Pakistan has finally extended project completion deadlines of five Chinese power plants having a generation capacity of 3,600 megawatts amid slow progress on other issues hindering new Chinese investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The commercial operations dates of 884MW Suki Kinari Hydropower Project, 720MW Karot Hydropower Project, 330MW Tel project at Thar block-II, 330MW ThalNova Thar block-II and 1,320MW Thar block-I have been extended.
The decision was communicated during the 4th Pak-China Relations Steering Committee meeting, chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday. The ongoing projects under CPEC and the issues being faced by their investors were discussed in detail in the meeting.
The Power Division secretary informed the meeting that the issue of commercial operation date (COD) extensions for five power projects had been resolved, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Planning and Development.
The government had fixed end of August as the deadline for the Power Division to devise a policy to deal with the delay in the start of commercial operations of five CPEC power projects, having generation capacity of 3,600 megawatts.
The projects are falling far behind the dates of commissioning agreed between the government of Pakistan and Chinese investors due to overall slowdown of work on CPEC projects, Covid-related delays and strikes at some projects.
The steering committee also took up the issue of lack of availability of electricity in Gwadar, which is also one of the problems highlighted by the local people protesting in the port city for the last one month.
The steering committee was informed that an initial 132 KV line was being built to provide electricity from the national grid to meet Gwadar’s electricity demand, stated the Ministry of Planning. In addition, provision of solar panels to 3,000 households of Gwadar and other short-term measures are also being initiated to ensure additional supply of electricity to the city.
Pakistan has been supplying electricity to Gwadar by importing it from Iran.
The committee was informed that work on some sections of another CPEC project ie Quetta-Zhob Road project had been halted due to a stay order from the Islamabad High Court.
The committee was also briefed on the Karakoram Highway Thakot-Raikot section realignment project but no major progress was made. The only notable development was the constitution of a technical joint working group to oversee the feasibility study of the project.
The issues related to visas of Chinese nationals and new investments could not be addressed despite repeated deadlines given by the committee.
The Chinese companies have again complained that the process of work visas was not smooth and workers had to apply for business visas, which resulted in imposition of penalties and banning of entry of Chinese citizens to Pakistan, said the sources.
They said that about 90,000 Chinese visa applications were pending for a decision.
Planning Minister Asad Umar “directed the Ministry of Interior to coordinate with Chinese companies operating in Pakistan if they still face any issues,” according to the official handout. He suggested that the companies’ letters may be demanded as proof for work visas to resolve the problems.
The Ministry of Planning said that issues related to industrial cooperation were discussed in the meeting. The Industries Department of Government of Punjab updated the committee on the steps taken to resolve the investors’ pending issues, it added. It was also informed that the process for the appointment of Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (FIEDMC) CEO would be completed soon. The board of the company has already been reconstituted.
The meeting was informed that due to non-resolution of many issues, over $900 million Chinese investment in Special Economic Zones could not materialise fully. For instance, the Easy Prefabricated Private Limited Company has paid for electricity and gas connections but the services have not been provided yet.
Similarly, the La He Trading International Private Limited has manufactured electrical bicycles and tricycles but their products cannot be brought on the road due to absence of road policy. The company was also facing issues in securing loans from the banks due to lack of land entitlement.
The Snow White Lavation Private Limited applied for allotment of land in Allama Iqbal Industrial City over four months ago but did not get any response from the government of Punjab. Other Chinese companies were facing problems in getting electricity and gas connections in these zones for months.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2021.