Senior American diplomat Alice Wells who is on a for day visit to Pakistan lambasted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and advised Islamabad to reconsider its involvement in the debt-trap project.
Wells stated that there was no transparency in CPEC projects, claiming Pakistan’s debt burden was growing due to the Chinese financing. Wells has been a firm critic of CPEC initiative. She had earlier also criticized the Chinese backed CPEC project at the Wilson Centre in Washington on Nov 21, 2019, terming it as a debt-trap.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has been persuading the US to assist the country get off the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list and also sought closer engagement and a robust trade and investment relationship between Pakistan and the US.
While denouncing the Chinese debt-trap project, Wells said companies blacklisted by the World Bank had got contracts in the CPEC. The US diplomat also questioned the immunity from prosecution for the newly formed CPEC Authority that served as the focal body working to identify new areas of cooperation and projects, besides facilitation, coordination and monitoring of ongoing projects.
Wells emphasised that Chinese money was not assistance. By getting Chinese financing for the CPEC project, Pakistan was buying expensive loans and as a buyer, it needed to be aware of what it was doing as this would take a heavy toll on its already struggling economy, she emphasized.
The diplomat also touched on the cost escalation in railways ML-1 upgrade project. The link connects Karachi with Peshawar. She urged the government to be transparent about the mega project.