ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was not just a game-changer for Pakistan, but would go on to transform the fate of the entire region.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also claimed that the CPEC was not merely a $40 billion project, adding that Pakistan was expecting much more investment to flow into the country once the corridor was up and running.
Leaders of the country’s various provincial governments — as well as representatives of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) — had come together in a bid to showcase the potential of their respective areas with respect to the mega-project at the CPEC Summit and Expo, held in the capital.
Organised by the Ministry of Planning and Development, the event aimed to highlight bilateral trade and investment opportunities in different sectors of the economies of Pakistan and China.
Top leadership explores investment potential in all parts of the country
“Our region has seen a lot of conflict and deprivation in the past, and the time has come to turn a new leaf in the history for our region by bringing peace, prosperity and opportunities,” the prime minister said while inaugurating the event.
“The CPEC cannot be defined by projects or infrastructure, it is a new concept and approach in diplomacy and development based on shared goals and aspirations. The CPEC is the way of hope and future for our region.”
It was the fusion of President Xi Jinping’s ‘One-Belt One-Road’ with Pakistan’s ‘Vision 2025’, which sought to harness Pakistan’s geo-political position into geo-economic advantage by connecting the three engines of growth — South Asia, China and Central Asia, he said.
The prime minister announced that Pakistan was back in business and ready to do business with the world.
“The megawatts of electricity or kilometres of roads constructed cannot gauge its value. Its value is much bigger, much greater and the CPEC will bring new know-how to Pakistan. It broadens our technological capabilities and above all it deepens our relationship of trust and raises friendship to newer heights,” PM Sharif said.
He said the project envisioned bringing under-developed areas such as Gilgit-Baltistan, the western belt of Pakistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, including the Thar region of Sindh and the coastal belt of Balochistan, into the mainstream of development by providing connectivity, energy, industrial zones and employment opportunities.
PM Sharif declared that the jewel in the CPEC crown was the port city of Gwadar. The government, he said, was working on a master plan with Chinese assistance to transform Gwadar into a model smart port city of the 21st century.
Not only that, but Gwadar would have a local power source and a desalination plant facility, while a modern hospital and technical training centre for the youth, a university campus in Gwadar and Zhob along the western route would start working this year, he said.
In his remarks, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that Pakistan had achieved its highest level of forex reserves and would soon become a choice destination for foreign direct investment.
“Pakistan is not what it was in 2013. In 2016, Pakistan has changed and the world is ready to do business with us,” the minister remarked.
In an apparent response to local critics, the minister said there was no doubt that the CPEC was going to benefit all regions of Pakistan.
The chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan, and the AJK PM and GB chief minister also spoke at the occasion.
Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2016