Shockers In CPEC
China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been labelled as a game-changer and the gateway to economic success for Pakistan. Yet analysts have constantly reminded of the fact that CPEC is not just an overnight victory to claim- it needs constant diligence, monitoring and negotiation. Recent reports that are coming out of the Senate and the Balochistan Assembly reveal that there are serious problems with the past governance of CPEC projects.
There was outrage in the Balochistan cabinet after a briefing of CPEC projects when it was revealed that no progress has been made in any projects outside Gwadar and the meagre share of the province in the overall portfolio of CPEC projects. Most unfortunate perhaps is the discovery that no progress has been made on projects which would connect the western route, a goal which was supposed to bring the most benefits to the economy, and was supposed to be the government’s top priority. The reports have revealed that the overall size of the portfolio of CPEC projects in Balochistan is extraordinarily underwhelming, where out of the total committed (an estimated $5.5 billion), less than 9 per cent is for the province and less than $1bn has been spent in four years. The delays and non-commitment shown to these CPEC projects have built up a hefty account of debts and bills- which the Balochistan government will have to pay out of a budget it doesn’t have. The Quetta Mass Transit cost, for example, is $912m which is larger than the total development budget of the provincial government.
What’s perhaps most worrying is that the project on connecting the western route appears to have quietly faded out of the agenda entirely. This issue should have been prioritised since 2016 when plans for CPEC began to start. In a Senate hearing on Friday, government officials were shocked to find that plan to build CPEC’s western route did not exist even in the Chinese record. It’s an issue that most concerns the local parties in Balochistan, with Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) founder Saeed Ahmed Hashmi criticising the PML-N government for promising the western route and then not following through on it.
These reports of the criminally low progress, and the fact that the government did not check up or was transparent of CPEC’s progress, is an example of bad governance, putting it mildly. CPEC needs to stop being just a campaign promise or rally boast- there needs to be more transparency and diligence in the progress of this enormous infrastructure project.