CPEC pacing development


Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of 1320 megawatt coal fired Hub thermal power plant at Lasbella in Baluchistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed the desire for joint ventures between Chinese and Pakistanis companies in the overall framework of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPRC). He emphasized the need for the utilization of locally available raw material in industries and thermal power plants and stressed for consuming 20 percent coal from Thar reserves in Hub thermal power plant which will be run on imported coal like Sahiwal and Port Qasim power plants.
The Prime Minister deplored the neglect of utilizing hydel sources for power generation in the past. The entrepreneurial class of Pakistan is still not very optimistic about joint ventures with their Chinese counterparts and they have shown concern a number of times as to whether the government would facilitate such ventures in the special economic zones (SEZs). They believe that local industry in the “Golden Industrial Triangle” of Gugjat, Gujrawnwala and Sialkot will be closed if protection is not given to it. The industrial triangle consists of number of export industries. The business leaders of these industrial estates had given SOS call for a meeting with former Prime Nawaz Sharif to allay their concerns but that did not materialise.
The worries of Pakistani entrepreneurs were further compounded by the disclosure of Chairman State Engineering Corporation (SEC) about the big technological gap between the local industry and the Chinese one to be relocated to the planned SEZs in his address at Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2017. He asked for quantum leap from the existing second generation technology to fourth and fifth generation technology in the industrial sector to facilitate setting up joint ventures with Chinese entrepreneurs in the SEZs and making the local industry competitive which will be running outside these economic zones.
Although the ranking of Pakistan has improved from 147th position to 133rd slot in the World Bank of Ease of Doing Business Index yet the business environment is far from satisfactory. The electricity supply to industries and business houses remains smooth but its tariff has become unaffordable. Currency depreciation has caused steep fall in the import of raw materials and intermediate goods leading to decrease in production not only in large scale manufacturing but also in small and medium enterprises. Bangladesh has succeeded in establishing raw material producing industries, by starting from scratches; but Pakistan could not do so as successive governments did not priortise putting in place a viable industrial policy and economical energy policy for cheap power generation. The dream of second phase of industriaisation through joint ventures with foreign investors will come true only when all ingredients of economic environment are made favourable, particularly affordable energy mix, up-gradation of technology and skill development.