Pakistan needs to overcome all odds to take the fringe business opportunities attached with the mega project
China unveiled to the world its dream to revive the ancient Silk Road by undertaking massive infrastructure projects and adding value to ports around the Silk Road in 2013. The Chinese termed it One Belt One Road (OBOR) which is known as Yídàiyílù in Chinese. The idea of One Belt and One Road is based mainly on economy, but has also political and strategic components and implications. It aims for the joint development, common prosperity and energy security. Since improving the region’s economy could weaken the root cause of terrorism and help stabilize Central Asia and the Middle East.
The mega project of China firmly focuses on the Continent development goals. Through this idea of shared destiny and cooperation, China will construct a new world economy that would serve generations. According to the plan, One Belt-One Road would be a series of initiatives under which several corridors will be built to boost regional economies to the tune of $2.5 trillion benefiting over 4.4 billion population across 65 countries. The initiative is not simply building roads, rails, and ports but introduces a comprehensive network of infrastructure development.
Former President Pak China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Shah Faisal Afridi said the ever-lasting deep-rooted friendly and brotherly relations between the two neighboring countries of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Peoples Republic of China are crystal clear to the entire world as model of true friendship. It could be assessed through the reality that Beijing always firmly stood united with Islamabad at all times as and when needed both in peace and emergency hours.
According to him, One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative, is the name of a plan to revive and better the spirit of the old silk road and a step towards realizing the prophecy of the Asian century. The OBOR consists of various mega-projects, but the main two programs are the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) and the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). OBOR has a string of projects connecting the Baltic Sea with the Pacific Ocean via roads, rails and sea lanes for free trade. The OBOR has struck everyone’s interest as the sheer enormity of the venture suggests that it is going to be a game changer not just for China, but for all the stakeholders.
The approximate costs that will incur are an astronomical $21.1 trillion and they resonate with the winds of change of prosperity, which are forecasted to propel to new zenith some 65 economies constituting more than 80 percent of the world’s population.
Mr. Afridi said the mega project One Belt One Road (OBOR) is a shift in strategy to integrate China with the rest of Asia, Europe and Africa, and in the process, build infrastructure across these regions to boost economic growth of the region and definitely create a win-win situation for China along with the participants in the project.
According to him, the financing for the endeavor will come from various sources, namely, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS New Development Bank, and the Silk Road Fund. Additionally, the China-ASEAN Interbank Association and SCO Interbank Association will render finances. The OBOR will have a tremendous impact on the world at large and China has been at the forefront of Asia’s connectivity drive and putting together trade investment mechanisms and keeping routes viable and upgrading infrastructure.
Though these activities are largely appreciated, but there is still anxiety among various countries that are skeptical about China’s intentions in terms of geopolitical gains and desires for global domination. It should be realized by the analysts that all these activities are for promoting global trade and there is no country in the world, which can deny this fact.
Fortunately, he said China has chosen to begin the implementation of this big bang template with Pakistan, as both nations are the Iron friends. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is declared as a significant opening move on the ‘Belt and Road initiative’ chessboard. (CPEC) is, in fact, a trunk passageway connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt in the north with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road in the south.
According to him, CPEC is not merely an ordinary economic corridor or a transit trade route, but it would be a fate changer project through which the Pakistani nation would be able to generate around 10,000 megawatts of power, a number of hydropower dams, a high-speed railway facility, educational institutes and medical facilities. The CPEC would also be the harbinger of enormous job opportunities for Pakistanis. Still other components include integrating industrial chains, clusters and parks so regional countries can build on their comparative advantage and entire industrial sectors can develop in concert. While each and every corridor whether over land or through sea is important, but none so much as the CPEC because of its strategic location militarily as well as economically. It is the only corridor, which is connected to another corridor and helps provide landlocked countries with access to the sea. The CPEC provides China with a deep sea water port. The intentions to build this corridor surfaced more than a decade and a half ago and because of the volatility of the region and international interventions.
Mr. Afridi said the importance of the project is enormous for China, as in the wake of any adversity, war or natural disaster within the Indian Ocean or eastwards, China’s trade with Africa, the West and most importantly its oil imports from the Middle East would remain unhindered. That is why despite the volatile conditions in Pakistan and Xingjian Province, the Chinese resolve to build the CPEC has not been dazed. It is through the massive investments in infrastructure in Pakistan that China seeks to tackle the menace of terrorism, which in the eyes of international observers will hinder progress, he said.
He further said, no country has invested in Pakistan so massively in a single sweep. Even USA which has been very benevolent towards Pakistan in terms of handouts and its devised aid packages do not match up to the $46 billion which China is investing. In fact “the size of the, investment‟ in the CPEC over the next 15 years, if materialized, will equal the cumulative gross foreign direct investment inflows into Pakistan since 1970. The CPEC passes through the entire length of the country and with this feature, it is going to have a compounding economic impact on the country which otherwise is in dire need of infrastructure projects.
The vision of the OBOR foresees the world to benefit from trade and grow economically. Similarly, if the CPEC is developed properly, it would link the underdeveloped areas of Pakistan with the much needed infrastructure rather than acting as a mere transit route simply for Chinese goods. With the advent of CPEC, Pakistan’s development craving provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Xingjian province of China will reap immense economic benefits, said Afridi.
He said there is a bright chance that linkages with the Central Asian Corridor, the broader vision of the OBOR, will usher in foreign direct investment in Pakistan which dried up in the wake of war against terrorism in the country. Foreign direct investment in the region will breathe life into the economies of the poverty stricken and underdeveloped regions of Pakistan. Jobs will be created and business avenues for the local people will open. It is due to the pledges of the $46 billion investment from China, that Pakistan’s stock market ranked among the top ten performers in the world, and Moody’s upgrading of Pakistan’s sovereign credit ratings in June 2015, for the first time since 2008 – are all indicators of growth. These factors have led to positive evaluations of Pakistan’s economy.
The big message that came across is that the initiatives are open ones and are not confined to countries with a specific proximate geography, a specific historical circumstance or a specific economic situation. If we continue to pursue our bilateral agenda on political, economic and cultural terms, we will be fulfilling the aims and objectives of the Belt and Road initiatives, he said.
Mr. Afridi said the Belt and Road Initiative is a systematic project, which should be jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all, and efforts should be made to integrate the development strategies of the countries along the Belt and Road. It is an enduring methodical project that cannot be done overnight, thus states should undergo step-by-step advancement and by endorsing upon a pragmatic approach they should invoke various cooperation initiatives and mechanisms under the auspices of ‘one road, one belt’ initiative to make it more effective and mutually reinforcing.
Pakistan is making its choices prudently and with confidence, supporting all efforts for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. However, Pakistan needs to involve all leaders of the local business community so as to look into the fringe business opportunities attached with the mega project.