billion grant project. We want to upgrade and capacity build of technical institutes, so that we can move from very basic and manual technical skills to robotics etc. So that once we have the industry relocate from China, we should have the workforce which can go and work in those industries.

We are working with Chinese companies to come and invest in the port infrastructure, because we know KPT and Port Qasim have a lot of potential, but they are underutilized because there is lot of work which needs to be done.”

Similarly, “there are other ports which need to be developed including Keti Bandar port which the Sindh has proposed us to develop; Gwadar is another port as it has already.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said the Chinese government and its people are very much devoted and committed towards the CPEC project. With mutual cooperation of Pakistani counterparts, we want to see this multi-billion investment an open, inclusive, and beneficiary project to all.

The Chairman Pathfinder Group Ikram Sehgal while expressing gratitude to participants of the conference laid emphasis upon the importance of WEBINAR in the face of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

While addressing the President on this occasion, he said the significance of WEBINARs is not really realized in this pandemic situation.