As the COVID-19 pandemic is gradually brought under control under the concerted efforts of Pakistan’s government and people, the Punjab government has recently lifted lockdown restrictions on tourism, hospitality industry and the like. Due to the pandemic’s impact, Pakistan’s economy is estimated to fall into recession in the 2020 fiscal year, with a negative growth rate over 4 percent. Pakistan’s government and people are looking forward to the emergence of greet shoots in the economy soon after all the industries’ reopening.

Since significant results of Sino-Pak joint fighting against COVID-19 have been achieved in the current stage, advancing economic resurgence will be the next focus of bilateral cooperation. Despite the negative influence by the pandemic, bilateral cooperation on CPEC has made a stride forward and the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership has been further enhanced. Over the past few months, CPEC projects have been accelerated, projects both under construction and completed are going well, with remarkable fruits. Pakistan’s Railway ML-I Refurbishment and Expansion Project was approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP). The Karakoram Highway (KKH) Project Phase II Project was opened to traffic. Both projects have aroused attention from various circles of Pakistan’s society. I have a staunch belief that successfully pushing forward the CPEC projects will be an important carrier and breakthrough of economic resurgence.

The Punjab government has been attaching high importance to and providing strong support for the CPEC projects. On July 11, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar paid a site visit to Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) Project, and expressed his view that the OLMT is about to complete and is to start official operation once the pandemic situation gets better. Punjab Governor Chaudry Muhammad Sarwar spoke highly of the CPEC construction. Punjab Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment Mian Aslam Iqbal said that Allama Iqbal Industrial City Construction will continue to be pushed forward. The concern and support shown by the Punjab government on CPEC projects enable Chinese companies with full confidence in investment and development.

Currently quite a number of early-harvest projects have been completed and put into operation, including Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (Bahawalpur), Karachi to Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan Section), which are conducive to Punjab as these projects will strengthen areas of weakness in infrastructure and energy sectors.

Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant was put into operation in May 2017. Ever since its operation, it has generated electricity of 26.1 billion KWh, and safety production lasts for 1,161 days, which is to meet the demand for power consumption by 20 million people in Pakistan and fill in the gap by 1/4. Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (Bahawalpur) 300,000 kW Phase I Project has been put into operation in 2016, with accumulated power generation capacity reaching nearly 2 billion kWh so far. As the biggest infrastructure project among CPEC projects, Karachi to Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan Section) was opened to traffic in October 2019, saving approximately 2-hour commuting from Lahore to Multan, creating 23,000 job opportunities for locals. Besides, more than 2,300 project managers and engineers as well as 4,500 equipment operators joined the training program.

Ongoing projects in Punjab include OLMT Project, Matiari to Lahore +660kV DC Power Transmission Project and Allama Iqbal Industrial City. According to the statistics by Punjab Public Transportation Management Authority (PTMA) OLMT Project is to be put into operation in October 2020, which is expected to create around 10,000 job opportunities for Lahore once completed, and it will cut 2.5-hour driving distance down to 45 minutes or so, subsequently ease traffic strain in Lahore and improve commuting efficiency.

Matiari to Lahore +660kV DC Power Transmission Project is the first HVDC Power Transmission Project. Up to now, converter stations at two terminals were completed, and stringing construction was completed 60 percent already, which is to wrap up by the end of October 2020 and put into production in March 2021. As the transmission line with the highest voltage, longest transmission distance and biggest transmission capacity in Pakistan, the Project will be the trunk power transmission line linking the south to the north, thus greatly ease power transmission difficulties in Punjab and Islamabad.

Allama Iqbal Industrial City started ground-breaking in January 2020, with capital investment estimated at Rs5 billion, and planned area of 3.217 acres. It is planned to attract companies from various sectors including automobiles, textiles, mechanical industry, pharmaceutical industry, food processing, chemical industry, construction materials and etc. for investment, which is expected to create 300,000 job opportunities in the next five years and attract foreign investment of more than Rs400 billion. Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed that the Industrial City shall provide a favourable platform for Pakistan to undertake Chinese industrial transfer and create more job opportunities for the younger generations.

CPEC cooperation has been adhering to the principle of openness and inclusiveness, which serves as a good example illustrating win-win cooperation advocated by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Under the joint efforts by China and Pakistan, difficulties caused by the pandemic during CPEC construction could be overcome, cooperation over various sectors has been moving forward against adversity, all of which contribute to Pakistan’s work resumption and economic rejuvenation. The Chinese Consulate General in Lahore, along with the Punjab government and the people, will continue facilitating the projects including the Industrial City, people’s livelihood and agriculture cooperation, giving all-round impetus to Punjab economic recovery and prosperity.