ISLAMABAD        -       The groundbreaking of CPEC Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Rashakai has delayed and is unlikely to take place this year as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has yet to sign developmental agreement with China, it is learnt reliably here.

However the Special Economic Zone at Faisalabad will be inaugurated next month. A meeting to review the progress on CPEC Special Economic Zones was held here with Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar in chair. The Minister chaired separate meetings to review the progress on CPEC and PSDP funded projects, here at Islamabad on Thursday.  Secretary Planning Zafar Hasan and senior officials of the ministry were also present in the meetings.

During the review meeting on CPEC Special Economic Zones, Asad Umar directed that amongst all the SEZs the groundbreaking of the first SEZ under the CPEC at Faisalabad be ensured before the end of the calendar year and necessary work be expedited to achieve groundbreaking of the two more SEZs at Rashakai and Dhabeji within the current financial year, said a press statement issued here.

The Minister was given a detailed briefing on the completed, on-going and pipeline projects of CPEC under the bilateral program, the statement said. The Minister expressed satisfaction on the progress of various under-construction projects. He emphasized that in the new phase of CPEC the focus would be on enhancing the economic cooperation whereby business linkages and value chains would be developed, benefiting both sides.

The Minister separately reviewed the progress of various planned SEZs under CPEC. The Minister instructed all the relevant departments to expedited work on the SEZ especially those at Rashakai, Dhabeji and Faisalabad, where some work had already been done,said the statment.  He directed that the groundbreaking of the first SEZ under the CPEC at Faisalabad be ensured before the end of the calendar year and necessary work be expedited to achieve groundbreaking of the two more SEZs at Rashakai and Dhabeji within the current financial year.  The representatives of Ministries of Petroleum and Power assured the Minister that they would provide full support to these projects and complete the electricity and gas supply projects expeditiously.

Meanwhile a source told The Nation that earlier it was scheduled that the ground breaking of Rashakai SEZ will take place on November 29 however it has been delayed till next year.The main reason for the delay in the ground breaking is the finalization of development agreement on the SEZ, said the source. Next week teams from Pakistan and China will meet to conclude the development agreement regarding Rashakai SEZ, said the source. Once the development agreement is signed the SEZ will be ready for groundbreaking as all the other formalities related to Rashakai have been completed, the source claimed.

Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework, nine economic zones dedicated to industrial development would be set up.It is pertinent that amongst all the SEZs under CPEC the Rashakai was in advanced stage.

The Minister also received a detailed briefing on the PSDP funded projects. It was noted that the fund release mechanism had been made much easier in the recent months and the line Ministries could had much greater independence in spending their development budgets. The Minister said that the Ministries and Departments must make sure that they make use of this opportunity and complete their projects on time. He emphasized that effective monitoring and evaluation of the projects, was essential to ensure their smooth and timely implementation. He also directed that a greater focus effort be made to identify innovative funding mechanisms to finance the infrastructure projects.