Except for completion of some ongoing projects, the progress on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would remain comparatively dull after first two years of an exciting full swing implementation that delivered a host of Early Harvest Projects (EHP) or brought them up to an advanced stage.

2018 will be a year of stock taking and planning for the future of CPEC until 2030. This is because the project would be entering a new phase — from completion of energy projects and road construction the focus would shift to industrialisation and long term financial arrangements between the two countries, having far reaching implications.

Also the implementation would move from roads to railway network. Karachi-Peshawar Main Line (ML-1) worth $8.2 billion and Karachi Circular Railway of $3.5bn estimated cost would be two central areas of attention, provided their implementation milestones are firmed up and agreements are reached on costing and repayment pricing.

The two nations, therefore, have to wriggle through a difficult and tedious process to set the foundation for future implementation.

On the industrial side, it would also be a great step forward if the countries are able to reach commercial agreements and begin physically working on three special industrial/economic zones, so far identified as Rashakai in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dhabeji in Sindh and M-3 in Faisalabad, Punjab, to support manufacturing, job creation and export growth.

One of the most prominent projects expected to be complete under the CPEC during 2018 will be the $2bn Orange Line Mass Transit Project — a signature project of the PML-N government. The Punjab government has recently given the go ahead for the project that remained held up by litigation for almost a year.

In the energy sector on the other hand, Port Qasim Coal fired project of $2bn being developed by Sinohydro Resource of China and Al-Mirqab Captial of Qatar with a generation capacity of 1320MW would achieve commercial operations by June 2018. The project had already been partially energised recently.

With a minor delay in coal mining, none of the power projects in Thar would be available in 2018 while two wind projects of 50MW each in Sindh are scheduled to come into production by September 2018. One of the two 660MW units of China-Hub Coal Power Company (660x2) is scheduled to start operations in December 2018.

The Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Punjab was expected to add about 400MW, to the existing 300MW capacity, to reach 700MW.

At Gwadar, a $150 million Eastbay Expressway project is expected to be completed before the close of 2018 while maximum effort is being employed to deliver within next year the $130m worth Freshwater Treatment facility, of five million gallons per day, crucially important for Gwadar Port.

Likewise, a 39-km Havelian-Abbotabad-Mansehra part of $3.5bn Karakoram Highway (KKH) Phase-1 is also heading for completion in May 2018 after the completion of four out (Multan-Bahawalpur-Sukkur-Sadiqabad) of seven sections of $2.6bn Peshawar-Karachi Motorway in April.

Similarly, the cross-border optical fibre cable is also due in 2018 besides another road project spanning D.I.Khan to Hakla section of dual carriageway. — KK

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, January 1st, 2018

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