On Monday, Three members of cabinet committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) decided to start financing discussions with China on the $8.2bn Main Railway Line (ML-1) project and cleared a draft CPEC Authority bill for cabinet approval.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar presided over the meeting. It was attended by Sheikh Rashid and Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, Dr Ishrat Hussain, prime minister’s adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, Planning Commission deputy chairman Dr Jahanzeb Khan and federal secretaries.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Railways Minister had expressed his dissatisfaction at the lack of progress made by the planning authorities in the ML-1 despite being a strategic project, while the Prime Minister’s adviser on institutional reforms and the austerity, Dr Ishrat Hussain, had criticized the creation of a new organisation despite the financial difficulties.
Sheikh Rashid told the meeting that it was painful for him to say that the Planning Commission had become the biggest hurdle in the way of launching ML-1 and no decision had been taken whether or not to give the project to China. He said the project had been slowed down ever since the government had entered into an IMF programme.
A senior official of the Planning Commission explained that there was still no framework agreement on the ML-1 project.
Mr Bakhtyar reiterated that ML-1 was a very important project under the CPEC portfolio and the government was committed to fast-tracking it.
Sources said Dr Ishrat and Mr Dawood questioned the wisdom behind a large CPEC Authority when a major part of the CPEC had already been completed. Dr Ishrat said there was no need to have 70-80 staff for the proposed authority for CPEC, expected to be completed by 2024, at a time when the country was facing financial crunch.
The planning and development secretary briefed the meeting on various projects under the CPEC framework.
The planning and development minister directed that progress on the Rashakai Special Economic Zone be fast-tracked to ensure its groundbreaking before the 9th Joint Coordination Committee of CPEC in October. the meeting was informed that negotiations on development agreement were in final stages with the China Road & Bridge Corporation (CRBC).
Mr Bakhtyar reiterated that the government was committed to providing incentives for SEZs, including 100 per cent repatriation of profits.
The committee also decided to present land use plan for the Gwadar Smart Port City to the cabinet after incorporating recommendations of the Balochistan government.
Energy projects, including 300MW Gwadar coal power plant, Kohala hydropower project (1,124MW) and Thar coal projects, and infrastructure projects, including Multan-Sukkur Motorway and Orange Line Train, were also discussed.
The meeting was informed that the Multan-Sukkur motorway would be inaugurated shortly, while the civil works of the Orange Line train project would be completed in December.
The Minister of Planning and Development emphasized that all stakeholders should urgently resolve outstanding issues related to CPEC projects in order to maximize the benefits of the future Joint Cooperation Committee. It was decided that the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on the CPEC would be convened in September.
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