ISLAMABAD : Since the beginning of the massive China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) construction project, there has been occasional criticism, including some complaints that projects under the CPEC are only available for Chinese companies.
But business leaders from multinationals and local Pakistani firms in Karachi paint a very different picture.
Representatives say that both multinational companies, from Germany and the US, and local Pakistani companies have been actively involved in various CPEC projects and reaped opportunities as the flagship program under the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative continues.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions that CPEC is only for Chinese companies which it is not… Many opportunities are available for non-Chinese companies as well,” said Abdul Aleem, secretary general of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), which represents over 200 companies from outside of Pakistan.
Aleem told reporters at a media briefing with Chinese reporters that many multinationals are reinvesting in Pakistan because they see a lot of opportunity for growth thanks to the CPEC, pointing out that members of the OICCI are expected to invest about $2.7 billion dollars in 2018 alone.
Helmut von Struve, managing director of Siemens (Pakistan) Engineering Co, said that Siemens has been working with many Chinese companies, including some smaller firms, to support them in understanding the Pakistani market, investing and setting up manufacturing facilities here.
“So, from this angle, we are very positive about the next steps, as more Chinese manufacturing companies are expected to move into Pakistan,” Struve said at the same media briefing.
Faisal Akhtar, managing director of BASF Pakistan (Private) Ltd, a German chemical firm, also said that his company was now working with many Chinese companies in Pakistan, including home appliances maker Haier and infrastructure firm China Harbor.
“We also see very good opportunity for business with all these new Chinese companies, involving making white goods, auto parts or concerning infrastructure development. So, we see it as a very good opportunity, as you know, that more and more Chinese investments and companies are coming into the country,” Akhtar said.
Local Pakistani companies are also at the forefront of major CPEC projects.
Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, chief operating officer for Sindh Engro Coal Company, a joint venture between the provincial government of Sindh and Pakistani conglomerate Engro Corp, said his company is developing one of the country’s largest coal mining projects under CPEC.
Rizvi said that there is hearsay that most of the CPEC projects are majority owned by Chinese companies and that the Chinese companies are getting all the revenues. “That is not the case for the [Thar coal project], where 95 percent of the entire equity in mining is owned by Pakistani companies,” he said at the same briefing.
While multinationals are seeing a lot of opportunities under the CPEC, which is a $60 billion program covering energy, infrastructure and port projects, there are still sectors which need improvement, including information sharing and leveling the playing field.
“There is a lot more interest now about what is happening in the CPEC, but at the same time… mostly the government of Pakistan… they are not sharing too much information as to the extent and scope of the projects,” Aleem said.
Akhtar also pointed out that in certain areas, such as chemical imports, the playing field is not level for multinationals that are already operating in Pakistan. “So, to address that, I think some action is needed,” he said.