ISSN 2330-717X

CPEC: A Door To Prosperity In Balochistan – OpE

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In a developing economy, landing of foreign investment means the same as oxygen to living creatures. The same case is with the Balochistan, Pakistan and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Balochistan is a facilities deprived province of Pakistan and CPEC is the game changer for the fate of province. Through CPEC, a hefty amount of foreign investment is landed here which is enough to develop the socio-economic conditions of province. It also connects the province to many regional states which will enhance the trade, employment and tourism in the province. In a nutshell, CPEC projects will address the socio-economic issues being faced by the locals. 

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In order to comprehend the CPEC, one must know about ‘Beijing consensus’- a Chinese economic model, under which Chinese ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) was initiated. CPEC is a flagship project of BRI which starts from China’s Xinjiang province and ends at Gwadar Baluchistan. This project consists of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), massive investment in energy projects, rail and road routes and the agriculture sector. It includes 9 Special Economic Zones (SEZs), out of which 4 are prioritized. ‘Bostan Economic Zone’ is Baluchistan based SEZ which covers an area of 1000 acres, situated at district ‘Pishin’ bordered with Quetta, Qila Saifullah, Ziarat and Qila Abdullah.

While talking about Baluchistan, this province constitutes 5pc of Pakistan’s population i.e. 13million and the largest land area of the country is the poorest and at the same time richest in its wealth of natural resources. Its coastal line stretches 750 km which makes up 70pc of Pakistan’s coastline. Due to lack of industry and few opportunities for jobs and businesses, per capita income and average household incomes are very low. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), poverty rate stands at 47pc in Baluchistan. Female education is 16pc as compared to 32pc in rest of the provinces in Pakistan. Additionally, agriculture and livestock are the major sources of income and over half of the labor force is engaged in agriculture.

CPEC has multifaceted opportunities for underprivileged Baluchistan. It helps Baluchistan by augmenting economic, political, social and technological avenues. Infrastructure development, establishment of new sources for economic activities, energy projects, optimal resource utilization, communication and transportation, housing and amenities, effective water resource management, education and recreation are some of the areas which may advance through this project. Furthermore, socio-economic development of the province is linked with this multi-billion project which would contribute towards the restoration of harmony in the regional context.

In addition to that, ‘Gwadar’ means the ‘door of air’, while keeping in mind the benefits of CPEC, it would not be false to say ‘Gwadar’- ‘a door of prosperity and progress’. In this context, Gwadar smart city has a number of projects ranging from primary school to an international airport and industrial zone that would change the fate of Baluchistan as multiple passages will be built to well connect this vast province. Gwadar projects will also solve its water issue by installing desalination plants as well as sewage plants. Additionally, Baluchistan is enriched with natural resources such as production of dry fruits, gold, copper, oil, valuable stones and chromite. The export of all these would contribute to national economy and growth of national GDP. According to the Geological Survey of Pakistan, Baluchistan has more than 80 mineral resources with significant deposits. Some have been discovered, while most remain waiting to be explored. 

While considering the regional worth, its significance can be gauged through the fact that through CPEC, Baluchistan is connected to China, Russia and central Asian states. Russia’s warm water access, China’s trade activities through the deep port of Gwadar and import of energy from energy-rich central Asian states, to overcome the country’s energy scarcity, will contribute to augment the worth of CPEC. In this worth making process, role played by Pakistan Army and Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is commendable. The Army has placed all its resources for the construction and protection of the corridor at the disposal of the nation while FWO has also been pressed into action to build new segments of roads in Baluchistan.

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In drawing to a close, the worthy projects under CPEC has directed towards uplifting the socio-economic sectors of the province as well as country. The establishment of ‘SEZs’ will attract the foreign investors and industrialists, which will further create employment opportunities for the locals. By the same token, local manufacturing will lead to ‘no import’ and furthermore, exemption of duties. With improvement of intra-state road infrastructure, inter-state connectivity will also be improved. Moreover, living standards of the locals will be uplifted which will help them to exit from poverty. Hence, this satisfactory image of the CPEC ensures prosperity of the backward province.

*Ahmed Saeed is an Analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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