NA panel clears CPEC Authority Bill 2020 despite opposition

A parliamentary committee cleared “The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Bill 2020” with a majority vote despite resistance from the opposition, The News reported on Wednesday.

During the NA Standing Committee on Planning and Development, chaired by Junaid Akbar, former minister Ahsan Iqbal presented seven reasons against the creation of CPEC authority.

A heated debate ensued but the bill was cleared with a majority.

In his dissenting note, Iqbal said the creation of CPEC authority is superfluous and unnecessary. He added that the planning minister discharged the role diligently and effectively in the past.

Stressing that effective implement of CPEC demands the line ministers to perform their role properly and with full ownership, Iqbal said creating a separate authority will create confusion and sow conflict between the authority and ministers.

Iqbal said that the authority will make CPEC top-heavy with members and make it parallel to the Planning Commission with little vitality and real role but create another white elephant.

He advised strengthening line ministers instead.

In the initial phase, ministries were empowered for the next levels. Now, the Board of Investment, Commerce, agriculture, industries, and other relevant ministries should be strengthened instead of creating a superstructure of CPEC.

“If there is any support required for the ministry of planning and development to deal with CPEC related work,” said Iqbal. “The CPEC secretariat should be strengthened instead of establishing CPEC authority.”

He pointed out that investment worth more than $29 billion was channelised by the ministry without any authority. “The model has successfully worked and should be continued instead of creating a top-heavy structure without any real vitality.”

During the debate, the matter of pay and package of the authority’s chairman was discussed. To which, the ministry of planning said there was no heft pay or package. “The chairman did not sign any memorandum of understanding (MoU) after the lapse of CPEC Ordinance.”

Meanwhile, the NA panel also the issue of scholarships provided by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The members inquired why students were barred from going abroad. To which HEC officials said they weren’t stopped but universities were not accepting foreign students due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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