Pakistan PM Imran Khan rejected the criticism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by senior US Diplomat Alice Wells and emphasized that the Chinese actually bailed-out Islamabad.
In an interview to a US news channel CNBC, Khan said – “When the Chinese came to help us with this Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and CPEC, we were really at the rock bottom.” “So, we are really grateful to the Chinese that they came and rescued us,” he added.
“They came and pumped in, not just they gave us loans – and the loans, by the way, are barely five or six per cent of the total portfolio,” said Khan, discarding the opinion that the CPEC was a debt-trap. “This is nonsense.”
The Chinese, he said, actually helped Pakistan with investment and because of them the country now “has an opportunity to attract foreign investment”.
Khan clarified that Islamabad was creating special economic zones to attract investment. “We just opened two and we are opening more where we are giving special concessions to industries,” he said.
He further stated – CPEC was “beyond BRI as China was also helping Pakistan in technology transfer. They are especially helping us in agriculture because Chinese technology can boost development much better than Pakistan’s as “our productivity is very low”.
The CPEC, he said, was also teaching Pakistanis the skills they needed to benefit from the CPEC projects. “They are building skill centers in Pakistan. So, they are helping us and we are grateful,” the prime minister said.
Earlier this week, senior US diplomat Alice Wells 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.