Pakistan is expecting a cut in unemployment by 2.32 million with the activation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) within the next two years. Dr Nadeem Javed, Chief Economist Pakistan while taking part in a panel discussion of the 32nd Annual General Meeting of Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE) titled 'Socio-Economic Impact of CPEC' said according to projections, the CPEC would reduce the number of unemployed labour force by 2.32 million in 2017-18.
He said that CPEC is primarily an energy-driven connectivity project with an aim to reduce energy constraints and improve fuel mix. Post-July 2017, the gap between demand and supply of energy will end and by July 2018 the generation of power is expected to be in surplus due to CPEC.
Expressing views on the topic, Professor Tariq Amin Khan, Ryerson University, Canada, said that problems in existing social relations require alteration in the structure of the rural society. If the goal is to create less-oppressive social relations then the government needs to intervene in this regard. He said, "It took many decades for the situation to change in Central Punjab, but we cannot wait for long to bring a social change in Southern Punjab."
The situation demands land distribution, learning lessons from the history, imposition of agriculture tax and to utilise the revenues for the rural development, he added. Executive Director Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Qazi Issa said that to uplift the neglected community, there is a need to create dedicated community connectivity fund. "For human development, we should build social capital and empower the communities," he remarked.
Dr Safdar A Sohail, Executive Director CPEC Center of Excellence, PIDE-Planning Commission, said that the socio-economic impact of CPEC is wide-ranging and a widely discussed issue in the recent times at all platforms. According to him, the CPEC in its current manifestation would go up till 2030, but it would continue after that as a part of the long-term plan.
Nasir Afghan, Director MBA Programme Institute of Business Administration (IBA) said that spatial framework of China involves national to city and district level planning. He said that existing industrial parks in Pakistan are not performing well. All national sector plans are needed to be aligned with the CPEC, he added. The session titled 'Challenges in the Agriculture Sector and Role of CPEC' was chaired by Muhammad Abid Javed, Secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Commenting on the theme, Shujat Ali, Additional Secretary Finance said that interest in agriculture policy and research has declined rapidly over the years.
Professor Steve Davies of IFPRI said that fertilisers yield has gotten worse for cotton and wheat since 1980s and the fertilizer industry is highly subsidised, adding the best agriculture policy would be to remove subsidies and increase R&D expenditures. He said it will increase the government revenues as well as increase production. He further said that Diamer-Bhasha Dam initiative is a positive step and the combination of Bhasha Dam and water course line will positively affect water supply in future.
Expressing his views on the topic, Dr Paul Dorosh said that only big farmers, who sell wheat to the government, benefit from the current wheat policy. He said Pakistan faces financial loss of Rs 4.5 billion every year due to subsidy and wheat procurement. Dorosh said that per unit subsidy could be reduced by raising the release price and reducing subsidy to flour mills. The amount saved could be used for irrigation and other purposes.
On the occasion, a book titled "Agriculture and Rural Economy in Pakistan: Issues, Outlooks, and Policy Priorities," edited by David J Spielman, Sohail J Malik, Paul Dorosh, and Nuzhat Ahmad, was launched. The book is published for IFPRI, Washington, DC, USA.
Earlier, some interesting papers were presented in technical sessions. In a paper on the CPEC and Regional Integration, the author said that the analysis of Trans-Asian Pipeline Network shows the importance of CPEC. Afghanistan can be an effective connecting point but it does not have infrastructure and there is also a problem of security.
Analysing the use of renewable energy in China and its possible spillover effects for Pakistan, another paper revealed that in China there has been a shift from hydro energy to wind and solar energy. Since FDI has spillover effects, investment in CPEC-related projects in Pakistan will help it adopt renewable energy. Therefore, policies should facilitate the transfer of tacit know-how of renewable energy generation.
Using transitional analysis, a paper showed that regional integration will increase by 13 per cent per year due to CPEC and related projects. As per statistics given in another paper on infrastructure development and regional integration, nearly 20 per cent of GDP will be invested through FDI by China. The CPEC will also improve the integral physical infrastructure for the development of the whole region, the paper argued.