After the demise of the USSR, Pakistan had the opportunity to improve its trucking and transport industry. Iran, Turkey and Pakistan were considered the prospective beneficiaries. However, due to the neglect of successive governments, Pakistan failed to grab the opportunity, and now deals with 1500 logistics companies that are incapable of carrying out cross-border trade. These companies are controlled by a total of seven ministries, whose incoherent policies make reforms extremely difficult.

While the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been branded as one of the biggest initiatives between the two countries and is expected to bring a lot of jobs into the economy; the project will not be completed without the overhaul of the trucking industry of Pakistan. The current setup is not reliable for carrying out trade because of outdated trucks, which result in a 2 percent loss of GDP every year. At the same time, they also damage the highways, waste agricultural products, increase the carbon footprint, and burn extra fuel. That cannot be the framework we rely on for such a mega project, and it is ridiculous that this sector was not factored into the equation earlier.

A forum organised by the National Logistics Cell (NLC), CPEC Logistics International Forum (CLIF), discussed the possibility of using the same trucking framework on Wednesday. The experts from Pakistan pointed out that cross border trade is not possible under such conditions. An immediate effort is required to provide improve the current setup. This is only possible through the implementation of the trucking reforms policy; which includes training drivers and providing relief in duties on the import of trucks.

Pakistan at this point needs the establishment of a transport ministry, which will ratify all international conventions, and push for modernisation. Industrialisation is a necessity for Pakistan and relying on private investment is not the solution. This only increases our debt and puts us at the mercy of the IMF. We cannot outsource every sector to China or Turkey.

The current situation highlights the priorities of the leadership. While CPEC has often been used as a political gimmick, a lot of areas that actually deserve attention have been neglected. All that is promised out of CPEC – Gwadar, energy projects, SEZs, infrastructure – is not possible without reforms in logistics. At the same time, we are also losing out on the jobs provided by the project. Our people lack the skills to work on such mega initiatives and hence, more than 80 percent of the jobs will be occupied by the Chinese. Nothing has been done about it, and this is precisely the reason why China has been able to ask for concessions for its industries.