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Transparency in the execution of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has become very much important. The people have a right to know what exactly is being negotiated. The government, however, claimed that an 'abridged version' of the Long-Term Plan has been shared with key stakeholders, including industry and the provincial governments, and that their feedback has been incorporated. But the transparency of the project still remained one of greater issue for CPEC completion. Around $56 billion under CPEC is a significant amount of money in the Pakistani context and that the question arises whether the process of this magnitude has the potential to do a lot of good.

Fairness and straightforwardness demand a standing of neutrality on CPEC till the terms and conditions are disclosed, without which one cannot arrive at an objective assessment of whether it could be possibly beneficial for the country.

The recently concluded Belt and Road Summit with participation of 29 heads of other states and governments, and delegations from nations around the world and international institutions shows that China is all set to lead the geo-economic international order under its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with one of the six corridors of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The real issue here is lack of transparency. Unfortunately, the government has been anything but forthcoming when it comes to CPEC. That is something, which must be to set right urgently. Security concerns and political instability are major concerns. CPEC indeed embodies an important set of projects for an economy like Pakistan.

There is no doubt that the infrastructure it aims to build, the power it plans to generate, the traffic it foresees to flow and the livelihoods it promises are all mega news for any economy. After all the sentiment towards China is that it is the financier and supporter of the initiative amongst Pakistani people.

Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the most transparent project of Pakistan. In an interview, he said nothing has been concealed regarding the project and everything is available on its website. The Minister said each and every aspect of the project has been debated in detail in the parliament. He said it is a long term planning and its draft will likely be signed by the end of this month.

Ahsan Iqbal said CPEC is aimed at putting Pakistan on the path of industrialization and value addition to the country's agriculture sector. He said Pakistan and China are going to form a strategic partnership to boost development in the region. China and Pakistan have agreed to oversee and ensure the transparency of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, with a joint agreement signed between the National Accountability Bureau and Beijing.

CPEC projects goes far beyond highways and power plants. We in Pakistan people have a right to know what exactly is being negotiated and since transparency of the project is the big issue concerning the people of Pakistan it is the job of government to explain to their Chinese counterparts that political parties in Pakistan demand greater transparency.

All economic policies that contain plans for the medium terms are publicized are well known to the experts for economic and financial analysis. This includes the long term five-year plans and the IMF agreements. The CPEC Long-Term Plan cannot be an exception, especially since it goes further than any past economic and financial plan in terms of its impact on the economy. There should be no fear for CPEC to enter into our economy. Any sort of anxieties regarding CPEC can only be lessened through open disclosure of the terms on which the project is being negotiated.

Keeping secret all the terms will cause more and more anxiety. The government in this context should immediately prepare to show the full extent of the understandings it has entered into with the government of China. A greater challenge that needs attention of both Pakistan and China is India's reservations and its non-participation in the BRI summit. This has raised questions about future Indian strategy to deal with the deepening China-Pakistan economic and defense cooperation.

The government should take our economics experts into confidence and there should be an open debate. The risks to CPEC, even as identified by the Chinese documents themselves, are significant. Security concerns and political instability are major concerns. The government must have to be very clear as to precisely how any gains accruing to the country from CPEC will be divided amongst its population, and how the various political, inter-provincial, ethnic and other tensions are to be managed.

There will have to be some vision for how middle- and working-classes can be successfully included in the prosperity that the Corridor projects are supposed to bring. A greater challenge that needs attention of both Pakistan and China is India's reservations and its non-participation in the BRI summit. This has raised questions about future Indian strategy to deal with the deepening China-Pakistan economic and defence cooperation.

Pakistan had yet to determine the expected cost and benefit, expressed in monetary terms, of the mega project. Based on the profile of workforce engaged on projects in progress, officials insist that over 80 percent direct new jobs will be filled by locals in the initial years. The government team intends to hire consultants for a proper cost benefit analysis based on data. The results will be shared with the media. No doubt CPEC enjoys the support and backing of all political parties and segments of the establishment and that its popularity among the public will grow when gains start touching their lives. The discipline, efficiency and the speed of work on CPEC projects must be appreciated.
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Publication:Pakistan & Gulf Economist
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jun 4, 2017

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