ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan gears up to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrives on Monday with a bagful of multi-billion dollar projects, political economists are calling for more transparency on the part of the government for the eventual implementation of the projects under the much-touted Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (PCEC).
Nearly all economic experts Dawn spoke to welcomed the Chinese interest in the projects conceived under the PCEC but asked the government not to create an unnecessary hype as if the $50 billion development projects were just around the corner from materialisation. The PCEC is a long-term plan, spread over the next several years and needed to be handled calmly, they said.
Dr Kaiser Bengali, a seasoned economist and currently an adviser to Balochistan chief minister, told Dawn: “I am unable to understand why the government is keeping the PCEC under wraps.” According to him, the controversy surrounding the corridor’s route persists and needs to be removed as soon as possible.
Dr Bengali was of the view that the way government was projecting the PCEC in media it should have presented an approved route and other terms of reference before parliament by now. “Even if there are some changes in its original route, as is feared by some quarters, it’s the government’s responsibility to address their concerns.”
For Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan, a former economic adviser in the government of Gen Pervez Musharraf, the government has been behaving “like a frustrating batsman” and is “trying hard to show something on the scoreboard”.
Govt urged to be ‘cautious, yet open’ in approach to mega projects
Instead of the relentless media campaign, which the government had engaged itself in over the past several days, its focus should have been on removing “possible major irritants” that can deprive the country of this crucial Chinese interest in infrastructure and energy projects.
“Had I been in government, I would have arranged a meeting between the Chinese ambassador to Islamabad and parties such as the ANP, which have expressed concerns about the PCEC’s route. Since China is spending money on PCEC, a word from the Chinese might have served the purpose,” he said.
“The government needs to be open, yet cautious in dealing with the PCEC because there is no dearth of detractors who wouldn’t want the two countries moving ahead with the projects planned under the corridor,” Dr Khan said.
A more or less similar point was made by PTI MNA Asad Umar. “First of all, we should all accept it’s a good thing that the Chinese are coming to Pakistan to develop our infrastructure and power sectors. However, my only concern is the government’s contention that it will change the fate of the country, and the ministers have gone overboard in trying to showcase the corridor.”
Mr Umar, who has a lot of experience in the corporate sector and advises the PTI chairman on national and international economic issues, said that a major chunk of the $50 billion was loaned money, which also included investment by local banks. Secondly, he explained, even if a few PCEC projects had reached an advanced stage, overall the project was still in its early stages.
“Therefore, presenting it as a game-changer is overdoing it a bit,” he said, adding that there were many ifs and buts, which would be cleared once the MoUs signed between the countries would start to materialise.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2015
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