- No decision on ML-1 financing
There is a perception that the progress of the CPEC has slowed down during the present government. Recently an important meeting was delayed, a vital project announced with fanfare seems to be in doldrums and provincial level preparations are neglected with the result that some of the cherished projects are held up. The slowdown can partly be attributed to the pandemic which has affected the economies of both China and Pakistan. CPEC-related activities, however, appeared tepid even during the year and half of the PTI government before the advent of covid-19.
The 10th review meeting of CPEC’s Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) was earlier scheduled for October. Reportedly some of the joint working groups (JWGs), which are bilateral forums that refine proposed projects for the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) could not meet on schedule, leading to delay in the JCC’s meeting, which will now be held in the third week of November. Interestingly, the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Karachi-Lahore Peshawar (ML-1) Railway Track may not be finalised at the review meeting despite Railways Minister Sh Rashid having already congratulated the government and himself several times while telling the nation that the ML-1 would soon provide 150,000 jobs. The strategic ML-1 project is worth $6.8 billion. Pakistan had reportedly shared a tentative financing term sheet for the project with China early this year and requested the loan at the lowest rate of 1%. Chinese authorities have however avowedly shown reluctance to provide the loan at this rate. The PTI government wants to take up the issue at the highest political level in China hoping that an agreement would be reached.
The feasibility study of the Greater Peshawar Mass Transit Project has not yet been completed by the KP government. New projects would be considered in the next JCC meeting after approval of PC-Is, including the Swat Express Way Phase-II and Peshawar-DI Khan Motorway. As the understanding reached in the ninth JCC meeting, some of these projects had to be ready for framework agreement this year, but the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa could not complete preparatory work, according to officials. All this helps create the perception that things are not moving as efficiently as these did under the previous government.