ISLAMABD - PTI , which was accused by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government of not endorsing CPEC , will now take reins of the country. It is being debated that the party may veer away from CPEC and cause problems in Pakistan-China relations.
However, these observations seem unfounded as the PTI in the past had exhibited a pragmatic and positive approach towards CPEC . Party Chairman Imran Khan has met the Chinese ambassador and his teams several times where he has been briefed on all aspects of CPEC and the importance of China for Pakistan.
Even in his victory speech, Imran specifically talked about China’s development model. He described CPEC as one of the best models to bring people out of poverty and assured the nation that the PTI would take it as an opportunity for the development of Pakistan.
The project also provides an opportunity to Pakistan to raise prospects of investment flows from other countries and investors.
In CPEC’s Long-Term Plan, a huge investment is envisaged in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) for the development of industry and business. Industry, commerce and entrepreneurship will be the main areas of focus under the umbrella of SEZs, which will generate employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labour.
I believe the PTI has already comprehended this reality and conducted research on how to benefit from it. The SEZ in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) is at the most advanced stage compared to other economic zones. The Long-Term Plan also includes skills development for capitalising on CPEC-related opportunities and job provision. China is already investing in skills development in Pakistan and prominent examples are a vocational training institute in Gwadar and a joint venture in Lahore.
Governments of China and Punjab established the skills development institute in Lahore and Tianjin University is helping to make it one of the best campuses in Pakistan. The Gwadar institute is serving many objectives as it not only imparts skills to people, but also helps to integrate the local community in the mainstream. China is providing thousands of scholarships to Pakistani students in an effort to develop a pool of skilled labour for the future.
PTI has promised to invest more in skills development as it did in K-P over the past five years. It heavily invested in education and health as both were fundamental for skills and human capital development.
Human capital, equipped with skills, is the basic element for fostering economic growth and development and improving the life of poor and marginalised communities. However, we have to wait for a few months to evaluate the performance of PTI at the national level.
The PTI is a proponent of meaningful engagement of the private sector. Similarly, CPEC offers an opportunity under the SEZs to strengthen the role of private sector of both countries. It also provides opportunities for private sector of the two sides to interact directly. SEZs are crucial for enhancing economic development and expanding the export base of the country.
Pakistan has been facing a rapidly growing trade deficit as exports have not increased markedly over the years. PTI’s priority is to reverse the trend and in this regard SEZs will provide an opportunity to address the challenge on a sustainable basis.