Will CPEC become a New East India Company? This is a question being asked by many. This solely depends on the planning and execution which is necessary to safeguard interests of Pakistan. The national and provincial government and relevant ministries are dealing with CPEC related projects and working to cooperate with one another to boost economic activity.
The global economy is going to impinge on the local politics and structure of Pakistan and therefore will affect how Pakistan will protect its own interests. It has to select its friends and foes strategically and this is a time to capitalize relations with countries which have shown interest in BRI of which a very small segment relates to CPEC. Balochistan in particular will benefit from CPEC and will create positivity for the region. The influx of Chinese populace and efforts that are required towards adaptation of the Chinese culture remains to be seen. The legal rights of public especially the people of Gwadar need to be safeguarded. The government is advised to follow port cities like Dubai and Singapore in safeguarding the public rights according to the constitution and legislation of Pakistan. The acculturation of the Chinese amidst the diversified regional and economic backdrop of Pakistan will further make this region rich and connected with the global economy. However, proper legislation is required to safe guard the beauty of our culture, norms, and values in the face of changing dynamics under CPEC which need to be emphasized.
It is important to remove all sorts of misperception and trust deficit within the country regarding CPEC and build a forum for open interaction between industry, academia and small and medium enterprises. More importantly we can borrow from the Malaysian model and the Cuban model where the locals were incorporated in all foreign direct investments within the country and where all profits were repatriated into the local coffers to boost the national economy. The trade routes should have tolls imposed and the routes should be managed to incorporate local trade to the Chinese cities. This should enable a balance of trade between the countries not to mention the technical and economic exchange of goods and services. More importantly the impact of CPEC should be assessed on the basis of its impact on poverty in Pakistan. A simple measure of this is the Multidimensional Poverty Index which captures the deprivation that each person experiences with respect to education, health and standard of living. While official monetary measures reflect deprivation in income and consumption only MPI measures effects on education, health, and living standards. Pakistan’s poverty measure estimates 29.5% of population to be living below the poverty line. This can be addressed by assessing CPEC’s ability to cover major areas affecting unserved and underserved areas of the country thereby linking these to trans-regional economic belts linking key economic regions at the skeleton and major cities and industrial parks as nodes. The scope covers the whole territory of Pakistan and the Xinjiang with a total area of 2 million square kilometers and a population totaling over 250 million. The CPEC portfolio covers a number of energy, transportation and telecom projects amounting to up to USD 2 billion and is going to have a positive impact on the areas in Pakistan where economic development is at a standstill.
CPEC is to Pakistan what the Indus river was to the Indus Valley Civilization, we only need to know how to drink from it.