ISLAMABAD: All China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects should be completed within the given timeframe as they will lead to industrialisation and job creation in the country, former finance minister Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the opening of the 21st Sustainable Development Conference, Mr Aziz said Pakistan’s GDP growth rate increased to 5.8pc last year because of CPEC.
He said the corridor is not only a package of road and energy projects but also a connectivity tool among think tanks, the public and private sectors, citizens and ideas.
For its successful transformation from a trade to knowledge corridor, he said, it is important to take confidence-building measures among all stakeholders.
Conference participants discuss climate change, connectivity in South Asia
The four-day conference was organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) under the theme ‘Corridors of Knowledge for Peace and Development’.
Mr Aziz also spoke about climate change and its impact on South Asia. He said the real issue was the capacity to tackle the dire implications of climate change, and highlighted the importance of water.
He said water is an important part of climate change and emphasised the need to go beyond building dams, urging concrete measures for water security, water course lining, drip irrigation and water management.
He also criticised existing irrigation practices that consume 60pc of freshwater resources. Mr Aziz said planning for affordable energy resources is another challenge to tackle; therefore, he recommended concentrating on the agriculture sector to increase exports growth and agricultural trade.
At a separate session, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed invited India to join CPEC and said trust-building is the fundamental factor in strengthening relations with other countries.
“Our railways have improved a lot, and a rail track was also established until Torkham. However, further improvements are needed. We want to work with every nation to improve our economy. Despite tensions, we also want improved ties in the railway sector with Afghanistan,” he said.
Board of Investment Chairman Haroon Sharif said it was important to see why South Asia was lagging behind in capitalising its true potential of trade, connectivity and investment.
The lens with which the developed world used to look at South Asian countries is changing, he said, from security to a huge market for trade and investment. He added that the transition from the geo-political and security lens to the economic lens is putting Pakistan back on track for growth and development.
He said new financial architecture is emerging in the region, such as the opening of the Asian Infrastructure Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the China Development Bank and the BRIC Bank, and there is need to learn how the region can use these resources for growth and prosperity.
“There is a very clear realisation at the political leadership level that the partnerships with key Asian states can be successful only if we ensure transparency and zero-tolerance for corruption,” he said.
Prof Amitabh Kundu, a fellow at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries in India said climate change and environmental degradation are the major issues and the shared responsibility of all Asian countries to tackle this challenge through cooperation.
Identifying the issue of growing inequality, he said it was a big hurdle in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the region.
In order to achieve the shared objectives of growth and prosperity, he said, we must address the three major dimensions of human development, i.e. inequality in economic, health and education sectors.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said one of the objectives of this 21st edition of the conference is to highlight the importance of knowledge connectivity among three culturally and academically rich regions, i.e. South Asia, Central Asia and China.
He said that one of the prerequisites for knowledge corridors is intellectual and academic interaction, where CPEC has the potential to link South Asia to China and Central Asia.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018
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