China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is neither meant for exploitation nor overburdening Pakistani’s economy, rather it will enable the country to strengthen its economic position, President Dr Arif Alvi said Thursday as he rubbished the criticism on the multifaceted gigantic project.
“There has been criticism that it overburdens our economy. I assure the participants that it does not overburden our economy but [help] the Pakistani people in [improving] their economy,” the president said while addressing a webinar on “CPEC and its impact on the region”.
The webinar was also addressed by Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan Yao Jing, Chairman CPEC Authority Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa, and Chairman of Karachi Council on Foreign Relations Ikram Sehgal.
The president hoped that the CPEC would generate economic opportunities in all sectors including hotelling, banking, finance, insurance, warehousing, food processing, and assembly of appliances which would ultimately create jobs for and help alleviate poverty.
President Alvi informed the participants that Pakistan had made a lot of progress on the CPEC projects, which could further expand keeping in view the future needs related to power generation, road and rail infrastructure, and fibre optic network to further enhance communications.
Enhancement of trade links was inevitable for peace as wars always disrupted trade activities, he said.
While lauding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, the president said that the movement of goods from one country to the other always created economic opportunities in the less developed countries.
Once peace was restored in Afghanistan, the trade might take place from Gwadar and Afghanistan as the port city was the crown jewel of the CPEC project.
The president also shed light on the ongoing and future development projects in Gwadar, including, Gwadar Expressway, 300MW power plant, Gwadar International Airport, and water desalination plant.
He said under the $62 billion CPEC project, 19 projects had been completed, 28 were in different phases of implementation, and 41 were in the pipeline.
Highlighting the completed and near completion CPEC projects including motorways, the president said building communication infrastructure was vital to strengthen the trade links.
However, he noted that Pakistan’s initial focus was to cope with the energy needs as nine power projects were complete to provide 5,300MW of electricity with three more in progress. He said the construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam was also in process that would create 15,000 jobs and 4,500 MW of electricity that would be the biggest water storage dam after Tarbella.
The president lauded China’s cooperation and guidance to Pakistan to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic and recalled his visit to the country during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.
President Alvi lauded the government’s approach of smart lockdown to let the industries and businesses work for averting a bad economic scenario, particularly for the low-income group.
With the situation improving, Pakistan is looking to enhance its exports as well as a tourism activity that had faced a setback, like every sector, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the president said.
He believed that once the CPEC projects came to fruition including those of power, health, and communications infrastructure, it would ultimately help the country steer its people out of poverty, just like China. The tax havens created in Gwadar and elsewhere would help alleviate poverty.
He also called for enhanced Pak-China cooperation in the fields of information technology and software development to create more job openings for skilled youth.
The president hoped that the CPEC would ensure bringing about peace in the region. He told the participants that while dealing with the CPEC development projects, Pakistan was well aware of the interference and belligerence from Indians on borders as well as inside Occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan.
“We are cognizant of that. There is interference to discourage CPEC work in Balochistan. But we are aware of it and in good political communication with our friends in China we will be able to overcome that,” he remarked.