Islamabad - The government is likely to establish an autonomous authority for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) prior to the next Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting, it is learnt reliably here.

A summary to establish CPEC Authority has been moved to the Law and Justice Division for its nod and hopefully it will be established prior to the next JCC meeting, official sources told The Nation here. The 9th JCC is scheduled to be held in October this year.

“Although we don’t need a CPEC Authority at this stage but China and a local lobby is pursuing for establishment of such authority. Therefore, the government has decided to establish it,” a senior official of the ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms said. The idea of CPEC Authority is not new as in previous PML-N government various proposals for making CPEC a separate entity was floated but were rejected by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and planning minister Ahsan Iqbal, the source maintained. There was also a proposal of bringing CPEC under National Security Council but it was also rejected by the then prime minister, the source added.

The proposed authority will have a chairman and full-fledged office and the current CPEC secretariat will be merged into it, the source added

“Although in papers the CPEC Authority will work under the Ministry of Planning but actually it is being established to strip the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms of its powers to run the corridor projects,” said the source.

Summary sent to Law and Justice Division for its nod

According to the sources, the current portfolio of CPEC is around $ 46 billion and out of that amount $28 billion have already been materialised which was done without CPEC Authority. Similarly, majority of CPEC projects are either in Energy or Communications which will be completed by 2023 or the very next year, said the source.

“Why for just $18 billion and less than five years period the government is making an autonomous authority?” the source questioned.

It is also yet to be determined that what will be the role of the line ministries or the minister of planning, development and reforms after establishment of the CPEC Authority.

“We have the Ministry of Communication, NHA for the infrastructure projects and Ministry of Energy and Wapda for the energy projects, but even then the government wants to establish a new authority to further complicate the process,” the source said.

“In papers the authority will work under the planning minister but practically it is not possible,” the source added.

The Chinese are supporting establishment of CPEC Authority and want to have the same prior to next JCC meeting on CPEC, said the source.

However, when contacted an official of the Ministry of Planning seeking anonymity said that idea of establishment of autonomous CPEC Authority will take the corridor project into new phase. For the purpose, the CPEC Secretariat will be merged into autonomous authority, the official said. The CPEC authority will facilitate coordination among various ministries and departments and implementation of the next CPEC phase, the official said.

He said it was wrong to say that authority will render the Ministry of Planning powerless.