Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s conversation with Media after the 13th session of JCC.

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Islamabad, Federal Minister Professor Ahsan Iqbal has the honor of having presided over 10 out of 13 JCC meetings. Speaking to the media after the 13th JCC, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that CPEC is a milestone of friendship between Pakistan and China. CPEC has provided this friendship with a strong foundation for economic and economic cooperation. From 2013 to 2018, 25 billion dollars were invested in Pakistan under CPEC. He said that the journey of CPEC slowed down after 2018 due to change of government. Criticism of CPEC during this period caused big investors to leave Pakistan, as a result of which Pakistan suffered huge losses in investment. Further damage to Pakistan’s economy was caused by severe climate changes, floods and corona virus.

Highlighting the projects in Gwadar, Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that during the 16- months government tenure in Gwadar, water, electricity projects and dredging projects of Gwadar port were reactivated. Owing to the lack of dredging of Gwadar port, the depth of Gwadar port was reduced by one and a half meters due to which big ships could not anchor. The government completed this work in 6 months.

Similarly, the transmission line from Iran was brought to Gwadar. Gwadar was also got connected to the National Grid through a transmission line for the first time. Pipeline connection from Gwadar dam to supply more brackish water. With these steps, China has regained its confidence in Pakistan to continue CPEC with renewed rigour.

Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal also said that the Deputy Prime Minister of China visited Pakistan on the completion of 10 years of CPEC. On this occasion, he identified 5 new corridors for Phase 2 of CPEC. These include Growth Corridor, Economic Development Projects Corridor, Innovation Corridor, Green Corridor, and Regional Connectivity Corridor. All these five corridors are in line with Pakistan’s economic development framework, the Five Es and Vision 2025, for which Pakistan strives.

In the thirteenth JCC, it was reiterated to work on developing projects. These projects include Azad Patan project, and Kohala project. These projects will provide 1800 MW of hydel energy to Pakistan. Concrete announcements regarding these projects are expected during the visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to China. Besides, in the light of the economic situation of Pakistan, the ML1 project of CPEC was revised. The cost of the project has been reduced from $10 billion to $6.8 billion. The ML1 project will be constructed in phases. Its purpose is to enable implementation in accordance with the economic laws of Pakistan.

During question answers session, Minister Ahsan Iqbal was asked about delays in circular debt of Chinese IPPs. Minister said that China’s patience and collaboration despite delays is commendable, as they understand Pakistan’s economic situation. He shared that due payments will be cleared at the earliest and instructions had already been given to relevant departments.

Minister was asked if length of ML1 had been reduced after its cost was lowered from $10 billion to $6.8billion. The minister answered that the basic infrastructural length is same but time/speed for completion will be increased as the project will be materialized in multiple phases.

To a question inquiring how much loss CPEC projects had suffered during PTI tenure, Minister stated that the progress on CPEC projects had regressed by at least 10 years.

Furthermore, Minister said that the decision to use local coal instead of imported coal will help promote the vision of incorporating green economy. 300 Megawatt Gwadar coal will fulfill local demand for fuel along the Makran coast region and 1800 MGW will fulfill remaining demand through Kohala and Azad Pattan projects. These two projects will take 6-8 years until completion.

Minister Iqbal further shared that National Energy Administration of China will visit Pakistan to prepare recommendations to reduce power losses during project construction phases. They will also make solutions to convert regular energy efficiently into green energy.

In response to another question inquiring how government will fund PSDPs when there is limited financial capacity, he said that Public Private Partnerships will be part of next year’s development budget.

He also stated that Pakistan’s economic progress is now dependend on consistent increase in agricultural and industrial exports. Pakistan has already started exporting wheat, livestock, beef and fruits to China.

One questioner raised concern over the fact that previous government had halted construction of road from Thakot onwards and 3000 workers in Kohistan had lost lives. Minister assured that no progress on any CPEC project will be halted by present government. He also stressed that strict security measures have been taken to protect all labourers in collaboration with Interior ministry.

While summarizing priority areas under CPEC phase 2, Minister said that the new phase will focus on advancement of agriculture, science and technology, and IT. As a result of 13th JCC, two new working groups had been added:

Working Group on Water Resources, and a Working Group on Climate change. Considering that Pakistan is the world’s 7th most vulnerable country due to impact brought by climate change, the inclusion of these new working groups will help devise innovative solutions to combat adverse effects of climate.

Minister also stressed that the potential of mineral resources of Balochistan will be explored on priority, adding that the government had revived Reko Diq project. During this JCC, both sides agreed on materializing Saudi Arabia and China’s investments in mining sector. Citing development of Panjkot-Mashkhel mineral corridor as a significant proposal during this JCC, he expressed confidence in Balochistan becoming the mining capital of Pakistan.