CPEC authority soon: Khusro

Islamabad    –  The government has announced to establish the proposed CPEC authority shortly.

The Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Khusro Bakhtyar, addressing a press conference here Sunday, said that CPEC authority would be established soon and it will work under the Ministry of Planning which will help to streamline projects in an efficient and smooth manner. The minister was talking to media ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China.

The Parliament had its own role that would be followed but it was necessary to get the authority functioning through an efficient human resource to ensure that project operations are not suspended, the minister said while responding to a question.

It merits mentioning here that Senate special committee on CPEC in its last meeting had announced that establishment of CPEC authority through ordinance will be unacceptable and if government wanted to establish it through act of Parliament then they should bring bill to the parliament in this regard.

Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtyar said Pakistan was offering China a number of new projects and starting formal negotiations for agreements.

“All the existing projects under the CPEC portfolio have been streamlined and there is no slowdown anywhere,” he said, adding, “In particular, energy projects of about 4300MW are currently under construction and another 2500MW projects were in planning phase,” he maintained.

Khusro said Gwadar Master Plan had been finalised, issues relating to Gwadar Free Trade Zone had been addressed and 19 Chinese companies were ready to move in with their investments in Gwadar. Likewise, the 300MW power project at Gwadar had also been approved and grid connectivity being provided.

The minister said, “We are taking a number of projects to China to start formal negotiations”. These projects would be taken up at the highest level during Prime Minister Khan’s meetings with president and prime minister of China and technical discussions would follow current month at various joint working group level and then during upcoming meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) in November.

Pakistan will be offering 7000MW Bunji Hydropower Project in the first phase to China to be followed by other projects on the Indus Cascade, he said. To enhance local production of steel, the prime minister will offer steel sector for Chinese cooperation which will help reduce about $2 billion current imports on account of scrap and steel products, the minister maintained.

With the Chinese help Pakistan Steel Mills capacity will be enhanced to 3 million tonnes from the present one million tonnes, he added. He said Pakistan’s steel requirement was estimated to increase from current 9 million tonnes to 12 million tonnes in a few years as economy would grow. At present, the country’s total steel production stood at 4.5million tonnes.

On top of that, Pakistan was requesting China to help increase capacity of its oil refineries to reduce by $1.5b the current oil import bill of $14b a year. Karachi-based Pakistan Refinery Limited (PRL) and PSM were being proposed to China for government to government agreement with going through the procurement rules. He said Pakistan was also proposing LNG overland terminal to increase regasification capacity by one billion cubic feet per day.

Khusro Bakhtyar said the Main Railway Line (ML-1) from Karachi to Lahore had been in the cold storage for five years but the government had decided to “start formal engagements for negotiations” on the project despite challenges of external debt and current account deficit.

He said Pakistan was focusing on operationalization of special economic zones to benefit from China’s industrial relocation which would also be done through joint ventures between the businesses of the two countries.

The minister said that inauguration of SEZs had been delayed since 2015 but the Faisalabad Industrial Zone would be inaugurated by December this year and a major company would start its factory there. Similarly, some agreements regarding Rashakai SEZ had been signed and some more would be signed in two-three weeks.

Khusro said the soft opening of Multan-Sukkur Motorway had been done and announced that its formal inauguration was being arranged on the sidelines of JCC meeting in November when Chinese vice president would be in Pakistan.

Similarly, he said Pakistan was also proposing about $200 million worth of new projects in the agriculture sector for business-to-business agreements on fisheries and shrimps in the coastal areas to be followed up at the JCC and JWG discussions for business cooperation in livestock sector.

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