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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders said on Saturday that unnecessary secrecy around China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects was creating suspicions among local businesses, and the authorities should come out and clarify these suspicions.

The chamber’s patron Shahid Rasheed Butt said CPEC is set to propel Pakistan’s economy forward, and Gwadar is likely to become a port worthy of its geopolitical location, but transparency in CPEC projects is needed.

“The problem with the CPEC agreement is that much of it is secret and undisclosed which is resulting in rumours and doubts which is keeping local and foreign investors away,” he said.

He added that greater transparency will lead to fewer suspicions and greater interest on the part of local and foreign investors, but it is not being ensured.

Mr Butt said the government should take the public into confidence by informing them of the amount of loans, repayments, interest and so on.

He added that unnecessary secrecy is against the national interest, as it creates doubt among the public and the business community.

He noted that as part of increased Chinese investment, many countries have also agreed to give preferential treatment to Chinese companies and labour, which has limited growth opportunities for local companies, thereby reducing the positive impact of the investment on the people.

He said the government must develop contingency plans and be more transparent about the deal to ensure the Pakistani people and industry do not suffer.

The Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders has said that the estimates made by experts that annual repayments and other expenses to Chinese loans would amount to $5 billion need to be clarified by the authorities.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2017