The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project has been marketed as a revolutionary game-changer which will result in the saving of Pakistan’s economy. There have been many predictions and praises of the potential benefits of the project-a boost of 10,400 MW of energy, high quality infrastructure to the tune of $11 billion, and flourishing tourism and trade. For a project that is so in the spotlight, there has been surprisingly little transparency and reporting on CPEC, and now cracks have begun to appear on the spotless surface of the dream that is CPEC.
Although the government did not release any details of the Joint Cooperation Council (JCC), the highest-level decision-making committee of the two countries, there is credible news that China has temporarily stopped funding of some projects particularly those related to the road network under CPEC till further decision regarding ‘new guidelines’ to be issued from Beijing. All three projects were originally part of the government’s own development programme, but in late 2016, were announced to be included under the CPEC umbrella to become eligible for concessionary finance from China.
These are a series of snags that have hit CPEC, with previously hurdles occurring with the Diamer-Bhasha dam project, where the Chinese were asking for terms unfavourable to Pakistan. This delay in the three projects is more serious as the reports indicate that China temporarily halted release of funds for the corridor as it is unhappy with speculated corruption from Pakistan on the projects. The official said the Pakistani side was left “stunned” when told of this development
While these impediments are temporary and will be concluded with time, they do draw attention to how complicated CPEC is and the need for sharpness and caution around the project; and how it is not just a magical solution which can occur just by signing papers. It also signifies the shift in CPEC from just ‘early harvest’ power schemes to a wide project encompassing all fields that is beyond the scope of just one government.
These initial difficulties can be overcome with more transparency and accountability from the Pakistan government. The whole country supports the project; however, it has the right to have information on the technicalities of the project to assess the impact on local producers. The continuation of seth culture on behalf of the Pakistani government, coupled with no reports of meetings with China, could be a disastrous combination, as evidenced by the halting of these three projects.