UNFORTUNATELY, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been again severely criticized in the country and around the world since the conclusion of 10th Pak-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC). Ironically, a series of anti-CPEC news items, articles and commentaries have created “infertile” debate.
However, Prime Minister Imran Khan again termed it “guarantor” of Pakistan’s economic future and emphasized to start its phase-II as soon as possible. Whereas, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar “demystified” the domestic and international propaganda and assured that despite complex challenges, CPEC projects are on the right track and meeting deadlines. He confirmed the expansion of CPEC which has attracted more and more investments beyond industrial estates.
In this connection, even Foreign Ministry of China “extended” its support for the early initiation of CPEC Phase-II. Somehow, there has been a new “surge” in anti-China/BRI/CPEC media campaigns in the world and the country too. It has certain “flaws” and “factual” errors which need to be rectified as soon as possible.
On the 72nd National Day of China, the Daily Dawn published an editorial titled “transparency needed” which purposefully malign China’s investments in One Belt & One Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC terming the both debt trap and full of hidden debts. It referred to a report prepared by the US-based research lab AidData on the composition of Chinese loaning for infrastructure projects under the CPEC. It called for greater transparency in the projects being executed here since 2015. Moreover, it also raised serious concerns about the effects and consequent so-called negative outcome of CPEC financing on the country’s macro-economy along with operationalization of projects and its repayment schedules.
Frankly speaking, this so-called research report has been dominated by “geopolitics” and not geo-economy because of the US and West China containment policy. Even basic principles of “genuine” research methods and modules have not been properly followed and intentionally selected data was slanted against China. Moreover, it is primarily based on presumptions, self-inserted parameters, self-defined procedures and self-centered policies to tarnish Chinese regional and global investment especially under the BRI & CPEC.
Even basic laws of financial accounting, manuals of credit management, SPOS of financial management, misinterpretation of state’s sovereign guarantees, misperception of international law and last but not the least, basic procedures of mutual exchange, discussion, ratification and finalization of any MOU/agreement/contract was ill connived.
The authors of this so-called research report could not establish any direct correlation between the two independent variables and deliberately associate different causes of default, meltdown of economies, political instability and social disharmony with Chinese loans which is not true.
In this connection, the government of Pakistan has been assuring the high levels of “transparency” and “openness” in the CPEC projects and claiming no “hidden debt”. Nevertheless, the PTI, when in opposition, had demanded complete transparency in CPEC investments. But now the incumbent government does not have an issue with the ongoing projects of CPEC which is a good omen. Rather it has been rigorously persuading the completion of CPEC Phase-I and start of Phase-II in the country which shows its “viability”, “vibrancy” and “victory”.
The said newspaper surprisingly projected that the government has so far done nothing to make public the costs or conditions of the CPEC deals with China’s government, companies and banks, keeping the matter strictly under wraps just as its predecessor had done. Thus it tried to spread doubts in the minds of readers and main stakeholders about the actual utility, importance and financial viability of CPEC projects.
It is seemingly not a wise move because some matters should not be judged on the “canvas” of only “commercialism”. In this connection, CPEC is a matter of the country’s future socio-economic prosperity, energy up-gradation, massive industrialization, green energy, eradication of poverty, generation of new jobs, immense social development, agricultural revolution and last but not the least, greater regional connectivity.
According to this newspaper, the said report has successfully collected scattered data and information to show the hidden costs of CPEC, especially its potential impact of Chinese loans for the power and transport infrastructure on Pakistan’s economy. The so-called tall claim of this report is sub-standard, factious and fictional.
On the contrary, the CPEC projects of energy and transportation are contributing to the macro-economy of the country. Both have immense socio-economic multiplier effects. Moreover, the main emphasis of the report is on hidden costs of CPEC which is untrue, un-factual and false. CPEC energy projects have substantially increased energy production and consequently reduced load-shedding. Moreover, the inclusion of numerous hydropower projects has now ratified its energy mix.
In this context, nine out of 22 energy projects had been completed, while five mega electricity projects in Thar, Kohala, Azad Pattan and others were in the pipeline. After completion of all the projects, Pakistan would not only become self-sufficient in energy with addition of 17,000 MW electricity will be connected to the national grid which will also be able to export it.
CPEC transportation projects have successfully reduced distances and further enhanced spells of development. It has minimized time and transport cost too. Thus its various projects of transportation have revolutionized the concept of inter-provincial and inter-city connectivity in the country.
The federal government allocated Rs23 billion for 17 projects of CPEC under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) 2021-22 which vividly reflected its strategic importance and utility for the people, industry and overall development of Pakistan.
According to the report, most Chinese loans for CPEC schemes consist of expensive commercial loans which have been disbursed inappropriately as 40 percent of Chinese loans have been disbursed in a way that complicates its segmentations and left no distinction between private and public debt.
On the other hand every project is properly “financed”, “documented” and “guaranteed” by the state of Pakistan under sovereign guarantee in case of default. Conversely, the CPEC loans sanctioned for the infrastructure projects were advanced on much lower the rates charged by the international lending agencies. Thus US study of terming Chinese loans as “Higher Interest ” does not have any credibility.
Being a prominent regional expert of CPEC & BRI, this scribe suggests that there is an urgent need to protect the Chinese workers, engineers, technicians and investors working on different ongoing projects of CPEC. Thus mutual or joint Pak-China security cooperation is the need of the hour.
Formation of real corridors of knowledge, media, marketing, advocacy, advertising, research and last but not the least, a counter-propaganda comprehensive media campaign should be urgently executed in the country. Senses of economic nationalism should be preferred over advertising compulsions. Ours is the age of national narratives which is being disseminated through innovative media outlets should be prioritized. In this regard, the club of pseudo intellectuals should not be left on the mercy of foreign investors to plough their seeds of hatred, bigotry and disharmony against the ongoing projects of BRI & CPEC.