Sunday Oct 06, 2019
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to hand over Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to China for its revival through government to government deal and exploring options to finance multi-billion-dollar railways Mainline (ML-1) during his upcoming visit of Beijing.
Pakistan’s top leadership will give assurances to the Chinese side that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would not slow down, but its next phase would be pursued with zeal and vigour despite passing through under the IMF programme.
According to his upcoming scheduled visit of China on October 7, the prime minister has decided to take up five issues for enhancing economic cooperation under CPEC. Pakistan will offer China to get Pakistan Steel Mills, finalise deal on modernisation of ML-1, financing of Bunji hydropower project, agriculture and social sectors-related projects in and outside the ambit of CPEC.
“Yes, the government will seek assistance for construction of Bunji dam,” top official sources told The News.
The Chinese side wants to see progress for establishment of CPEC Authority, which the government intends to go ahead with promulgation of presidential ordinance anytime around PM Imran's upcoming visit to China.
On the other side, parliamentarians have asked the government to avoid the path of promulgation of ordinance as it would undermine the Parliament. Now it is yet to be seen how the government finally decides to move ahead on CPEC Authority as the Chinese side does not want to make things related to CPEC controversial. Another ordinance is also on the cards where Gwadar Port will become enabled to deal transit trade. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has agreed to grant taxation concessions to Gwadar Port and presidential ordinance will be issued anytime.
On the issue of cash-bleeding Pakistan Steel Mills, official sources said the premier was worried in the wake of continuous and uninterrupted losses on monthly as overall accumulated losses went up to Rs220 billion. The Privatisation Commission has sought application for financial adviser in order to explore options to revive Federal Board of Revenue and then run it on professional lines.
“The government is exploring different options including G2G deal with China as the government cannot absorb losses on consistent basis,” sources said, adding that the premier decided to handover Pakistan Steel Mills with full management control to revive to China.
Financing of ML-1 for modernisation of rail line from Peshawar to Karachi will be another agenda item of the premier during his upcoming visit as both the countries so far failed to finalise financing deal of this much-awaited project. “Pakistan is finding it quite hard to finalise loan deal when the country is running under the IMF programme,” said sources.
The premier will make a last-ditch effort to find a solution to this problem and both sides might explore options to construct this multi-billion dollars project on BOT basis, but Pakistan will have to give total management control of rail line to Chinese side.
For construction of Bunji dam, sources said, Pakistan would seek financial assistance from China to move ahead on this project on fast-track basis. The agriculture-related projects would also come under discussion. Social sector projects, especially scholarship for Pakistani students, would also be materialised.
Sources added that it was not known how the government wanted to move on the establishment of special economic zones (SEZs) as it was a critical area where Pakistan can attract Chinese companies for relocation and could become part of international supply chains for boosting up its exports in months and years ahead.
Originally published in The News