The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship program of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, is a game changer for the South Asian country as it helps meet fundamental needs in the region, a senior Pakistani official said.
Governor Muhammad Zubair of Sindh province said that for any economy to take off, it has to address such basic issues as lack of energy and poor infrastructure, including transport means by road, sea, rail and air.
A popular slogan often seen on walls across rural China best exemplifies infrastructure as the starting point of economic development: “Build a road first in order to strike a fortune,” the slogan reads.
“Pakistan has been in such need badly for its development,” Zubair said. The economic corridor, better known as CPEC, brings Pakistan what it wants: Investment for energy and road and waterway networks. “That is why we call CPEC a game changer for Pakistan.”
The Belt and Road Initiative was set to be a major topic discussed during the two sessions.
Launched in 2013 as a framework of regional connectivity, CPEC is expected to not only benefit China and Pakistan, but also facilitate transport, joint production and trade within the South and Central Asian regions.
The joint program has drawn heavy investment inside Pakistan. Recently completed projects under CPEC included an energy project for Karachi, the commercial hub of Pakistan and capital of Sindh province.
Zubair said he expects investors from all over the world to arrive in Pakistan once infrastructure is put on the right track.
He has been encouraging the province and Karachi to engage with businesses from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and other Asian countries.
CPEC brings beneficial projects to economies across the region and improves the lives of Pakistanis, he said, and the benefits are starting to be felt in local areas and will spread across Pakistan.
It benefits China as well, he said. Like other economic powers, China encourages its companies to go global. It needs partners for joint development and its businesses need specific opportunities for further expansion. Developing countries such as Pakistan serve that purpose well, he said.
Zubair has had a link with China for many years. He was appointed chairman of the Pakistan Board of Investment in 2013, when he proposed that the new cabinet at the time make its first foreign visit to China. Former prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif was in China soon after taking office in mid-2013, when he formally signed a memorandum of understanding regarding CPEC. Zubair was on his team.
As chairman of Pakistan’s Privatization Commission, he also served as a member of the CPEC ministerial committee on the Pakistani side. A December session of the joint cooperation committee meeting held in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, saw both sides map out long-term development guidelines.
As governor of Sindh province, an industrial base, he has been overseeing CPEC projects get started, progress or be completed, bringing tangible benefits to his constituents.
CPEC has been cited by local media as a contributor to Pakistan’s sustained economic growth of 5.3 percent in 2017, the highest in the past decade and an auspicious sign for rapid development ahead.
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