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April 27, 2019

Belt and Road Forum: Pakistan, China one on tackling corruption

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April 27, 2019

BEIJING: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said Pakistan and China were entering the next phase of the multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which would focus on lifting people out of poverty.

 In his keynote address at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, Imran Khan said the next phase of CPEC would focus on socio-economic uplift, poverty alleviation, agricultural cooperation and industrial development.

“We are expanding the frontiers of knowledge through deeper cooperation in the fields of education, innovation and technology. (Under) CPEC, special economic zones will be set up,” the premier said.

Putting forward five points to further expand the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the prime minister said joint efforts were needed to tackling of white-collar crime, mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, establish BRI tourism corridors to promote people-to-people and intercultural understanding, poverty alleviation fund and concerted efforts to further liberalise trade and investment.

He said the BRI offers a model of collaboration, partnership, connectivity and shared prosperity, and called for joint efforts towards addressing obstacles on the way to sustainable growth.

Pakistan is amongst BRI’s earliest and most enthusiastic proponents, the premier said, adding that the CPEC project has addressed Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure gaps. Imran said both the countries are signing the second phase of Free Trade Agreement to further bolster bilateral trade and economic relations.

He thanked China and its leadership for extending unwavering support to Pakistan, and said relations between the two countries remain strong and stand tall in the face of any challenge. The premier said Pakistan will continue to work on the basis of mutual respect and equal opportunity with China and other BRI partners.

Imran also invited international investors to make use of Pakistan's liberal investment regime and participate in the country's economy, particularly in infrastructure, railways, dams, IT and manufacturing sectors.

Among the leaders in attendance are Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose country became the first G7 member to sign up to Belt and Road. But EU powers Germany and France are sending ministers instead. The United States, which sent a senior White House official to the first BRI summit in 2017, has not dispatched any officials from Washington.

The prime minister is visiting the country on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Addressing the summit earlier, Xi rejected accusations that the BRI is a "debt trap" and a geopolitical tool for Beijing´s ambitions of becoming a global superpower.

"The Belt and Road is not an exclusive club," Xi said. In a nod to the concerns over loans, he said "we also need to ensure the commercial and fiscal sustainability of all projects so that they will achieve the intended goals as planned."

Xi Jinping said his global infrastructure project will have "zero tolerance" for corruption. He also offered soothing remarks to the US over subsidies, the yuan and trade as the two sides head into fresh high-level talks next week.

"Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption," Xi said at the gathering of 37 world leaders. According to a draft of the final communiqué obtained by AFP, the leaders will encourage multilateral development banks and other international financial institutions to support projects "in fiscally sustainable ways" and mobilise private capital in line with local needs.

"We emphasise the importance of economic, social, fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability of projects," the draft says. Imran Khan also held a meeting with World Bank Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva on the sidelines of the summit.

The World Bank chief executive pledged to further strengthen cooperation with Pakistan in the areas of disbursements programme lending and guaranteed provision for raising external funds.

Imran Khan informed the World Bank CEO about the recent steps taken by his government to improve the country’s economic and fiscal situation. He also apprised the official about the socio-economic measures taken by the government, including launch of the ‘Ehsaas’ social welfare programme, to lift the people out of poverty. The premier appreciated the role played by the World Bank in regional connectivity, poverty alleviation, financial management, provisional projects, Dasu and other infrastructure projects and ease of doing business.

Imran Khan also met the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde during his official trip to China. After the meeting, the IMF director, in a social media post, said that she was glad to meet the Pakistani premier in a meeting where a comprehensive policy package was discussed to alleviate Pakistan's economy.

“We discussed prospects for a comprehensive policy package and international financial support to help stabilise the economy of Pakistan, and also the need to strengthen governance and protect the poor,” she said.

Meanwhile, addressing a luncheon hosted by China-Pakistan Friendship Association and International Cultural Communication Centre in Beijing, Imran Khan said the entire country is backing CPEC.

“Because of CPEC other countries are now looking to invest in Pakistan. The whole country is behind CPEC and supporting it. China is our main hope for investment,” he said. Speaking about China and its advancements, the premier said, “Chinese universities have developed intelligence in various technologies and they are far ahead of every other country.”

“China is a very unique country,” the PM said, adding, “It is the only country in history to take 700 million people out of poverty. We want to learn from China and are collaborating with them to take Pakistan out of poverty.”

The prime minister further said economic zones are part of CPEC. “Certain Chinese industries will be part of the economic zone. We are looking forward to Chinese investments and relocation of certain Chinese industries,” he said.

The premier added that Pakistan wants to learn from China how they have industrialised and raised the standard of living. On the subject of Afghanistan, Imran said Pakistan wants a peaceful solution to the issue.” “Pakistan wants a peaceful solution to the issue between Taliban and the Afghan government so that there can be peace in the country. Whatever happens in Afghanistan affects Pakistan,” he said.

The premier added the only problem right now is the issue with India. ‘We are hoping we can return to dialogue after the election in India,” he said. Concluding his talk, the prime minister said the relationship between Pakistan and China has grown stronger. “We know that whenever there have been difficult times, China has always been there for Pakistan, which is why there is a strong relationship between our people,” he said.

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