–FM says PTI govt will continue to do ‘what is beneficial for Pakistan’
–FO spokesperson says CPEC debt amounts to $4.9bn ‘which is not even 10 per cent of country’s total debt’
ISLAMABAD: Days after US diplomat Alice Wells renewed criticism on the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday categorically cleared that when it comes to CPEC, Pakistan has to look out for “its best interests”.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the foreign minister said that the “government will continue to do what is beneficial to Pakistan”.
The statement comes a day after China issued a strongly-worded statement in response to allegations leveled by Wells, who claimed there was “no transparency in CPEC projects” and that Pakistan’s debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing.
“Chinese money is not assistance. By getting Chinese financing for the projects, Pakistan is buying expensive loans and as a buyer, it needed to be aware of what it was doing as this would take a heavy toll on its already struggling economy,” Alice Wells had said.
She also alleged that companies blacklisted by the World Bank had got contracts in the mega project.
During the weekly media briefing on Thursday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui sought to set the record straight about a growing impression that Pakistan’s economy is under tremendous burden from Chinese debt.
“The CPEC debt amounts to $4.9bn which is not even 10 per cent of the country’s total debt,” she explained.
Farooqui said that the 7,000MW CPEC power projects worth $12.4bn “have reached completion” and that the completion of all other CPEC projects were the government’s top priority.
The spokesperson reminded the media that the CPEC “has helped Pakistan to address development gaps in energy, infrastructure, industrialisation and job creation”.
She stressed that it should be viewed in terms of “enormous economic benefits for the people of Pakistan and social economic development”.
She also highlighted its benefits for “regional connectivity and prosperity”.
The Ministry of Planning also issued a response to Wells’ remarks. According to a statement by the ministry’s spokesperson, “the projects completed so far in Phase-1 have already brought relief and started yielding dividends and tangible socio-economic benefits”.
The statement said that the CPEC projects will accelerate development in the country, boosting its economic growth and ushering in prosperity for the people.
“Pakistan being a sovereign state exercises the right to chose economic partners from around the globe on mutually beneficial basis,” read the press release.
According to the statement, “all related projects are being pursued as per laws and regulations of Pakistan and through an institutional mechanism wherein transparency is a priority consideration”.
“Necessary due diligence with all financial implications is being undertaken before finalisation of any projects,” the statement added.
It highlighted that the country’s “debt sustainability strategy has an endorsement of International financial institutions”.
CHINA WARNS US:
Taking strong exception to the senior US diplomat’s remarks, the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan had on Tuesday emphatically warned the US against meddling in Pak-China ties and the CPEC.
“We would be more than glad to see the US develop its relationship with Pakistan, but we strongly oppose the US interference in China-Pakistan relations and the CPEC.… we have to make our position clear and reject the negative propaganda by the US. We must not let the truth be distorted and the lies run wild,” the embassy had said in a statement.
“The comments hold nothing new,” the embassy had said and reminded that both China and Pakistan have repeatedly rejected similar insinuations in the past.
“However, the US side still ignores the facts and is obsessed with the story it made for the CPEC,” it had added.
Noting that China “puts Pakistani people’s interests first” in CPEC projects, the embassy had underscored that China and Pakistan staunchly adhere to “principles of mutual consultation and cooperation” for shared benefits.
The embassy had asked the US to let people of Pakistan decide whether or not CPEC suited them instead of judging by itself. It said the 32 CPEC early harvest projects completed over past five years have significantly improved local transportation infrastructure and power supply, created over 75,000 jobs directly and contributed up to two per cent of Pakistan’s GDP growth in Pakistan.
“It shows that CPEC is playing an important role in boosting Pakistan’s socioeconomic development and improving people’s livelihood,” China had asserted.