Prime Minister’s visit to China to attend Second Belt and Road Forum has been quite successful from the perspective of signing of free trade agreement between the two countries according to which China has agreed to extend same preferential treatment to Pakistani imports as it has given to the ASEAN Countries. It will not only reduce the imbalance in bilateral trade between the two countries but would also enhance badly needed export potential of Pakistan. The two countries were also able to formally sign MOU for ML-1 project for building double railway track from Peshawar to Karachi. The visit also provided an opportunity for interaction between Prime minister Imran Khan and the top Chinese leadership in which both sides expressed their unflinching resolve to consolidate the gains of cooperation between them under CPEC and also exploring new vistas of cooperation.

While addressing the forum the Prime Minister was right on money when he said “In a world of geopolitical uncertainty, of rising inequality and barriers to trade, the BRI offers a model of collaboration, partnership, connectivity and shared prosperity. The phenomenal rise of China as world’s world second biggest economy has also made it a major player on the global economic and political stage. There is almost a consensus around the world among diplomats, academicians and economists that BRI offers the world an alternative model of economic development.

The signing on to the BRI Vision by 122 States and 49 International Organizations is an indubitable acknowledgement of that reality. The Chinese model of Development premised on partnership and shared economic prosperity also has cultural and political dimensions which can immensely contribute to promoting world peace and harmony.

Pakistan is the major partner and beneficiary of CPEC, a flagship project of BRI and as rightly pointed out by Prime Minister Imran Khan its benefits have already started having their impact on Pakistan’s economy through increased supply of energy and development of infrastructure which has enabled the two countries to shift greater focus on socio-economic uplift, poverty alleviation, agricultural cooperation and industrial development emulating the Chinese model of poverty alleviation. He was right on mark to assert that this cooperation and collaboration for transformational change was characterized by deep-rooted friendship, partnership and brotherhood with China which remains strong, resilient and unbreakable and stood tall in the face of every challenge.

While informing the audience about setting up of special Economic Zones along the length of the Corridor in the second phase of CPEC he observed that it offered myriad of opportunities for Pakistani, Chinese and other foreign investors to take advantage of them. He specifically mentioned the opportunities in the domain of infrastructure development, Railways, Dams, IT and manufacturing.

Pakistan currently is confronted with an enormous economic melt-down and there are only two ways of orchestrating revival of the economy and setting the stage for sustained economic growth in the future. The first is encouraging and promoting investments in the industrial sector by the Pakistani investors which lead to a boost in Pakistani exports and second is inviting foreign investments through liberal policies.

Foreign direct investments are a preferred substitute for loans. They act as a propeller for generating employment and enhancing the GDP growth. For Pakistan which is already groaning under the unbearable weight of foreign loans, foreign direct investments are like a life line and all efforts need to be focused on that aspect. The special economic zones to be set up along the corridor have the potential for acting as a catalyst to transformational change in the economic profile of Pakistan and could create a win-win situation both for Pakistan and would be investors in those zones. That was the strategy adopted by China to lift 800 million people out of poverty and achieved upper middle-income status.

The Prime Minister also emphasized the need among the participating countries in BRI for collaborative efforts for mitigating effects of climate change, establishment of BRI Tourism Corridor, Establishment of Office of Anti-Corruption Cooperation to combat white-collar crimes, Creation of Poverty Alleviation Fund and making efforts for further liberalization of trade and investment flows. In the permeating global situation the recipe suggested the Prime Minister provides the best chance to overcome the challenges in the identified domains through collective efforts provided there is a political will to act.

Climate change is probably the biggest challenge facing humanity at the moment and has already affected every country around the world with debilitating effect, particularly the developing countries. Pakistan ranks seventh among the ten most affected countries due to climate change. Scientists have warned the world leaders of the impending dangers if the phenomenon was not tackled through collaborative efforts on top priority basis. Promotion of tourism would also cement cultural ties among the BRI countries giving further boost to the developmental efforts. Poverty and corruption are surely the bane of socio-economic development where ever they exist and they can only be tackled through concerted joint efforts.

Furthermore, the economists believe that with the completion of all the projects under CPEC by 2030 there would be an addition of 2% to the already existing GDP growth rate. Pakistan will hopefully enjoy energy security which is a vital ingredient in the industrial development. The envisaged connectivity of Pakistan with other regional countries, particularly central Asian nations would make Pakistan a hub of regional economic activity with perennial benefits.

The writer is a freelance columnist.ashpak10@gmail.com

Pakistan currently is confronted with an enormous economic melt-down and there are only two ways of orchestrating revival of the economy and setting the stage for sustained economic growth in the future.