Islamabad - Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Khusro Bakhtiar said yesterday that government had no intention to add Saudi Arabia as third party investor to the CPEC framework agreement and it was working with Pakistan as bilateral partner.

“We have no intention of adding Saudi Arabia as member to CPEC Joint Working Group or Joint Coordination Committee as it is part of the Corridor Frame Work Agreement which is bilateral between China and Pakistan,” said Khusro Bakhtiar while talking to media here. Flanked by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, the minister said that the framework between China and Pakistan was bilateral and Saudi Arab was not entering to that framework as a third party investor. However, he said, Saudi Arabia was entering as bilateral investor to Pakistan.

He said, “After coming into power, we have taken few steps regarding CPEC which includes broadening the base of CPEC and expediting its pace of work.”

In its move to broaden the CPEC base the government was seeking investment of other countries for infrastructure development including Saudi Arabia, the minister said. “In future you can see more partnership as part of CPEC. For example in future you can see Japan, China and Pakistan or Germany, China and Pakistan or any other country working jointly on CPEC infrastructure projects,” he added.

Replying to a query, the minister said that total CPEC portfolio was around $50 billion out of that amount $6 billion was government to government loans while the rest were in IPP mode. So far out of CPEC portfolio, working on projects worth $28 billion was in progress, he added. Khusro said that CPEC was way bigger than $50 billion and as the time would pass new projects would be added to its portfolio. “CPEC is test series but unfortunately the previous government played it like T20,” the minister said.

Ironically when asked about the Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed’s announcement of curtailing $2 billion from the cost of Karachi to Peshawar railway project (ML-I), which is part of CPEC, the planning minister said that he was unaware of the cost reduction of the project. However he said that they had decided to up-grade the ML-I project on BOT basis instead of the earlier EPC mode.

Regarding setting up of oil refinery in Gwadar, the minister said that the refinery was being set up to meet the energy needs from local fuel. “Currently the country is importing $16 billion of oil and if we are able to provide local crude to the refinery fuel import bill can be cut by half,” he claimed.

He said the main project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEP) was Gwadar Port, but even today people in Gwadar have no access to water and even the issue of electricity was not resolved.

He said china was relocating its industry which could be wheel for the job creation in Pakistan but the previous government didn’t take any step in this regard.

Bakhtair said PML-N ruled for 18 years and Pakistan People’s Party for 15 years, however, no efforts were made to put the economy on the right track. “The current government is a reformist government and higher growth is its prime agenda,” the minister said.

During the tenure of previous government, Pakistan’s debt had reached Rs28,000 billion and total debt was 72 percent of the GDP. Similarly, for the past three years private investment was continuously decreasing. He said the circular debt had now reached to Rs1200 billion. No attention was paid to the line losses of the power sector and for example LESCO, which was the home of the previous prime minister, was losing 2.8 billion units of electricity annually.

Currently only 70,000 people were burdened with direct taxes while indirect taxes were paid by the remaining population.”We need to increase direct taxes instead of indirect taxes so the money can be transferred from the rich and diverted to the welfare of the poor people,” he said.

During the previous government, external debt grew and the money was spent on projects of one’s choice and PML-N created artificial growth, he noted.

Regarding development budget, the minister said in the fiscal year 2017-18, Rs 1001 billion PSDP allocations were made, however, the utilization were only Rs661 billion. For the remaining 34 percent, the government had no money, he claimed. Similarly in current fiscal year 450 schemes were made part of the PSDP and 343 of which were unapproved. For the unapproved schemes only token amount of Rs55 billion was allocated against the cost of Rs2000 billion. “We didn’t bring mini budget, it is corrective financial bill, our future financial measures will not be input driven but output driven,” he said.

He said that all the future imported fuel projects, particularly coal based projects, had been banned and now focus was being made on hydro and other renewable energy projects.