ISLAMABAD: Although the environment around the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has remained somewhat uncertain for over a couple of years, the situation appears now to have taken a turn for the better.
An Indian lobby might persist with opposition to this regional plan eulogised as the ‘game-changer’ slogan, but within Pakistan, a consensus can be seen evolving over the direction it takes in the near future.
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Is the political impediment in Pakistan out of its way? This question seems to be less relevant now than it was only about six months ago.
The questions most relevant now would be about the scheduled enforcement of the CPEC plan and the possible engagement of Pakistani investors in benefiting from it.
The regulatory framework operating in Pakistan, red-tape culture and lack of information about the plan getting onto the ground might be major impediments as far as the investing community is concerned.
The most relevant person to approach in this context was Zaheeruddin Dar, a former public finance bureaucrat now running his own consultancy organisation in the name of Development Analysis Research Team (DART).
About the opposition to CPEC from an Indian lobby he said, “it is in the interest of the Indian economy to integrate to this plan. It benefit the Indian economy to be part of the future facilitation available in trading with entities operating from Kolkata to Moscow and Beijing via Central Asia and Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.”
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As far as the present regulatory structure and the red-tape culture in Pakistan are concerned, he said “there will be pressure on bureaucracy from the government and the business community to mend its ways. I do not see potential bureaucratic opposition in this context, so the situation might not be as cloudy as many people might conceive”.
Dar thought “a new regulatory framework might be in the offing as soon as the business community, both inland and from abroad presses for basic changes”.
“Chinese companies have already begun seeking joint ventures and takeovers in Pakistan in the run up to CPEC infrastructure layout on the ground,” he added. “As far as Pakistani investors are concerned, the sectors most of them might choose would be light engineering, foods and garments.”
According to him, there is a lot of information the government tends to hold back on CPEC from the likely and potential investors. It can be vital information to the intending investors whose main source of information is the official documents. “Such information is also needed as far as public and media are concerned.”
Dar thought the government might eventually liberalise the flow of information as far as CPEC is concerned. The law now in vogue to enforce access to information might also help in this connection.
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“The Chinese companies and officials do not face impediments in getting such information through, but its free flow might give a boost to the potential engagement of the trading and investing communities with the CPEC plan. They have never experienced such an opportunity and the methods of availing them might be slow to become public knowledge.”
He thought a large chunk of the foreign investment for the CPEC projects might come from the Chinese investors. As far as consensus in Pakistan on CPEC is concerned, he said it was evolving and there was growing anticipation in Pakistan that CPEC would accelerate trade and industry, including the stock exchange in this country.
According to his information, the Pak-China relevant organisations and officials were engaged productively in exchanging notes on developments taking place as far as the CPEC infrastructure is concerned.
The first phase in this context would be completed by the end of 2020.
Progress on investment from the Pakistani entrepreneurs and the foreign investors might be seen between 2020 and 2025.
“The CPEC might show its most potential results by 2030,” said Dar, adding that it would be then that the region would see results of the entire activity from India to Russia and Afghanistan to the shores of Burma and adjoining lands. He did not think that there was cause for pessimism in the CPEC context. However, it was up to the institutions and investors in Pakistan to take advantage of the situation triggered by the CPEC plan, which might be unprecedented in terms of development.
Courtesy : Express Tribune