ISLAMABAD: The Planning Commission’s Center of Excellence (COE) for Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC) has estimated that China’s total contribution for Pakistan’s development would cross $100 billion up to 2030 as more development projects would be made part of the CPEC in years to come.
“The total cost of CPEC projects has already gone up from $46 billion to $62 billion and it is hoped that the total cost will further go up to $100 billion by 2030 with inclusion of more projects into list of CPEC,” Executive Director to Center of Excellence (COE) for CPEC Dr Shahid Rashid told journalists in press briefing here at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) on Thursday.
When a journalist inquired whether his own appointment was made on merit and how many economists are affiliated with Center of Excellence for CPEC, he defended his appointment on this lucrative but important position, stating that he possessed PhD degree in Supply Chain Management from reputable international university. He further said that he remained affiliated with NESCOM and possessed experience of 15 years and claimed that he was appointed on merit and in accordance with the eligibility criteria for hiring as ED to COE for CPEC. Earlier, he said that Dr Safdar Sohail was brought into COE for CPEC on deputation.
He said that COE for CPEC was nascent entity which came into being on March 27, 2017 with formal inauguration and they were undertaking research in six thematic areas. Our total strength of workforce stands at 37 including 24 core researchers and 12 supporting staff. The COE for CPEC, he said, possessed 6 PhDs for different areas including 2 PhDs in Economics.
The COE for CPEC, he said, was assigned for undertaking evidence based research on different aspects of the CPEC and they also unveiled plan to provide grant money for 107 researchers from all over Pakistan. However, there has been criticism that the COE for CPEC, which was envisioned to become as think tank for this game changer initiative, would have to prove itself relevant to latest researches by giving leading role ahead of policy makers instead of creating another outfit to give jobs to liked ones with the policy of pick and choose on wish and whims of political masters.
But Dr Shahid Rashid claimed that they would become independent think tank by conducting relevant researches in important areas of the CPEC for establishing right kind of synergies for maximising benefits for Pakistan.
To another query about impact of CPEC on Pakistan’s increasing trade and current account deficits, he said that they were conducting studies for improve trade balance with China but reminded that the CPEC could not provide solutions to all economic ills being faced by the country.
Dwelling upon CPEC details, he said that there were 39 ongoing projects financed under CPEC and $29 billion projects were at the advance stage of construction under early harvest programme.
He said Pakistan could benefit from China’s plan to relocate some of its industries but Islamabad would have to grab this opportunity as Beijing was looking for shifting its industry in all 68 countries where they were undertaking projects under Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“We can relocate industry of light engineering and other sectors from China,” he said and added that they were actively working along with Board of Investment (BoI) to come up with an effective strategy instead of adopting hooch pooch approach.
He said that China Overseas Port Holding Company Limited (COPHL) was given handling of Gwadar Port on the same terms and conditions as was given to Singapore Port Authority (SPA) but they made no development at Gwadar Port.
The COPHL, he said, was given Gwadar Port on BOT (Built, Operate and Transfer) basis and they would strike break even in five years period. When asked to share details of COPHL investment made so far, he said they had invested $200 million for bringing new cranes and established four different companies to run this port on efficient and commercial basis to make it viable port that could attract traffic in months and years to come and become hub of economic activities in this part of the world.