Tuesday May 28, 2024

Minutes of key JCC meeting unsigned even after 11 months

By Our Correspondent
September 23, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Under the much-hyped China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), both countries have so far remained unable to sign the official minutes of Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting even after almost 11 months.

The CPEC review meeting has now directed the authorities concerned to remove the concerns of Chinese side immediately so that the minutes of 11th JCC could be signed by both sides at the earliest.

The CPEC review committee was apprised of the development of Gwadar Free Zone. Different enterprises are now operational under phase 1 and the meeting directed the authorities of Maritime Security at the federal level and the government of Balochistan to expedite the progress of 2nd phase of Gwadar Free Zone, so that it could be made operational.

The representatives from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Government of Balochistan, while sharing the progress of the Gwadar Free Zone, stated that various enterprises are operational in Phase-I. It was decided to expedite the development progress of 2nd Phase of the Gwadar Free Zone.

For the Rashakai Special Economic Zone (RSEZ), exemption of duties on the imported raw materials and semi-finished products used for processing and production not available in Pakistan have been sought.

Secondly, the issue of preferential electricity tariff for SEZs, a higher tariff rate (tariff-C/ Single-Point Supply), which is considerably higher than the typical industrial power tariff, remained unresolved. There is another additional demand that a 25 percent transportation subsidy on freight costs between the port and RSEZ is needed to minimise the impact of inconvenience of RSEZ location.

Top official sources confirmed to The News on Friday that the government reviewed the CPEC progress in consultation with all important ministries. It was informed that the signing of 11th JCC minutes was still awaited owing to different reasons. One of the concerns was related to the safety and security of Chinese side. Under CPEC, the 11th JCC meeting took place virtually in October 2022, so almost one year has passed but the official minutes have not been signed so far.

The Board of Investment (BOI) informed that 800 acres of land for the Bostan Special Economic Zone (SEZ) have been encroached, so the Balochistan government was directed to take action in order to get the land vacated. It was decided that the decision to construct the Bostan SEZ would continue on the envisaged 1,000 acres of land. The meeting also expressed reservations about the delay in floating of Request of Proposals (RFP) for conducting a feasibility study of Islamabad’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and directed the authorities concerned to advertise the RFP without any further delay.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research told the meeting that the feasibility study for the development of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) free zone in south Balochistan was currently underway and was expected to be completed within one month. The government of Punjab has also taken the initiative to develop an FMD-free zone in the Cholistan area.

The Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast (DTMB-A) Project is being developed by the Chinese side on Grant in-aid basis at three different sites of Pakistan, including Murree, Cherat and Kala Shah Kaku. The company applied for NOC for the above-mentioned sites access, which has been pending since December 2022. Due to the non-availability of NOC, the technical teams could not visit the sites to carry out installation, commissioning & integration activities. The required security clearance would be done immediately. However, the project could not be implemented in the past because the required equipment for maintenance purposes was not allowed to get from any other party, so the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting undertook due diligence to remove this clause in the past.

According to official announcement made by the Ministry of Planning on Friday, the Caretaker Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Muhammad Sami Saeed asked all the ministries and divisions to expedite the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

The minister said this while chairing a meeting to review the progress over the CPEC projects. The meeting was attended by the Chief Economist of Pakistan and representatives of various ministries and divisions. During the meeting, the minister was apprised about the progress of CPEC projects, particularly after the 12th JCC meeting held in July 2023. The CPEC agreement was signed between Pakistan and China on July 5, 2013.

The representatives of various ministries and divisions gave a detailed briefing over the implementation status of their respective projects in different sectors like Energy, Infrastructure, Information Technology, Gwadar International Airport, Special Economic Zone (SEZs) and other key areas.

In the early harvest projects of CPEC, six mega infrastructure projects were completed, including Havelian-Thakot section of KKH, Multan-Sukkur (M-5) Motorway, Hakla-D I Khan Motorway, Optical Fibre Cable, East Bay Expressway & Orange Line Metro Train. Furthermore, on western alignment of CPEC, work on different sections is under implementation, which will be completed by 2024.

Since, most of these highways pass through far-flung areas of Pakistan, it has opened those areas for business, which will bring prosperity. The meeting was further informed that the meeting of Joint Working Groups (JWG) on infrastructure will be held next week to review the projects.

The minister also asked the relevant ministry to expedite the work on Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which include Rashakai Special Economic Zone, Dhabeji Special Economic Zone, Allama Iqbal Industrial City, Bostan Special Economic Zone, ICT Model Industrial Zone, Industrial Park on Pakistan Steel Mills land, Mirpur Industrial Zone, Mohmand Marble City and Moqpondass Special Economic Zone. Similarly, during the meeting, a briefing was also given on the upcoming Belt & Road Forum to be held in China.

The CPEC enters a significant milestone as it celebrates a decade of remarkable achievements in fostering economic growth, infrastructure development and regional connectivity. The year 2023 marks the decade of CPEC and strong partnership between Pakistan and China.

Accordingly, both Pakistan and China are celebrating 10 Years of BRI and CPEC from July 5 2023. Recently, the Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng visited Pakistan and attended a ceremony to mark the 10 years of CPEC project.