Islamabad      -    Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar said significant progress has been achieved over $9 billion ML-I Project during the JCC meeting and claimed that the groundbreaking of the project will take place within next six months.

The 9th meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the CPEC has not included any new project in the CPEC portfolio, however signed three MoUs. Talking to media after the 9th JCC meeting the federal planning minister said that fencing of Afghan border is in progress which will be completed next year while fencing of the Pak-Iran border will start soon, he added.

The JCC meeting was held on Tuesday here which was co-chaired by Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar and Vice Chairman National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) Ning Jizhe. Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan, Chief Minister KP Mahmood Khan, Chief Minister GB Hafiz Hafeez-ur-Rehman, federal ministers and secretaries, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, provincial secretaries, visiting Chinese delegates and representatives of leading companies were also present. The financing of $9 billion ML-I project, financing of western corridor, revival plan of Pakistan Steel Mills, agriculture cooperation and provincial development including Karachi Circular Railway discussed in the meeting. Earlier the JCC meeting was scheduled to be held on November 6 but on the request of Chinese delegation the meeting was held on November 5.

During the proceedings, a ceremony was held wherein Multan-Sukkur Motorway of the eastern corridor was inaugurated. Gwadar Master Plan was approved and signed. The ceremony also witnessed the signing of two MoUs; one between All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and Ministry of Planning for further strengthening the worker exchanges and another on Healthcare between Ministry of Health and Research Development International (RDI).

Later, addressing a joint press conference, Khusro Bakhtyar said significant progress has been made on ML-1 project of Pakistan Railways and it has been decided to speed up work on it to launch ground breaking in next six months. He said in this regard a committee has been constituted to evaluate financing terms and conditions.

He said the energy projects portfolio was about $12 billion out of which projects worth $4.2 billion are in progress and will be completed by 2021 while new energy projects of 6390MW would be launched in future.  He said 300MW power plant has been inaugurated in Gwadar and it is part of development of the coastal city.

The minister said the JCC meeting was very productive and many decisions have been taken to increase industrial cooperation between both the countries. In oil and gas sector, he said, investment to the tune of $8 to $10 billion can be attracted in next two to three years and work will be expedited to achieve this goal. He said that China is big importer of copper while Pakistan has one of the world’s big resources of copper and other minerals. He said there would textile cooperation between both counties.  Khusro Bakhtyar said discussion was also held in depth by both sides to enhance steel production capacity of Pakistan and restructuring of Pakistan Steel Mill. The Minister said that work on Western route of CPEC will be expedited. He said development of Gwadar and establishing free trade zone in the city is among foremost priorities of the government. In agriculture, both sides discussed how to increase agriculture production as well as marketing of agriculture products.

 He said that in next stage the scope of CPEC will be further broadened and enhanced in diverse fields of agriculture, industrial and socio-economic development. Khusro Bakhtyar said the government this year took several important decisions that paved way for finalisation of Gwadar Master Plan and preliminary design of ML-1 project, operationalisation of Gwadar Port and free zone. ‘We made steady progress in resolution of matters regarding finalization of tariffs for the completed energy projects, Gwadar port concession agreement and Kohala hydropower project’ said the Minister.

Khusro Bakhtyar said remaining portion of the Eastern corridor from Sukkur to Hyderabad (M6) will be completed in BOT mode under the umbrella of Public Private Partnership and urged Chinese companies to take active part in the bidding process. He recommended that JCC accords priority to remaining portion Western corridor. In March 2019, the Zhob–Quetta section of the Western Corridor was inaugurated and now the remaining portion of DI–Khan–Zhob is a priority for the Government of Pakistan.

The minister highlighted that ML-1 is also a top priority project for Pakistan and the stage is set to take the discussion to next level and formulate a Joint project financing group to discuss the modalities. The minister said that the Government has established CPEC Authority which will work as a one window for all CPEC related issues so that we can fasten the pace of the projects and remove all bottle necks for efficient implementation of the projects.

Replying a query about utilisation of Chinese currency RMB for execution of new energy projects, the Minister said that we are also discussing this option and State Bank of Pakistan and economic experts would discus and finalise it. 

Talking about the CPEC projects the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing said that “the result is fruitful, the discussion was successful, we are happy and we are satisfied”. He said that China has set new direction to future cooperate with Pakistan on development projects of industrial zones, oil and gas, minerals, steel mills and affordable housing scheme. He said that we are satisfied with the 9th JCC meeting and added that China successfully completed energy and infrastructure projects during last six years. He said that China has launched social sector projects relating to social sector including health, education and vocational training.

Earlier in his address to the JCC, NDRC VC Ning Jizhe said that delegation from China for 9th JCC is the biggest as compared to previous delegations which shows commitment of China to take cooperation with Pakistan to new heights. He stated that high consideration will be given to socio-economic and industrial cooperation in the second phase of CPEC. He underscored that bilateral economic cooperation will proceed as planned for the mutual benefit of both brotherly countries.