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October 3, 2018

Saudi Arabia not part of CPEC framework

Top Story

October 3, 2018

ISLAMABAD: While announcing to defer hike in power tariff for time being during the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) meeting on Tuesday, Minister for Planning Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar said Saudi Arabia would not be part of institutional framework of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), however, bilateral initiative was open for investment from any country.

Addressing a joint press briefing along with Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, Khusro Bakhtiar said the trilateral arrangement among China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could explore investment from any other countries on the basis of viable projects.

The minister said that any country can invest in CPEC on project basis. Saudi Arabia or any other country, he said, can enter into a trilateral investment framework. He said the third-party investment framework has been designed in consultation with China.

Saudi Arabia’s high powered delegation has been currently visiting Pakistan to identify and sign projects for investment.

Fawad Chaudhry said Minister for Finance Asad Umar would brief the journalists about Saudi Arabia’s investment package soon.

When Khusro Bakhtiar was asked about railway minister’s claim regarding reduction in Mainline-1 project cost to $2 billion from $8.2 billion, he said he was not aware about it. The project is expected to be financed by China, but its financing modalities and feasibility studies are still incomplete even after passing of several years.

The PTI government, Khusro Bakhtiar said, would not take risks by completing mega projects on engineering procurement and construction (EPC) model and would instead shift the entire financing risks to the contractors.

Under the original CPEC plan, China had promised to give $6.2 billion out of the then estimated cost of $8.2 billion of the mainline project. The Asian Development Bank was required to give $2 billion loan but China opposed this plan and ousted the ADB. Under the May 2017 framework agreement, China insisted for solely financing ML-1 project to modernise rail link from Karachi to Peshawar.

“CPEC is like a five-day Test match but the PML-N government played it like a T20 match,” said Khusro Bakhtiar.

The minister said the last government set the CPEC priorities under political considerations, which was injustice with the people of Pakistan. He criticised the last government for ignoring Gwadar development by not ensuring provision of electricity and water. He assured that the PTI government would take forward the under implementation CPEC projects. Bakhtiar said that the last government allocated only Rs172 billion for CPEC schemes as against the total requirements of Rs192 billion for the ongoing fiscal year.

The minister also said that Pakistan and China have also agreed to setup a new working group on socio-economic development to deepen cooperation in education, health, agriculture, housing and poverty alleviation.

Earlier, Asad Umar presided over the ECC meeting, which allowed export of one million metric ton (1-MMT) surplus sugar. It approved issuance of salary for the month of August 2018 to the employees of Pakistan Steel Mills, read a statement issued after the meeting. On the proposal of the Ministry of Commerce, the ECC also accorded approval to revised cess rates of tobacco.

Moreover, the meeting directed formation of a special committee comprising members from Finance, Power Division, Auditor General, Ministry of Petroleum and FBR to address various issues relating to K-Electric.