ISLAMABAD -  Minister for Interior and Planning, Development & Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal has said that the provinces have failed to submit their plans regarding the setting up of special economic zones (SEZs), being developed under CPEC, and have sought another two months time for the finalisation of their plans.

Diamir Bhasha and Mohmmand dams are on top priority agenda of the government and their financing issues are likely to be finalized by the end of the year, Ahsan Iqbal said here while talking to media after the CPEC 50th Progress Review meeting here. Chinese Ambassador at Islamabad, Sun Weidong, officials from Chinese companies, federal ministries and provincial governments attended the meeting.

Regarding the SEZs, the minister said, “Their (provinces) preparations are ready but you cannot bring the investors unless you have the plan ready.”

“The performance of the Board of Investment (BoI) is unsatisfactory and we have been asked to submit restructuring plan within a week,” the minister said. The administrative structure of the BoI is outdated and it needs to be in harmony with the modern market trends, he said.

Replying a query regarding Diamir Bhasha Dam, the minister said that both Diamir Bhasha and Mohmmand dams are on top priority agenda of the government. The government wants to get a breakthrough about the financing of both the projects by the end of the year, he added. “On the return of the Prime Minister from US, the financing and other matters related to Bhasha and Mohmmand dams will be discussed with him,” he said. He said that a Chinese company is doing the technical study of Bhasha Dam.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the team of Chinese experts is coming to Pakistan next month, which will review the design of the Gwadar International Airport. He said that the ground-breaking of Gwadar Airport will take place during this year. Regarding long term plan, he said that it has been sent to China and they are reviewing it.

He said that he is visiting China to participate in a security conference and will also discuss 7th JCC with Chinese. He said that Pakistan will host the 7th JCC meeting which is likely to take place during the last week of November or early December.

He said that during meeting the issues of water and electricity in Gwadar were discussed. The authorities were directed to speed up the work on the power plant. The authorities were also directed to fix the 2 million gallon desalination plant at Gwadar. “In my visit to China I will also discuss the installation of 5 million gallon deslination plant,” he maintained. The dams built for the provision of water to Gwadar was a complete failure, the minister admitted.

Earlier, in the meeting, the minister said that China Pakistan Economic Corridor has played a transformational role in Pakistan by providing a strong economic platform, ensuring inclusive development and integration with regional economies. Minister said that CPEC has transformed Pakistan completely, making it at an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. “The country has turned into a safe haven for billion dollar investment” minister said.

He said China's FDI was 13 percent of the total foreign investment in 2013, far behind other countries. "But now after the CPEC, China has emerged as the top country in respect of FDI in Pakistan," he added. Ahsan Iqbal said that size of any economy now matters in world politics whereas economic strength of a country defines security and future prospects. CPEC has created conducive environment in Pakistan, guarantying its security and bright future, said Ahsan Iqbal.

He further instructed to fast track projects approved in 6th Joint Cooperation Committee of CPEC held last year. “7th JCC meeting, expected at the end of this year, will take journey of CPEC to new heights and development milestones will be achieved”.

Minister further said that support and unity from the provinces on CPEC has contributed to speedy implementation and completion of projects. “Provinces role is important to provide adequate security to workers engaged in construction of CPEC projects,” minister highlighted.

During the meeting, ministries briefed about progress on projects in different sectors.

Ahsan Iqbal instructed the provinces to complete feasibilities of special economic zones in 60 days. He further stressed on restructuring of Board of Investment, asking for recommendations in a week time. “Reforms and strengthening of this board will contribute in bringing more investment,” he said.

Minister further instructed officials of Higher Education Commission to ensure that the CPEC Business Schools Consortium works closely with Chinese to explore news investment avenues and identify industries that are interested to relocate to Pakistan. Minister further instructed for speedy implementation and completion of Gwadar water supply and power plant projects which are necessary for the social uplift of local population at this port city. Minister further directed to ensure ground breaking of Gwadar International Airport and Eastbay Expressway this year.

Pakistan Railway briefed the participants about ML-1 upgradation project, a CPEC initiative that will transform rail system in Pakistan. Minister said that financing matters of this project would be resolved soon, ensuring launching of this initiative till end of this year.

Ministry of Communication and National Highway Authority officials briefed the participants regarding transport infrastructure projects, informing that work on all the routes including KKH, Multan-Sukkur and Dera Ismail Khan-Burhan motorways projects are going according to the schedule. Minister Ahsan Iqbal instructed for speedy completion of eastern and western route besides the new provincial projects, identified in 6th JJC. NHA officials told that feasibilities of provincial projects including Naukundi-Mashkhel-Panjgur Road Project connecting with M-8 & N-85, Chitral CPEC link road from Gilgit, Shandor, Chitral to Chakdara, Mirpur – Muzaffarabad - Mansehra Road Construction for connectivity with CPEC route have been completed and a request for financing would be made during next JCC. NHA officials also informed that bidding process of Indus Highway Dualization projects has been completed and ground breaking of the project would be done soon.

Ahsan Iqbal also issued direction for fast tracking work on Diamir Basha Dam to ensure a breakthrough on this mega dam this year.

While speaking to media after the meeting, Minister said that Pakistan and China’s friendship is time-tested. “Those who are trying to hamper development of Pakistan by creating political instability would not succeed” he added. Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Ambassador Sun Weidong joined the cake cutting ceremony to mark progress on CPEC projects.