The investment dynamics and resulting benefits that are encompassed in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project can be termed as nothing short of economic revolution for the entire region. In that context, the CPEC Think and Grow Summit was held at Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (PITAC), Lahore on 31st March 2018. The conference featured dignitaries from People’s Republic of China, who partook under the spirit of promoting the ideals of mutual cooperation between Pakistan and China through identifying the opportunities for future.
CPEC was coined as the economic game changer for Pakistan both by the government officials present at the event as well as the honorable speakers from both countries that highlighted the benefits and areas of cooperation in comprehensive detail at the technical session. High profile dignitaries from both countries were present to grace the event in order to understand the far-reaching impact with development of CPEC related projects in the future.
The guests featured Honorable Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Interior, Planning, Development and Reforms, as the Chief Guest for the Summit and also included Dr. Cui Yong, Vice Dean and Deputy Secretary General of Belt and Road Initiative, Jiangsu University, China as the head of delegation from our neighboring country amongst others from both sides. The report signifies the event flow and the details of CPEC related way forward as identified by the participants and guests at the Summit. This Summit was an attempt to start the process of understanding and explaining the future potential of CPEC related projects and developments and therefore, the themes that were discussed have been covered in the report.
CPEC Think and Grow Summit at PITAC featured inaugural and technical sessions under which the benefits of the upcoming projects for Pakistan were discussed. Modernization of infrastructure and breaking any potential bottlenecks hindering the long-term growth were also emphasized and potential solutions were presented before the audience. The idea was to educate the locals and the stakeholders involved so that a smooth transition of economic development sponsored by CPEC is ensured and the risk is mitigated accordingly.
The Summit held at PITAC Lahore and covered a number of themes under which the respective inaugural and technical sessions were conducted. The first session being the formal session of the event featured speakers that pointed towards macro side of CPEC, also stressing on the need to chalk a way forward to this project to be a success. The second session was more inclined towards addressing the themes in particular, with each speaker equipped with a formal presentation to provide a fair view of the dynamics of this project encapsulates. The following themes were covered:
• CPEC Regional Trade and Foreign Direct Investment
• Logistics and Transportation Opportunities and Challenges
• National Agriculture and Food Security Action Plan
• Social and Economic Welfare
• Energy and Environment
Dr. Cui Yong, Vice Dean Jiangsu University, China, who was heading the Chinese delegation took out time to visit the Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (PITAC) HQ Lahore facility so as to understand in detail the work that is being done in terms of prospective collaboration on CPEC related projects. He inspected the facility and also reviewed the curriculum along with the machinery installed in terms of the industrial development that is present in Pakistan and if and how is the infrastructure up to date in its transition to the CPEC induced industrial projects.
Dr. Cui Yong also stressed upon the need of effective human resource development as part of this development, since it is of paramount importance. The way human resource will be matched against overall capital inducement is a matter of concern given the scale of the project. Also, the idea to involve local workforce requires a lot of investment on human capital and its relative standard, a factor that Dr. Cui pointed out correctly. Based on this pre-summit visit to PITAC, a two-pronged approach was highlighted by the Chinese delegate:
• Technology Transfer- CPEC is bound to carry an influx of technological pathway towards Pakistan and there is a dire need to capitalize on that front. Contemporary technology is required to run the entire processes of this CPEC induced development and the related projects that tag along with it. Therefore, tech infrastructure required an overhaul in addition to allowing for ease of transition when it comes to required Technology transfer.
• Collaborative Development- This covers not only the physical infrastructure where cooperation is required but also the education sector, where technical skills, courses, exchange programs etc. can be established and introduced so as to equip the country’s labor force with soft skills as well. This requires cooperation from both sides and would require a knowledge sharing program as well. The end goal is that the transformation is flawless and provides a wider perspective to the entire development spectrum.
The Inaugural Session featured a panel with Engr. Sarfraz Ahmed (Director General, Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre), Dr. Shahid Rashid (Executive Director, Centre of Excellence China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), Dr. Cui Yong (Vice Dean Jiangsu University, China), Dr. Hasan Sohaib Murad (President, University of Management and Technology), Dr. Hasnain Javed (Advisor / Master Trainer PITAC, Ministry of Industries and Production), Dr. Saleem Janjua (Policy maker and a Senior bureaucrat) and the Chief guest, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal (Minister for Interior, Planning, Development and Reforms). The event was being hosted with these esteemed guests representing both Pakistan and China respectively. In addition, a considerable Chinese presence with the rest of the delegation was also in attendance at the Summit. Apart from this, the local business community, relevant stakeholders, university students and other participants were also present in the august house.
Director General PITAC, Engr. Sarfraz Ahmed welcomed the guests for their presence at the event and initiated the agenda by stating the link between PITAC and its contribution in the CPEC related project activity. He also emphasized upon the fact that the institution represents a one of a kind facility that has been since its inception, serving towards establishing a technical skill force in the country through their vast hands on experience in the industries and production sector. The need for a smoother transition in context of CPEC and its impact on domestic industrial production was also discussed and the role of PITAC in this was underlined.
The opening remarks by Dr. Shahid Rashid were primarily outlining the role of Centre of Excellence for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the context of the historic investment flowing into Pakistan. Research based activities, roping in educational institutions, tie up with local business avenues and associations was coined as the most significant work done at the Centre of Excellence. The need for a curriculum change incorporating the practical framework with regards to the effects and dynamics of CPEC was stressed upon since that is an area that the local infrastructure lacks at this point in time. He also emphasized upon the success of the Centre of Excellence and its research team and urged the need for increasing the scale of research so as to gain a comprehensive understanding of CPEC related projects.
