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Opinion

March 29, 2017

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CPEC and Punjab

CPEC is not just a transit route for Chinese exports. It is an economic corridor that equally benefits both China and Pakistan. Two-thirds of CPEC’s scope entail an investment in the major sectors of Pakistan’s economy. This includes infrastructure, energy and industrial diversification through Chinese private business sector investment.

The project will not only pave the way for Pakistan to overcome economic issues – such as unemployment, the energy crisis, the underdevelopment of national infrastructure and the overall external economic dependency – but will also strengthen the economy by building capacity in these sectors.

Punjab is supporting the federal government in finalising the long-term plan (LTP) for CPEC by ensuring its sectoral priorities and targeting the regional socio-economic needs. There is an urgent need to identify projects pertaining to the sectors of interest to promote sustainable economic activity that may eventually result in a high employment rate, balanced urbanisation and a developed services sector.

For this, concrete and well-conceived proposals are required to orchestrate a futuristic LTP, which not only cover the needs but also recognises the potential of the province in the times to come. Emphasis must also be placed on the policy framework and research and development (R&D) while identifying priority sectors for the LTP to gain comparative advantage in these identified sectors in future.

To reap the optimal gains of CPEC, it is imperative to evaluate and realise the potential of our region in the various prioritised sectors, including spatial planning, industrial parks, and agriculture and water resources. There is also a need to identify the necessary steps which must be taken to overcome the bottlenecks that may cause delays in the implementation of CPEC.

Punjab has a huge potential to take the lead under CPEC. This is primarily due to Punjab’s conducive business environment in terms of its suitable geography, its sustainable law and order situation, the high Human Development Index of its population and its cultural diversity and dynamic leadership.

With respect to CPEC, Punjab, along with other provinces, needs to promote the project at both local and international forums. The project offers one of the most advantageous opportunities to make the future of our next generation better through overall socio-economic progress.

The government of Punjab has formulated a blueprint of the provincial planning and implementation mechanism for CPEC. This has been done to ensure the provincial departments concerned can put into place a robust implementation and monitoring framework to make CPEC a success story. The salient features of the planning and implementation mechanism for CPEC include establishing provincial steering committees, CPEC unit/nodes in all concerned departments and sectoral working groups.

Currently, the Punjab government has been successful in identifying two sites to establish special economic zones. One of the sites is situated near Quaid-Azam Apparel Park on the M2 while the other is near Faisalabad on the M3. An additional project, titled

‘Iron Ore Mining, Processing and Steel Mills Complex at Chiniot’, has already been approved for implementation by the JCC. Furthermore, the proposals have been made to identify potential sites in Punjab to establish industrial parks, relocate Chinese industries and establish a mineral development zone.

In order to make CPEC a success for Punjab, there is a pressing need to revisit investment policies, replace traditional industrial estate management and identify and promote the sectors in which we have comparative advantage over China. A coherent and consistent provincial industrial policy must then be designed – along with an attractive incentive package that considers the sustainability and comparative advantage of local industries and both local and foreign investors – to accelerate the overall provincial industrial growth.

 

The writer is the chief economist of
the Planning and Development Board, Punjab.

 

 

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