China, Turkey dominate Punjab uplift schemes

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LAHORE – Since the PML-N government came to power in the Punjab, it chiefly relied on Chinese and Turkish companies to overcome the energy crisis, improve transport, health service, infrastructure, and control crime.

The PML-N has been ruling the province for over more than eight years. During this period, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif totally changed mode of development which came largely through his personal efforts and friendly ties with the Chinese as well as Turkish leadership. The projects initiated on the basis of mutual benefits proved beneficial not only for the Punjab but also for the whole country. These two countries took the lead in accepting offers for the mega projects in Pakistan when many countries were afraid due to incidents of terrorism which grew fast after the year of 2005. After shift from dictatorship to democracy in 2008, attracting foreign investment remained an uphill task and China and Turkey were the two states that came forward to help out Pakistan. And in the course of time, they became a big factor to encourage investors from other countries to make investment in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab. But the lion’s share and a leading role remained with China and Turkey.

Britain invested in education, health and crime control sectors, Germany in pure water and wind energy projects, while Japan and Central Asian states also helped the Punjab in various areas of development.

While studying the development saga in the province after May 2013 elections, one readily sees a yawning difference from the past. The Punjab attracted foreign investment which was partly made directly with the permission of the provincial government and partly through the sovereign guarantee given by the federal government for mega schemes. However, a seamy aspect of the development spree is its being Lahore centric at the cost of backward districts where even drinking water is a rare commodity.

At the fag end of the last tenure, Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif opened Metro bus service in February 2013 in Lahore, which was completed with the expertise of a Turkish company, Albayrak, at the cost of Rs30 billion. The same company, in collaboration with Solid Waste Management Company, started sanitation and cleanliness system in Lahore. This company also did working on generating energy from waste, but this project appears in the doldrums.

In the current tenure, Metro bus project was completed in Rawalpindi while it is under completion in Multan with the cooperation of the Turkish company.

Albayrak is now running a cab service in Lahore and plans to enhance the scope. The Turkish government has gifted a 500-bed hospital in Bahawalpur to the Punjab government.

Under an agreement, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is providing technical expertise to the Punjab in local bodies, building control, urban and regional planning, provision and drainage of water, solid waste management and skill development. The Turkish government also provided building capacity to the law enforcers in the Punjab in addition to research delivery in agriculture, farming and livestock.

In January last, an agreement was signed with Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKI) for building 50,000 low-cost houses in the Punjab, 25,000 each in 2016 and 2017. Sources in the official quarters say efforts are on to materialise the project.

Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, under his own stewardship, formed a special committee of experts to monitor implementation of these projects. For development schemes in Punjab, China evinced special interest which largely owed to the good offices of the CM who held frequent visits to Beijing to discuss their nitty-gritty. The $46billion Chinese investment under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan was historic. Of this amount, $34 billion have been earmarked to generate electricity in Pakistan; $7 billion will be spent on the electricity projects in the Punjab.

Garments City would be set up near Kala Shah Kaku over 1,000 acres of land while a Pak-China industrial zone would also be established there. The city provides all facilities to industrialists under one roof while the project will also include a labour colony, a hospital and other necessities. Chinese Shandong Ruyi group is contributing to the city through setting up energy plants and providing technical assistance. The same group is also cooperating in establishing a Punjab-China industrial zone.

For encouraging Chinese and local investment, Punjab China Bureau was set up under the auspices of Punjab Board of Investment and Trade. The board organised a business conference in January last. On this occasion, about 180 MoUs were signed, mostly with Chinese companies for cooperation in energy, textile, civil construction, education, science and technology, pure water schemes, sanitation, transport and others.

Chinese Dongfang Electric International (DEC) has completed 425MW Nandipur Power Project near Gujranwala. The Sahiwal Coal Power Plant is all set to become the first project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to be completed. The project, with an estimated cost of $1.8 billion, will add 1,320MW of electricity to the national grid. Chinese Bank has made investment in Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project while two other Green and Purple Train projects for the City are in the pipeline.

The 1,000MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Energy Project, Bawahalpur, which was commissioned in May 2015, started producing 100MW electricity.

It was completed by Tebian Electric Apparatus, a subsidiary of Xingiang SunOasis. The remaining 900MW capacity will be installed by Zonergy under the CPEC.

A Chinese company is working on a theme park in Lahore, which will house a water park, aquarium, residential facilities and other commercial activities on the pattern of Disney Land. The Chinese company will make the entire investment on the project and the Punjab government will provide the accompanying facilities.

Published in The Nation newspaper on 06-Aug-2016