ISLAMABAD: Dispelling the impression of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) getting bogged down, the Foreign Office said on Friday the economic venture was progressing well despite all odds.
“I would like to share a roundup of major achievements in CPEC, which has continued to move forward as a flagship of the Belt and Road [Initiative] despite the Covid-19 pandemic,” said FO spokesman Asim Iftikhar at the weekly media briefing.
His remarks came in the backdrop of reports in the media that CPEC had slowed down reportedly because of Covid-19 pandemic, China’s concerns about its workers security in Pakistan, no major new Chinese commitment, pending payments of Chinese power plants to the tune of Rs230 billion, and delays in the financial close of railways ML-1 upgrade project.
Spokesman details ongoing, new mega projects a day after Chinese spokesman dispelled impression of any slowdown
The reports gained spotlight ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing from Feb 3 to 5, where besides attending the inaugural event of the Winter Olympics, he would also meet Chinese leaders. CPEC is expected to top the agenda of the meetings in Beijing during the premier’s visit.
Mr Iftikhar said 27 projects conceived under CPEC were at various stages of implementation and preparation. CPEC’s ambit, he said, had been expanded to include agriculture, science and technology and IT cooperation.
“Meanwhile, work on major infrastructure projects has continued apace and a number of new mega projects have been endorsed by the JCC of CPEC. These include the Azad Pattan and Kohala hydropower projects, which will help address Pakistan’s food security while also ensuring access to green and cost-competitive energy for our industrial growth,” he added.
Just a day ago, the Chinese foreign ministry dismissed reports of slowdown as disinformation.
At a media briefing in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “It (CPEC) has seen new progress against all odds since Covid-19 broke out, giving a strong boost to economic development and livelihood improvement and winning high praise from all sectors in Pakistan.”
He conceded that China was yet to commit a loan for the ML-1 railway line upgrade project, saying it “involves a large amount of investment and relevant departments of the two sides are still in consultation”. Mr Lijian, however, rejected the impression that no new project had been approved in the past three and a half years as “pure disinformation”.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2022