ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Thursday opposed the government’s proposal to set up a CPEC authority, terming it an unnecessary move that will create more confusion in the execution of the multibillion-dollar project.
The joint parliamentary committee also criticised government’s decision to set up the authority through a presidential ordinance – which will further erode the moral authority of the government after the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) Ordinance fiasco.
The 22-member joint committee of both the houses of the parliament held its meeting in-camera.
This week, the federal cabinet approved a summary to promulgate yet another presidential ordinance to set up the CPEC authority to oversee the implementation of CPEC projects, the Ministry of Planning and Development informed the parliamentary committee.
Creating yet another bureaucratic body is also against the notion of small and efficient government and it will add more financial burden on the government.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Member National Assembly Sher Ali Arbab chaired the meeting that had been convened to take briefing on the terms of reference (ToR) of the CPEC Authority, ToRs of the head of the authority and the proposed mode of legislation. Majority of the members of the joint parliamentary committee expressed serious concerns over the decision to set up the authority, a committee member told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. The members rejected the CPEC authority proposal by showing off their hands.
The military establishment floated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority idea in 2016, which the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had shot down.
But last month, in its maiden meeting, the National Development Council – a joint forum of civilian and military leadership, approved the constitution of the CPEC Authority for ensuring fast track implementation of CPEC projects. Former planning and development minister Ahsan Iqbal initiated the discussion about implications of setting up the CPEC Authority.
The planning ministry informed the parliamentary committee that the CPEC authority would be responsible for the identification and execution of the projects, said the members after the meeting.
A grade-22 officer would be the chairman of the authority who will be assisted by executive director coordination and executive director research wing, the committee was informed. Under these executive directors, there would be six members to deal with the issues of energy, transport, investment, social and economic development, finance and media.
The committee members questioned the rationale and objective of the authority that according to them would duplicate the work being undertaken by the Ministry of Energy, Board of Investment and National Highway Authority.
The committee was informed that the CPEC Authority would also be responsible for holding meetings of joint working groups, expert groups and Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of CPEC.
Another member of the committee argued that the CPEC Authority would disrupt the normal functioning of government departments that, according to the rules of business, are responsible to execute these projects.
Work on CPEC projects has significantly slowed down after the PTI government came into power. Last month, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad accused the PTI government of abandoning the Mainline-I project of the CPEC worth $9 billion under IMF pressure.
The committee was informed that the authority would be set up by promulgation of the presidential ordinance. The committee recommended that the government should introduce a bill in the parliament if it wanted to create the authority. During the past year, PTI government has promulgated 15 presidential ordinances, as it lacks a majority in the Senate and cannot get bills passed. But the ordinance can be issued only for four months and can be further extended for four more months.
The planning ministry additional secretary claimed in the meeting that the CPEC Authority would work to promote business-to-business connections between Chinese and Pakistani businessmen.
Due to the government’s decision to set up an authority, about 50 people would lose their jobs who are currently working under the CPEC Secretariat project and CPEC Centre of Excellence. Their fates hang in the balance after the government decided to set up a CPEC authority.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2019.