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CPEC projects: status, cost and benefits

Updated July 13, 2015
The Silk Road Fund Co. Ltd was established in China last December to extend investment and financing support to CPEC projects and to promote industrial cooperation with Pakistan. ─ Photo credit: Planning Commission of Pakistan
The Silk Road Fund Co. Ltd was established in China last December to extend investment and financing support to CPEC projects and to promote industrial cooperation with Pakistan. ─ Photo credit: Planning Commission of Pakistan

The implementation of the energy and infrastructure projects identified under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is being done on a fast-track basis on both sides to translate the plans into reality.

The Silk Road Fund Co. Ltd was established in China last December to extend investment and financing support to CPEC projects and to promote industrial cooperation with Pakistan.

The fund management company — set up as a consortium of leading Chinese banks, including the China Exim Bank and the China Development Bank — had initial funds of $10bn, which have now been raised to $40bn.

Read: Pakistan will continue implementation of CPEC project: FO

The pioneering project to be implemented under the programme is the 720MW Karot hydropower project, for which $1.65bn has been earmarked by the Silk Road Fund, and the down payment is under release.

The Fund has already signed an MoU with China’s Three Gorges Corporation and the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) to develop a number of private hydropower projects, including Karot, which was approved last month by the PPIB’s board of directors. The PPIB has already issued the letter of support (LoS), and land acquisition is in process.

The ambitious CPEC programme has two main components. It plans to develop a new trade and transport route from Kashgar in China to the Gwadar Port. The other component envisages developing special economic zones along the route, including power projects. The first-phase projects will receive $45.69bn in concessionary and commercial loans, for which financial facilitation to the Chinese companies is being arranged by the Silk Road Fund.

These include $33.79bn for energy projects, $5.9bn for roads, $3.69bn for railway network, $1.6bn for Lahore Mass Transit, $66m for Gwadar Port and a fibre optic project worth $4m.

The prioritised, short-term projects involve over $17bn in investment. Apart from Karot, they include the upgrading of the 1,681km Peshawar-Lahore-Karachi railway line ($3.7bn); Thar coal-fired power plants worth 1,980MW ($2.8bn); development of two Thar coal mining blocks ($2.2bn); the Gwadar-Nawabshah natural gas pipeline ($2bn); imported coal-based power plants at Port Qasim worth 1,320MW ($2bn); a solar park in Bahawalpur worth 900MW ($1.3bn); the Havelian-Islamabad link of the Karakoram Highway ($930m); a wind farm at Jhimpir for 260MW ($260m); and the Gwadar International Airport ($230m).

The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, a joint venture of Engro Powergen Ltd and the Sindh government, holds the lease of Thar Block-II coalfields, while it’s Thar Power Company will construct a series of mine-mouth power plants.


Given the timeline for completion, these power projects could possibly add reasonable generation capacity by 2017-18, but they would hardly provide any relief to the nation in terms of the fast-growing demand for electricity


In May, the PPIB concluded the implementation and the power purchase agreements for two 330MW projects, which are scheduled to begin commercial operations by December 2017. And the China Development Bank has finalised the terms and conditions for financing a 3.8m tonnes per annum coal-mining project as well as a power project.

On June 25, the PPIB approved another Thar coal-based mine-mouth power project of 1,320MW capacity, which is being developed by the Shanghai Electric (Group) Corporation in partnership with Sino-Sindh Resources, a subsidiary of Global Mining (China) Ltd.

Sino-Sindh Resources will receive $1bn from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The mine-mouth power project, originally planned to start power generation in 2016, has been rescheduled for commissioning by 2017-18. A letter of interest from the Chinese banks was issued in March for 75pc financing of the $2.6bn project, 25pc of which will be equity.

In addition, Chinese banks will provide financing for two 660MW imported coal-fired power plants at Port Qasim.

A financing cooperation agreement was recently signed by the China Exim Bank and the Port Qasim Electric Power Company for the under-construction project. The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority approved the upfront tariff on February 13.

The other 660MW project at Port Qasim is being developed by the Lucky Electric Power Company. The two projects are scheduled to begin commercial operations within four years. But they are likely to be delayed as a dedicated jetty for each project has to be constructed for unloading the imported coal, and the contracts for them have not yet been awarded.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has leased 4,500 acres of land to Chinese investors for the development of the second phase of the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park of 900MW, to be commissioned in 21 months. The China Development Bank, Exim Bank of China and Zonergy Co Ltd will be involved in it.

Likewise, the draw-down agreement for the Jhimpir wind project between UEP Wind Power (the borrower) and the China Development Bank Corporation (the lender) has been concluded. The project, having achieved financial close, is scheduled to begin commercial operations in 2016.

Given the timeline for completion, these power projects could possibly add reasonable generation capacity to the national grid by 2017-18, but they would hardly provide any relief to the nation in terms of the fast-growing demand for electricity. And there is no silver lining for consumers as far as the cost of the electricity is concerned.

All the Chinese loans will be insured by the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) against non-payment risks, and the security of the loans is guaranteed by the state.

A framework agreement for energy projects under CPEC was recently signed between Sinosure and the water and power ministry to provide sovereign guarantees.

Sinosure is charging a fee of 7pc for debt servicing, which will be added to the capital cost of a project. For instance, the capital cost of a 660MW project at Port Qasim is $767.9m. But it goes up to $956.1m by adding Sinosure’s fee of $63.9m, its financing fee and charges of $21m, and interest during construction of $72.8m; a 27.2pc return on equity is guaranteed.

Ironically, interest during construction is allowed at the rate of 33.33pc for the first year; 33.33pc for the second; 13.33pc for the third; and 20pc for the fourth year. The scenario presents a bleak picture, as the availability of affordable energy will likely remain a pipedream.

The writer is a retired chairman of the State Engineering Corporation, Ministry of Industries and Production

Published in Dawn, Economic & Business ,July 13th, 2015

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