Concerns over CPEC

Financial constraints could hinder the progress of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)-related projects, as worries over timely completion and transparency in money matters continue to irk important stakeholders. As opposed to the Planning Commission’s share of Rs655 billion in the 2016-17 Public Sector Development Programme, just Rs124 billion have been indicatively allotted for CPEC schemes, raising doubts over Pakistan’s willingness to invest in the much-touted project. The development is all the more distressing as it comes only a few days after a member of the Chinese political leadership expressed concerns over difficulties being faced in executing CPEC-related projects. Additionally, it has emerged that the Chinese are irritated at the slow pace of work on the LNG pipeline in Gwadar, as Pakistan continues to play stingy on releasing funds for it. Despite burdening citizens by collecting the gas infrastructure development cess, earmarked for such projects, our money managers continue to be tight-fisted. Our economic managers are playing hard ball with the wrong country at the wrong time.

The CPEC has been hailed as a game changer countless times. However, the continued Chinese irritation on slow progress and lack of funds on the Pakistani side are serious concerns. The CPEC’s timely completion is not just crucial for the economy; it is also a matter of avoiding public shame on the international stage. One can see the notable difference in the way Punjab has treated its CPEC-related projects and how other provinces are lagging behind. This can to a certain extent be blamed on the centre’s attitude towards the concerns of the smaller provinces. The PML-N needs to realise that such divisive tactics will only harm the country. It continues to raise the tax burden on consumers, citing the cost of CPEC-related projects, while at the same time showing the Chinese its tight-fisted side. The PML-N has two years left in power and it needs to utilise them wisely. If the CPEC is jeopardised in any way, it is the ruling PML-N that will have to bear the brunt of the blame.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2016.

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