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Minister of Planning, Development and Reforms Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar has vowed to take China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to new heights and try to achieve 6 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of the country with minimum current account deficit in coming years.

"Due to the concessional agreement of 2016, as many as 19 Chinese companies are ready to invest in Gwadar. The prime minister has inaugurated Gwadar Airport in March this year and we have also finalised the Gwadar Master Plan with the Balochistan government. We will formally take up ML-1 Railway project with Chinese authorities to revamp railway network in Pakistan," the minister expressed these views while addressing a news conference here on Sunday.

The minister said joint working groups of all sectors, including energy, infrastructure, industrial cooperation, agriculture, Gwadar, and transportation would meet in this Oct, while CPEC's Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting is expected in Nov this year.

He said CPEC is not only a joint venture between Pakistan and China, but also an instrument of connectivity among Central Asia, Afghanistan, and all the way to Russia.

He said, "We will negotiate with China on affordable electricity, including the proposal of constructing Bunji Dam with a capacity of 7,000 megawatts of electricity."

About Pakistan Steel Mills, the minister said Pakistan would seek Chinese cooperation for enhancing capacity of Pakistan Steel Mills from existing one million to three million tons to meet the future demand of the commodity.

He said Pakistan's current import bill in scrap and steel sector stands at $2 billion and the govt's entire focus is on enhancing domestic production to curtail the import bill in this sector.

He said Pakistan's total steel production is about four million tons, whereas its requirement is about nine million tons which is likely to increase as the economy grows. He said this will certainly reduce Pakistan's import bill in the steel sector.

Highlighting the industry incentives, the minister said the govt is focusing on making the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) functional and a business council has been formed to ensure joint ventures with China to increase Pakistan's industrial landscape. He stressed the need on technology transfer from China to Pakistan.

Regarding the oil and gas sector, the minister said, "We will negotiate with Chinese side to enhance capacity of Pakistan's refineries to reduce our import bill up to $ 1.5 bill in this field."

"In addition, we are going to propose a land based Liquefied Natural Gas project, which will enhance gas production capacity up to one billion cubic feet," he said.

Regarding agriculture sector, the minister said, "We are going to formally negotiate a comprehensive framework in the agriculture sector, proposing projects costing $ 200 million under business to business cooperation."

The minister dispelling the impression that CPEC projects have hit a snag said all projects under the corridor are intact and streamlined. He said in energy sector, projects of about 4,300 megawatts are under construction and of 2,500 megawatts are under planning.

He said a project of 300 megawatts of electricity has been completed in Gwadar, while grid connectivity is being ensured there to provide uninterrupted power supply.

Regarding energy requirement in Pakistan, the minister said that efforts are being made for affordable electricity to strengthen economy.

Khusro Bakhtiyar said the government is trying to complete the eastern corridor of CPEC by the end of this year, adding, "We are also working on the western route." He said fisheries and shrimp farming will be developed along the coastal belt under this framework. The minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his upcoming visit to China, will emphasize on giving a central place to science and technology transfer and human development.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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