Reiterating the government's resolve of 'no compromise' on the development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Minister for Planning and Development Khusro Bakhtiar on Saturday said that the government would soon establish a CPEC authority to speed up work on projects under it.
According to a statement released by the ministry, "To institutionalise and take forward the cooperation, CPEC Secretariat is being transitioned and elevated into an autonomus authority under Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform."
The statement said that this transition "will provide a much needed platform for multi sectoral coordination" and will be instrumental in "[coordinating] efforts for development and implementation of future CPEC plans".
"Ministry of Planning will remain the lead ministry on [the] Pakistan side and NDRC (National Development Reform Commission) on [the] Chinese side as per the CPEC Bilateral MoU between the governments of Pakistan and China," added the statement.
"The authority would help strengthen the country's endeavours to achieve the set economic targets and enhance regional connectivity," Khusro said, while addressing a press conference.
"We will come up with a bill so that the CPEC authority is established as soon as possible," he added.
He said the authority would be established after upgrading the existing CPEC infrastructure within his ministry, adding that skilful human resource would be hired for the purpose to run it on modern lines.
Bakhtiar also disclosed to the audience that by the end of October this year, his Chinese counterpart, along with a delegation — including the NDRC chairman — would reach Islamabad to attend the ninth annual Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on CPEC.
Briefing the press conference on the progress of CPEC, the minister said that it has now entered into the second phase where more focus will be laid on industrial and agricultural cooperation, development of Gwadar and socio-economic development.
Bakhtiar said the $230 million Gwadar Airport has already been inaugurated, while the work on water plant, Gwadar Vocational Training Institution and hospital was underway.
He said that the government, this year, would also start work on the "most important" $8.5 billion railway project of CPEC for the up-gradation of Main Line 1 (ML-1).
He further revealed that the Multan-Sukkur motorway was set to launch in August this year while the Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway would also be completed soon.
The minister said that the government had also set aside funds in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20 for the completion of the Western Route of CPEC.
He said that due to a crisis in Pakistan's energy sector, international investors had remained reluctant to come to Pakistan. However, at this difficult stage, the "all-weather friend" China had come forward and invested heavily in Pakistan's power sector to bring the country out of crisis.
Bakhtiar said that the previous government-to-government focus was being shifted to a business-to-business focus and that the private sector would be engaged in the mega projects of the country. He said that the transition was being made "to ease out the budget pressure on the government besides developing the small and medium enterprises of the country".
He further revealed that a high level Chinese business delegation had visited Pakistan and committed to invest around $5 billion in the industrial sector of the country.
Responding to a question, the minister said that Pakistan's balance of payment issue could be resolved by the relocation of Chinese industry in Pakistan which would help produce value-added export-oriented products to boost the country's exports.
He further remarked that the Free Trade Agreement-II had already been signed with China which will see an increase in exports to the neighbouring country and resultantly boost Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves.
Discussing the socio-economic development focus of the cooperation between the two countries, the minister said that Pakistan "is the first recipient of $1 billion grant from the Chinese institution, CIDCA, for socio-economic development projects which is reflective of the strong partnership between the two countries".
The work on these projects will commence shortly, he added.
"Under the socio-economic development grant, 4000 household solar generator units have already reached Pakistan which will be distributed in different areas of Balochistan, including Gwadar," he said.
Regarding agricultural developments, the minister said that the Joint Working Group on Agriculture (JWG) will meet in September this year and following the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan, cooperation in agriculture will be expanded.
"Co-branding and co-Marketing of agriculture products will be initiated and a Foot & Mouth Disease Free Zone has been set up in Bahawalpur," he said, adding that the zone will be visited by a chinese agri-experts group on the 22nd of this month. He said that during their visit, further developments in six areas of agriculture will also be discussed.