CPEC to transform Gilgit-Baltistan into an economic hub: WealthPK

ISLAMABAD: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is transforming Pakistan’s distant yet spectacular Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region into an economic hub, says a report published by WealthPK on Wednesday.

Investors predict that once the CPEC realises its full potential, the region will become an economic hub. In the long-term, this project will benefit locals by increasing production and, as a result, revenue through exports to important markets.

It is anticipated that the future of the residents is bright because they will be able to sell their products on a national and international scale after the CPEC infrastructure is completed.

Pakistan has enjoyed close relations with China for almost seven decades, and the two countries have been dubbed as ‘iron brothers.’ Pakistan and China have a long history of working together on a variety of sectors, including commerce, tourism, education, and defence.

The $64 billion project, which is a network of roads, railway lines, and industries, aims to connect China’s strategically significant Xinjiang region to the port of Gwadar in Balochistan.

While the corridor will give China easy access to Africa and the Middle East, it will also generate billions of dollars in revenue for Pakistan and stimulate trade along the road network.

The primary route of CPEC passes through GB, starting from the Khunjerab Pass, also known as the Sost Dry Port, a place for trade between Pakistan and China, and criss-crosses Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Gilgit, the main city in GB, is hence known as the entrance of the corridor.

Of the nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) planned across Pakistan as part of CPEC, one is proposed for Gilgit-Baltistan, for which over 250 acres of land has been set aside. The Moqpondass SEZ is naturally rich in valuable stones and fruits.

The planned SEZ will be connected to the closest airport (35 kilometres), the Sost Dry Port (200 kilometres), and the CPEC Route (four kilometres) on the Gilgit-Skardu Road. (CPEC Authority), WealthPK reported.

Two hydro energy projects for Gilgit-Baltistan are also under review, including 100MW Gilgit KIU Hydropower Project and the 80MW Phandar Hydropower Project located in Ghizer district. (CPEC Authority).

The business community in Gilgit-Baltistan is upbeat about the construction of the trade corridor that will make goods movement more efficient since they believe CPEC would enable speedier yet cheaper delivery of local fruits like cherries, apricots, and apples to the lucrative markets.

Locals envision truckloads of products being moved locally and from China along the corridor as they hope for increased commercial activities.

The stakeholders have voiced optimism about availability of enhanced health and education services in Gilgit-Baltistan as a result of the mega project. Although CPEC does not include any projects directly connected to health and education, experts believe that development of communication infrastructure will lead to easier access to health and education facilities.

They also emphasise the importance of the government playing a role in providing improved education facilities to the local populace in order for them to take advantage of this opportunity.
Training, capacity development, and skill improvement programmes under the CPEC will help construct sustainable societies by boosting human capital and resistance to environmental stressors among the local people. Such skill-building initiatives would improve the adaptation capabilities of the local people to various environmental challenges in Gilgit-Baltistan’s topography, WealthPK reported.
Although the CPEC project has the potential to transform the region’s fate, it is contingent on attracting investments, and once those investments begin to flow, trade will thrive. With the growing tourist business in GB, there is a significant opportunity for the development of the hotel industry.