- Phase 2 needs more attention if it is to get anywhere
The Planning Minister and the Chinese Ambassador vowed to make the second phase of CPEC a success in their recent meeting. Beneath the surface is another postponement of the scheduled meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee, which cannot take place until the Joint Working Group on industrialisation and economic zones meets. The minister and the ambassador took up this very issue, because the difference between the two sides are to be resolved at their meeting, and the failure so far to finalise the agenda of the meeting and the minutes of the previous meeting.
There appear to be two major issues holding up the second phase. First, there seem to be issues surrounding the financing of the railways mainline upgradation project, which is the centerpiece of this phase of the CPEC. Then, there are issues surrounding the infrastructure to be provided for the special economic zones, which are central to the industrialization component of the CPEC as a whole. Settling these issues should not be as difficult as the government seems to be making it.
After all, the present government is now benefiting from the first phase, being busy inaugurating projects somehow completed in its tenure, but initiated during its predecessors, such as the Orange Line Metro train. The government should realize that its record on the CPEC, which started with PM’s Commerce Adviser Razzaq Dawood trashing it in a Financial Times interview back in 2018 soon after the PTI came to power, has not been as good as that of its predecessors. A CPEC Authority was set up to expedite the pace of work, but the needless brouhaha over its enabling legislation shows just how little the government cares, or how feckless it is. The PTI had targeted the CPEC before taking power, but now has to rely on it to provide the economy the stability it needs if it hopes to be re-elected. As significant, it needs the fillip of the CPEC to help the economy emerge from the depths the covid-19 pandemic has plunged it in. However, that requires the government to pay more attention to the business of bread-and-butter governance, and less to an accountability drive which seems to be going nowhere, serving just so that opponents can be hounded.