ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Thursday directed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority to complete the under implementation projects on fast track basis by regaining confidence of the Chinese companies.
“According to my personal sources, the Chinese are not happy with the current progress of CPEC projects as they have approached me to help remove the bottlenecks,” Chairman of the committee Saleem Mandviwala said.
The chair asked Special Assistant to Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor to take the responsibility of early completion of under construction projects and removing all bottlenecks in way of approval of the under consideration mega projects including up-gradation of ML-1 railway project and the hydro power projects, national media reported.
“My number one priority is to regain the Chinese confidence,” Khalid Mansoor said, adding that in this regard he had personally met with representatives of 40 out of 135 Chinese companies working in Pakistan.
“I will take responsibility of implementation of the projects and I will go personally to all the concerned ministries and divisions to implement the CPEC projects,” he added. Mandviwala said the government departments were very slow and they needed to be pushed to expedite the implementation process.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, responding to the complaints of Senator Danish Kumar about ignoring Balochistan under CPEC, said in the first phase of CPEC, two third projects were related to power which had minimum impact on the local area. He said a lot of development work was going on in the province particularly in Gwadar such as desalination plants, technical training institutes, Eastbay Expressway etc.
Apart from the projects under CPEC, a special historical package of Rs560 billion had also been announced for the development of least developed southern Balochistan districts under which IT parks, industrial zones, power plants, dams, and road projects would be developed.
Further he said, “We are working on four priority special economic zones (SEZs) under CPEC, one of which was being constructed in Gwadar.” The one named South Zone has been completed at an area of 60 acres while the other gigantic 2,500 acres North Zone is under construction in the city, he added.
Further, he informed that a virgin 100,000 acres land was lying vacant near Mirani Dam which would be utilised for agriculture purposes in which some Chinese investors were interested to develop an agriculture zone.
Senator Danish Kumar said the ground realities said there was no development in the area. The residents of Gwadar were not enjoying basic facilities including water and electricity. Asad Umar proposed the committee to arrange a visit to the Southern Balochistan to see the under progress development.
Saleem Mandviwala questioned how a new project could be included in the current fiscal year’s development budget. The minister responded that once the development budget is approved by the National Economic Council (NEC), it was not possible to add any new project. However he said to include any new project in the next development budget, it should be presented before March 31.
Senator Tahir Bizenjo said instead of investing heavily on other projects like airport, the investment should be poured in the drinking water projects on priority.
Asad Umar said the construction of Karachi-Chaman N-25 road project had already been approved. The Khuzdar-Kuchlak section of the N-25 would be funded through PSDP, while the remaining portion would be constructed through Built Operate Transfer (BOT) basis.
Asad Umar said the present government was fully committed to complete all the projects under BOT basis on priority and the tariff for road taxes would be determined by the government, not by the private sector.
Khalid Mansoor said two dams in the vicinity of Gwadar including Shadikor dam were filled to their capacity and the connectivity of these dams to the Gwadar city would also be completed in three months.
With respect to the overall CPEC progress, Khalid Mansoor informed that so far 21 projects worth $15.2 billion had been completed, while 21 projects worth of $9.3 billion were under implementation. Similarly, he said, 36 projects of $28 billion were under consideration.
While discussing the under-consideration projects of $28.4 billion, Senator Shafiq Tareen said the coal resources of Balochistan should be utilized for power plants, to which the SAPM on CPEC affairs replied that coal from Balochistan is rich in Sulphur therefore it is not feasible. Commenting on the Bostan Economic Zone, Senator Shafiq showed resentment that despite being the only zone of the province and very important on account of its location being very near to Chaman, the Bostan Zone is ignored and there is nothing done on the ground. The SAMP on CPEC affairs replied that they have coordinated with the chief secretary Balochistan in this regard and progress could be seen.
Senator Shafiq raised the issue of construction of a new bypass to be built on Muslimbagh on Kuchlak to Zhob Road. He pointed out that the bypass construction has not been started yet, on which the SAMP replied that the case is subjudice.