The key note address was given by our foreign delegate, Dr. Cui Yong, who explained how this investment from China is going to enhance the overall economic activity with time in different sectors within the country. He also stated that his visit to the PITAC facility and overall interaction with the business fraternity has enlightened him about the available facilities to handle the CPEC challenge in Pakistan. The need for economic cooperation was outlined along with specific areas of improvement such as technology transfer, greater infrastructural revision, education sector and developing adequate human resource in Pakistan. He also mentioned that this is a cooperation and therefore, it is a two-way relationship on an equal footing. He also mentioned that the opportunities in collaboration in the education sector and industrial development are limitless and that we should chalk out a way together to capitalize in on this factor.
Dr. Hasan Sohaib Murad, who was also the guest of honor spoke briefly about how this CPEC could be a game changer when it comes to the education sector in particular. He mentioned that there is a greater need to collaborate amongst educational institutions so that the benefits of this knowledge sharing are magnified. He also urged for a need to revisit our strategy towards ensuring that technical knowledge is also a part of the local curriculum so that it reflects the need for a greater local participation in CPEC related projects.
Chief Guest for the Summit, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal (Federal Minister for Interior, Planning, Development and Reforms) concluded the first session by laying down specific details about the progress of CPEC projects in terms of its completion. Projects that were completed, work in progress and to be initiated in the near future were all talked about in his respective address to the audience. He began by putting all the rumors, misconceptions, concerns and anticipations to rest by stating out plain facts with regards to the benefits that CPEC embeds within the project structure. He also clarified that this historic investment of over $45 billion over a span of a decade will serve as a gateway to prosperous Pakistan. Explaining the facts, the minister stated that a two-phase strategy has been applied, with the first phase nearing completion. This phase was tilted towards eliminating energy shortfalls and therefore, attracted a greater chunk of investment in this particular sector. Around $29 billion of the total investment is being directed towards the energy sector that is set to finance the wheels of development for infrastructure and industrial sector. A shortfall of over 10000MW has been covered majorly due to investments within this sector. He also pointed out towards the discovery of coal reserves in Thar, which holds reserves for an approximately 400 years if the production is set at 5000MW on an annual level. He termed this discovery as the game changer in the greater context and highlighted how it will fuel the economic success of Pakistan. Belt and road initiative was also mentioned about and the route of entire CPEC that is going to directly revitalize the industrial sector of Pakistan. Not only this but this economic activity will affect GDP growth and will add to creation of jobs (which remains a major concern in Pakistan) extensively. Prof. Ahsan Iqbal termed the development of Gwadar Port as crucial and highly lucrative in region’s context. He mentioned that Pakistan is destined to become the center of Asian trade and business activities due to the development of CPEC in the region. He also spoke about how there will be maritime trade and state of the art business centers in Gwadar, pointing out that one has already been made active. The Minister stressed on the need to have political stability for continuity of policies and how that is significant in the reaping maximum benefits from this CPEC projects. He mentioned that Pakistan is on its way towards progress and prosperity if political stability is ensured and the institutions are allowed to work uninterruptedly.
The first session was chaired by Dr. Dragana Ostic (Assistant Professor Jiangsu University). The first speaker, Dr. Saleem Janjua (HCP Group and Tech Valley), spoke about the importance of strategic management and planning in CPEC. He outlined with his presentation that how special economic zones and their creation can be a source of an effective strategic outline for the Pakistanis in general. The next speaker, Engineer Siddique- ur- Rehman Rana (Chief Executive, Technology Exchange and Coordination Ltd) spoke about the sustainable development ideals in alliance with the establishment of Special Economic zones. He highlighted the importance of these zones and how this could be a long- term cooperation with positive spillovers.
Dr. Hasnain Javed (Advisor / Master Trainer PITAC, Ministry of Industries and Production) spoke next on the facts and figures of growth for Pakistan as a result of this investment influx. He also pointed out towards CPEC being beneficial for Pakistan and its domestic circuit and how this is majorly not a loan but a collaborative activity. Taking ownership of the project and urging the youth to partake in the progress of this project was also a few key takeaways from the speaker’s presentation. He spoke about status of vocational and training institutes in the context of what is the way forward on this CPEC induced investment. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali (Director Board of Investment) spoke his way on prioritizing CPEC Special Economic Zones and how investing in this will revolutionize the industrial sector of Pakistan. Zones were identified in the respective provinces and a plan was also given to utilize the resources available in the respective zones.
The second session was chaired by Dr. Cui Yong (Vice Dean Jiangsu University). The participants included Mr. Abid Sherwani (DG, University of Management and Technology), Zou Renneng (CEO, Foton JW) and Dr. Muzammil Zia (Policy Head, CE- CPEC). Mr. Sherwani spoke about Entrepreneurial opportunities for youth available through this CPEC investment and how educational institutions can play an effective role in this. Zou Renneng spoke about Chinese and Pakistan’s collaboration in the industrial and education sector and how the benefits can already have been seen in his experience of working within the Pakistan setup. Finally, Mr. Muzammil spoke about specific projects in Sahiwal related to power and other significant developments that have helped employ the locals and included them in the CPEC process overall along with the economic development that this is set to bring. The need for training was stressed as seen earlier, that will help this transition and allow the domestic labor to equip and play their role in development while securing jobs for their household operations as well.