Previous govt ‘scandalised’ CPEC: Ahsan Iqbal


Current govt has managed to restore progress on CPEC within a year, says planning minister
Federal Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday said that the previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) “scandalised” China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad to mark a decade of the signing of the multi-billion dollar project, Iqbal said the Chinese investors started leaving the country and went to countries like Cambodia and Vietnam instead owing to policies of PTI government.
He said that since assuming power, the current government has renewed its commitment to CPEC, signalling a renewed focus and determination to make the project successful.
“China is also getting the message that Pakistan is now serious about CPEC. As a result, CPEC again is picking up momentum,” he added.
“We are trying to give investors a one-window operation,” stated Minister Iqbal, highlighting the government’s efforts to streamline the investment process under CPEC.
Recognising the untapped potential of Pakistan’s land, he said that the government aims to make both uncultivated and fertile land more productive. To achieve this, he added, the government plans to establish cooperatives that involve farmers.
He lamented that such initiatives in the past were marred by “elite capture” and only a few benefited from them. “After the elections, I am hoping the investors will once again turn to Pakistan for investment under CPEC,” he added.
The minister emphasised the government’s ambition to make Pakistan an export-led economy, acknowledging the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) in achieving this goal. “FDI not only brings capital but also technology and human development, a model adopted by many progressive nations today,” he added.
He said CPEC has already transformed Pakistan’s energy sector, with the establishment of 8,000 megawatt electricity, improvements in road infrastructure, the laying of a fibre-optic cable, enhancements to Gwadar’s infrastructure, and the foundation of several Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
However, he added, the momentum of CPEC suffered a setback in 2018, and that Pakistan missed opportunities for business-to-business cooperation during that time. He regretted that a revenge-driven narrative took precedence over further progress in CPEC.
Nevertheless, he added that CPEC has provided the necessary energy and physical infrastructure upon which Pakistan can build a successful economy. Iqbal emphasised that this transformation could have occurred in 2018 if not for the diversion from the project’s path.
“Pakistan now has another opportunity. The confidence of the world is restoring in Pakistan. Even though we have reservations over the agreement made by the previous government with IMF, we nevertheless honoured the commitments so that no one can point fingers at Pakistan that it does not abide by the agreements.”
Iqbal said that the government has established a Special Investment Facilitation Council to facilitate investment. “The council comprises important federal and provincial departments, as well as civil-military institutions. Its role is to instill confidence among investors by providing a one-stop solution to the various challenges they face. Previously, investors had to navigate numerous departments and obtain multiple No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for their projects,” he added.
Recognising the need for investment in the agricultural sector, he said that the government aims to attract funding through the facilitation council to revolutionise agricultural practices.
“The government plans to build modern farms, incorporating advanced technology for irrigation, cultivation, and overall productivity improvement. To support these efforts, the military institutions have developed a robust land information management system, integrating various aspects of land utilisation, soil management, crop production, protection, harvesting, and marketing systems. The system utilises modern technologies, including satellite technology, to drive the transformation of the agriculture sector,” he added