Stirring the CPEC pot

ONCE again KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and his high command are up in arms against the manner in which the government is seen to be implementing the CPEC projects.

Less than two months ago, he was already threatening “massive agitations” against these as well as a halt to all land acquisition under way in his province for CPEC projects.

The reasons given were that the centre had not allocated the promised funds for those projects that lie in the province, and that changes were being made in the allocations and routes without consulting his government.

On Dec 5, shortly after Mr Khattak’s outburst, the KP Assembly unanimously passed a resolution endorsing his views that the maps of the project being issued by the Planning Commission “indicate the consensus achieved on May 28 has not been implemented in letter and spirit”.

This was the second such resolution on CPEC passed by the provincial assembly — the first one came in October.

Today, the chief minister is upping the ante all over again. Once again, he is threatening agitations and the withdrawal of support for the land acquisition process, and his complaints are being echoed by parties besides his own in the provincial government.

It is not clear what precisely is the issue at stake, with all the emotional rhetoric in play, but what is evident is that the concerns raised in November, and echoed in the resolution of the provincial assembly, do not appear to have been resolved.

We can be excused for feeling a little confused as we witness this spectacle. Is this all politically driven, or is the government living up to its reputation of showing a stubborn preference for Punjab when it comes to the allocation of the state’s material resources?

The minister for planning has tried to assuage these concerns by saying his government “cannot even think about discriminating against any province”, but the words sound somewhat vacuous.

What is clear is that the whole controversy ultimately grows out of the lack of transparency shrouding CPEC projects, to the point where even the State Bank governor has made public comments that he is not aware of the foreign exchange requirements of the financing arrangements under which the projects are being executed.

Between fiscal year 2014 and 2015, the disbursement of bilateral loans and grants for CPEC energy projects doubled to reach $1.2bn, a large sum which doubtless carries repayment obligations that need to be known in advance.

The resolution of the KP Assembly further demands that the “[m]onographic study on highways of CPEC should be made a public document. Similarly, the agreements between Pakistan and China should also be made public”. It is high time to bring transparency to CPEC, or perhaps call another multiparty conference to hammer out a new consensus behind it all over again.

Courtesy: Dawn