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New body proposed to maximise CPEC’s potential – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Sherry Rehman, chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, (CPEC) on Monday proposed forming a ‘CPEC authority’ to take advantage of opportunities offered by the huge project.

Speaking at the Senate CPEC Committee and National Defence University’s workshop on the lessons of developing a multi-partisan support for CPEC, Ms Rehman said, “We must take ownership of planning and ensure the trickle-down benefits permeate across all provinces”.

She said this could only be achieved if a CPEC authority which is either a part of the planning ministry or exists as an autonomous body is put into action. “It must be made very clear that the challenge to maximising CPEC gains is from Pakistan not China.”

The former federal minister underlined the need to focus on four Cs to maximise CPEC’s potential: consensus, coordination, capacity and clarity.

She said at the moment there appeared to be a lack of federal capacity to manage policy frameworks and execute the complex set of contractual structures needed for different types of investment models being utilised under CPEC platforms.

A crucial factor that requires attention and is often neglected is the environmental aspect of CPEC, she said. “While President Xi Jinping has ensured that the Belt and Road Initiative would be ‘green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable’, Pakistan, being the world’s seventh most climate impacted country, must start prioritising green energy development initiatives and build climate resilience, especially since infrastructural and industrial growth takes away chunks of green acres and expose us to more air and marine pollution.”

She also said there was a clear lack of coordination between government agencies and financing methods with provinces as well as private-sector facilitation. “Confusion in communicating the ministry’s plans are common, and offer few tangible incentives for businesses to build projects that invest in training human capital.”

The CPEC Committee in Senate Chairperson also said, “A higher commitment to transparency, pertaining to coordination and contracts will assist CPEC advocates in Pakistan to identify gaps in both planning and investment roadmaps, whether it be between provinces within Pakistan, or between federal ministries or as joint venture projects.”

“President Xi has prioritised transparency but unfortunately, our government has not. Right now, there seems to be a lack of clarity in priorities and the sharing of contractual terms,” continued Rehman.

The Vice-President of Pakistan Peoples Party further said, “Despite all this the consensus on realising the potential of this huge opportunity is clear in all parties and provinces. The government is unable to exercise its function of convening meetings to maintain the consensus in the midst of course corrections on priorities and sectors.”

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2019

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