Chinese seek suitably grand ceremony for 392km road opening

Updated September 28, 2019

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The government wanted a new impetus to accelerate the pace of implementation of CPEC projects. — Photo courtesy of Khurrum
The government wanted a new impetus to accelerate the pace of implementation of CPEC projects. — Photo courtesy of Khurrum

ISLAMABAD: China seeks rapid progress on a multi-billion-dollar railway line and a ‘grand inauguration’ of a 392-kilometre highway from Multan to Sukkur soon, a high-level meeting has been told.

At a meeting held on Friday and presided over by Minister for Planning and Develop­ment Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, progress made on projects falling under the umbrella of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was reviewed and it was decided that bottlenecks in their early completion would be removed on priority basis.

The minister told the meeting that the $8.3 billion Railway Line Project from Kara­chi to Peshawar (ML-1) would be taken to the CPEC Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) at its meeting due in November. He advised the price review committee on ML-1, led by the deputy chairman of Planning Commi­ssion, to expedite its deliberations in line with the directives of the prime minister.

The price review committee was constituted recently after the railways ministry complained to the premier that the project was facing roadblocks due to reluctance on the part of top government officials to move ahead on price negotiations out of fear of accountability in future, sources said.

Minister says government wants to expedite implementation of CPEC projects

In view of the unease expressed by the Chinese officials, the prime minister had directed the committee to speedily complete its working on the project and directly report to him so that responsibility for the decisions made could be shared.

Because of the huge cost estimate of more than $8.2bn under Chinese loans, the authorities had decided to divide the project in three phases, starting with the first phase estimated to cost about $3bn to ensure that foreign debt remained on the lower side. The proposed first phase involves four sections of 183km, 120km, 132km and 118km, with completion target of three years.

An official statement quoted the planning and develop­ment minister as saying the government wanted a new impetus to accelerate the pace of implementation of CPEC projects.

The sources said the planning and communications ministries were coordinating for a soft opening of the Sukkur-Multan Motorway next week, but the Chinese side was insisting on a ‘high-level inauguration’ because the $2.9bn project was the largest infrastructure scheme to be completed under the CPEC so far. The sources said the Chinese embassy was coordinating with the foreign ministry for a grand inauguration ceremony for the 392km project.

The meeting was also told that payments to the Chinese investors of power projects were smooth to the extent of 90 per cent and efforts were being made to ensure 100pc timely payments by December.

The meeting was attended by deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Jehanzeb Khan, secretaries of various ministries and senior representatives of provincial governments.

Mr Bakhtyar directed the relevant authorities to further improve coordination among the stakeholders in the implementation of CPEC projects to ensure sustained uplift of the country, particularly through development of social sectors.

The power secretary told the meeting that the Chinese side would present a study on demand-supply of CPEC’s energy projects by October. It was decided that the study would be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Joint Working Group and would be a deliverable to the upcoming JCC meeting.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority apprised the meeting that it had issued the tariff for Port Qasim on Sept 16, while the law ministry would move a summary for establishing appellate tribunals to resolve tariff issues related to the energy projects.

Regarding Lahore’s Orange Line project, it was informed that civil works on water and drainage facilities would be completed on time. About the Gwadar Eastbay Expressway project, it was noted that it would be on the agenda of the upcoming Ecnec meeting and the Chinese side had confirmed additional loans for it.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2019