Senate Standing Committee directs government to expedite projects to regain Beijing’s confidence
The Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on Thursday urged the government to expedite projects linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), emphasizing that Beijing was not satisfied with the current progress of implementation.
“According to my personal sources, the Chinese are not happy with the current progress of CPEC projects, as they have approached me to help remove the bottlenecks,” said committee Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla, and urged Special Assistant to the P.M. on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor to take responsibility for timely completion of CPEC projects.
Directing Mansoor to remove bottlenecks from various mega projects, Mandviwalla said this would allow for the upgradation of ML-1 and completion of various hydropower projects in a timely manner.
“My number one priority is to regain the Chinese confidence,” Mansoor told Mandviwalla, adding that he had already met representatives of 40 out of 135 Chinese companies working in Pakistan. “I will take responsibility for the implementation of the projects and I will go personally to all the concerned ministries and divisions to implement the CPEC projects,” he vowed.
Mansoor joined the government earlier this year after the ouster of CPEC Authority chief Asim Saleem Bajwa. He briefed the committee on various issues facing investors, including payment issues of independent power projects; outstanding dues; establishment of revolving account for automatic payments; and increase in withholding tax on sponsors’ dividends from 7.5 percent to 25 percent after their investment. He said authorities would soon established an investment facilitation center to provide One Window Operation for Chinese investors.
The committee was informed that 21 CPEC projects worth $15.7 billion had been completed, comprising 10 power projects of 5,320MW and HVDC transmission line worth $9.6 billion; five infrastructure—roads, mass transit and optical fiber—projects worth $5.8 billion; two projects related to the Gwadar Port and Free Zone and City Master Plan worth $300 million; and four social economic development plans valued at $140 million. Another 31 projects of $9.3 billion are currently underway, while 36 projects worth $28.4 billion are under consideration.
Mandiviwalla lamented that government departments were working very slowly, adding that they needed to be pushed to expedite the process.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, meanwhile, responded to complaints of Senator Danish Kumar about insufficient CPEC investment in Balochistan, claiming that a lot of development work—desalination plants, technical training centers, roads—had been carried out, particularly in Gwadar. He said that apart from CPEC, a special Rs. 560 billion development package had also been announced for southern Balochistan to establish I.T. parks, industrial zones, power plants, dams, and road projects.
To a complaint by Mandviwalla that several of the senate committee’s proposals for development works at provincial and federal levels were not considered for inclusion in the Public Sector Development Program, Umar said this was the domain of the National Economic Council. “The NEC approval is final,” he added, explaining that March 31, 2022 was the last date for submitting any project seeking inclusion in next year’s PSDP.