Senate body for completing CPEC projects on priority

The Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on Thursday directed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority to complete the under implementation projects on fast-track basis by regaining the confidence of the Chinese companies.

“According to my 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 Senator Saleem H. Mandviwala said.

The chair asked Special Assistant to Prime Minister on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor to take responsibility of early completion of under-construction projects and removed all bottlenecks in the way of approval of the under consideration mega projects including up-gradation of ML-1 railway project and the hydropower projects.

“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 for implementation of the projects, and I will go myself to all the concerned ministries and divisions to implement the CPEC projects,” he added.

Mandwiwala deplored 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 of projects were related to power which had minimal 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 is being constructed in Gwadar.”

The one named South Zone has been completed at an area of 60 acres while the other gigantic 2500 acres North Zone is under construction in the city, he added.

Further, he informed that a virgin 100,000 acres of 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.

According to Senator Danish Kumar 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 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 Muhammad Tahir Bazinjo said instead of investing heavily in other projects like the airport, the investment should be poured into the drinking water projects on priority.

Furthermore, he stressed the need to turn N-25 to the motorway as it had become a bloody road and accidents on that road had become a routine matter. Asad Umar said the construction of the 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 rest would be constructed through Build Operate Transfer (BOT) basis.

Senator Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen said that the private sector partnership projects were not implementable.

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.

Talking about the electricity problem in Gwadar, the minister maintained that the biggest problem was that there was no transmission line connected with the national grid.

“Balochistan government has requested the federal government in this regard, and we have given approval for the project for connecting Gwadar with the national grid and the project would be completed by March 2022,” he added.

Further, he said electricity from Iran to Gwadar would also be streamlined and the 300MW coal power plant in the Gwadar city was already under construction. So, the electricity problem in the city would be resolved soon.

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.He said that the water supply was being made through a 2-inch pipeline which was too narrow to fulfil the need. So, a 12-inch water pipeline has been approved and is being installed. Furthermore, the water desalination plants with 1.2 million and 0.5 million each capacity per day were also under construction. He informed that to resolve the electricity problems, the government was importing solar panels that would be provided to every household in Gwadar city.

With respect to security issues, the SAPM informed that after the recent security attacks, he briefed the Chinese authorities in detail and after the briefing, the Chinese had expressed satisfaction over the security situation.

With respect to the overall CPEC progress, Khalid Mansoor informed that so far 21 projects worth $15.2bn had been completed while 21 projects worth $9.3bn were under implementation. Similarly, 36 projects of $28bn were under consideration.

The meeting was informed that under the CPEC socio-economic development project, the Chinese government had announced a grant of $1bn but unfortunately due to the lukewarm response of the provinces and the departments, only $50m out of $1bn could be utilised so far.

With respect to the under-consideration of power plants, Saleem Mandviwala said until the outstanding dues of $1.2bn were not paid to the Chinese power producers, they would not go ahead to sign more power plants.

The meeting was further informed that competitive bidding would have to be arranged for the ML-1 railway project.

The chair said as per Chinese estimation, the project’s worth is over $9bn however according to Pakistan Railways, the project could be completed for $6.8bn.

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