Pakistan’s suggestion of making room for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to invest in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor reflects a misplaced dependence on foreign investment in the attempts to spur economic growth. Apart from being a diplomatic boon, there is not much to gain in this equation, for Pakistan already has money flowing into the project, which is why it doesn’t matter where it is coming from.

The Pakistani state increasingly looks like it has nothing to offer in this project, other than territory of course. As for economic benefit, it is relying entirely on employment opportunities, infrastructural development and service provision – in the energy sector for example – created by the spill over effects of such a massive project on Pakistani soil.

While positive injections in the form of foreign investment is most definitely a boost to the economy, the biggest benefit to be derived from infrastructural and development projects through CPEC is by increasing local investment, thereby keeping the money invested and generated as profit within the country. There is a lot to be gained by both private investment and increasing public spending in projects on CPEC, thereby increasing aggregate demand leading to an increase in overall GDP.

There are other issues to consider as well. The state has to protect its own people, and any foreign investors that come to Pakistan must be prevented from unduly exploiting the labour pool. The labour laws that exist in Pakistan do so only on paper, and even the ones that do are not sufficient to giving the labour force what it needs. For instance, the minimum wage in Punjab was increased to Rs14000 per month in July 2016, which is nowhere near enough for a person to satisfy the needs of their family. With increased foreign investment, the government cannot shirk from its responsibility of protecting the rights of its people, and not allow for them to be exploited by China or others.

Pakistan must not sit idly by as friendly countries reap the best benefits of CPEC and take the profits back to their home countries. There is nothing in the way of fostering domestic investment into CPEC, and there is altogether too much reliance on foreign investment bringing jobs that would lead to organic growth. Pakistan has asked other countries (China included) to bring what they have to offer in on this project, which is why it must offer more on its own as well.