ISLAMABAD - Minister for Finance, Planning, Development and Reform Dr Shamshad Akhtar showed her displeasure over the slow progress of work on Pakistan Railways ML-I project and Special Economic Zones under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and said that work should be expedited on these projects.

Presiding over the 55th Review meeting of the CPEC projects, the minster was shocked to note that so little work was done in the past four years on the ML-I and SEZs and said that work on the projects should have been in advance stage, it is learnt reliably here.

The meeting was attended by Chinese Ambassador at Islamabad Yao Jing, Secretary M/oPD&R Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Project Director CPEC Hassan Daud and officials from ministries and provincial governments as well as Chinese companies.

Official source privy to the meeting told The Nation that the minister noted that ML-I is of great strategic importance but the progress is very slow.

The minister was informed that there were problems with ML-I funding as China wants Pakistan to fund a portion of the project from the local PSDP, the source said.

On the SEZs the minister was informed about the bottlenecks it faces in its implementations. The minister noted that work on the SEZs is very slow and said that it will be better to execute the SEZs in Public Private Partnership mode, the source said.

While talking to media, the minister said that that substantive growth has been made in CPEC projects during last 05 years wherein a total of 22 projects worth around $28.6 billion in CPEC portfolio are under implementation.

She admitted that work on the SEZs is a bit delayed and said they are working with Investment Board to prepare comprehensive plan.

Shamshad said that under CPEC work on the Eastern, Western and Central alignments is in progress. Under CPEC the work on the feasibility study of ML-I project is in progress. The cost of the ML-I is $ 8.2 billion.

She said that the interim government will not take any long term decision.  The meeting is being conducted to review the progress of the projects, she added. Gwadar Port, Gwadar City and Coastal line are being developed under the CPEC.

She said that verity of funding including grants, soft loans and other kind of loans are being utilized for CPEC projects.

Reply to a query, the minister said that details about Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Anti Money Laundering will be released shortly.

Earlier in the review meeting officials from Board of Investment, National Highway Authority, Ministry of Energy, Railway, Maritime Affairs and Gwadar Development Authority have presented detail progress on the CPEC projects.

 Minister PD&R, in her remarks, said that the presence of all stakeholders under one roof is a testament to the fact that CPEC is an all-inclusive project which everyone is fully committed towards. She said that CPEC is an unprecedented opportunity to be capitalized upon in Pakistan's history.

Dr Shamshad said that after the significant achievements during last five years, more projects are expected to be under operation including ground breaking of New Gwadar International Airport this year, which in itself is a huge milestone for CPEC. "Moreover, further cooperation under CPEC is expected in the future for development of infrastructure projects such as ML-1 upgradation, Karachi Circular Railway,  road projects as well as industrial cooperation", she added.

Dr. Shamshad reassured China of full cooperation and support in promoting unparalleled partnership under the framework of CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

She emphasized to further expedite work on projects at Gwadar and the Special Economic Zones that are not only of vital importance in the portfolio of CPEC but for the local population as well. She was of the view that one of the main gains from CPEC is the trade and industry development and cooperation to ensure sustainable economic growth and shape new industry clusters as well as takes fruits of CPEC to lesser developed regions of Pakistan.

She pointed out that both countries need to aggressively pursue the mega initiative to shape a new international logistics network in the region and promote regional economic integration through international economic, trade and technological cooperation and people exchanges.

She further said that the two countries will make full use of existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms to form synergy, give each other support and learn from each other so as to complement and fully display each other's strengths.

Federal Minister Dr Shamshad further underlined to continue in this pursuit so that we can bring transformational changes in our approach towards ease of doing business which will be key to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

She further reassured that that despite the government being under transition, CPEC projects will not be impacted in any way by such developments. "It is our job to make sure that CPEC projects are timely completed according to the agreed timelines and terms"

Secretary Planning Shoaib Siddique said that in the early harvest project of CPEC they have focused on the Energy projects and in the medium and long term plan they will focusing on the other field.He said that the projects of Balochsitan is being funded from the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of the federal government and with the Chinese Investment. He said that Dera Ismail khan, Zhob and Basima Road will be funded from the PSDP, he added.