ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to set up an autonomous authority to monitor and facilitate early completion of multi-billion-dollar projects under the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Federal Minister for Planning Khusro Bakhtyar said at a news conference on Saturday that the authority would upgrade the existing structures for speedy and focused execution of the projects. A bill to this effect would soon be tabled in parliament.

Mr Bakhtyar was accompanied by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan.

In 2015, the former government had established the Prime Minister’s Performance Delivery Unit to speed up implementation of the CPEC-related projects but the unit was closed down in September last year by the incumbent government soon after coming into power.

Mr Bakhtyar said that the CPEC secretariat was being transitioned and elevated into the autonomous body. This will provide the much-needed platform for multi-sectoral coordination for development and implementation of future CPEC plans.

Agreements signed with China in agriculture, industrial and socio-economic development fields

“We will also hire competent people from the private sector,” he said.

Mr Bakhtyar said that Pakistan and China had also decided to establish Pakistan-China Business Council with a view to including people from the private sector to implement industrial and agriculture development projects.

“We have already submitted to the Chinese embassy in Islamabad names of Pakistani businessmen who will be part of the council,” the minister said, hoping to receive similar lists from China.

Ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the US, the minister said the government was committed to all agreements and projects continuing under the CPEC.

“We give CPEC the highest priority and consider it to be a landmark initiative for harnessing the future economic development of Pakistan,” he said.

The minister said that the PTI government had signed agreements with China in agriculture, industrial and socio-economic development sectors under the second phase of CPEC. In the first phase, he said, energy and infrastructure projects had been focused. He said that ongoing projects, including roads of the western and eastern routes of the CPEC, would be completed.

Mr Bakhtiar said that $8.5 billion ML-1 railway track project had been divided into three phases, and the preliminary design of the project had been approved and signed during the last visit of the prime minister to China. He said the project would contribute to materialising the dream of regional connectivity through Pakistan. The minister said that the Gwadar Master Plan was being finalised under which Gwadar would emerge as an attractive smart port of the world.

In reply to a question about the Karachi circular train, the minister said that planning division was considering various proposals under the urban mass transit development plan for Karachi which, he said, included Green, Yellow and Red transport projects besides circular trains.

Mr Bakhtyar said that the 9th JCC would be held in October this year where further progress would be made. Mr Ning, Vice Chairman of National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, will visit Pakistan to participate in the meeting.

Ahead of this, he said joint working group on agriculture would meet in September to promote co-branding and co-marketing of agriculture products. The government, he said, had already set up foot and mouth disease-free zone in Bahawalpur.

He said that Chinese agriculture experts group would visit Pakistan on July 22 to discuss further developments in six areas of agriculture.

While criticising the previous government for not doing anything significant about the development of Gwadar, the minister said that all administrative issues pertaining to CPEC projects including Gwadar port were being addressed on priority basis.

“Gwadar will be developed on modern lines and in this regard a comprehensive planning is being made to turn it into a smart port city of international standard,” he said, adding that Gwadar would emerge as the leading trading port in the region.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019