Concerns over Pakistan’s national budget are high at the time, as Pakistan’s growth rate has been declining for the past two years and its effects are being felt to a large extent in the lives of ordinary people. Apart from this, the coronavirus has also caused a strange calamity not only for Pakistan but the whole world, which it has never faced before. The epidemic of coronavirus is affecting the socio-political and economic system of the world. Even in this epidemic, Pakistan’s hopes for economic growth are still strong, as Pakistan’s previous Nawaz Sharif government signed the CPEC agreement with China, which is very important for China, but also for Pakistan. It is believed that due to this China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan will also find a way that will lead to the solution of its economic problems. Because of the importance of CPEC since its inception, economists have been paying close attention to how much money has been set aside in Pakistan’s national budget to complete CPEC projects and CPEC, which projects have been given more importance and which projects have not been included in the budget.
It is not unnecessary to mention that CPEC will benefit every part of Pakistan but the money is kept only in the federal budget of Pakistan as it is a federal subject and the provincial budgets have no direct link with the federal subjects. Therefore, when the discussion on the budget for the next financial year began in Pakistan, economists and political leadership at the time thought that the government was connected to CPEC in order to achieve its future economic goals, that the government will give importance and allocate a large part of the budget for this. But this did not happen and the expectations attached to the federal budget were not met, but even so, this does not lead us to disappointment. CPEC has still made its way into the federal budget, but economists and politicians, and especially the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, are not satisfied with the federal budget. He believes that more money could have been allocated for CPEC and it should have been. However, it is hoped that next year, the situation will be better than this.
If we look at the current budget, we will see that Rs21 billion has been set aside for CPEC. Due to the depreciating value of the Pakistani currency, this amount feels low anyway. Then this amount has been set aside only for a few major road and railway projects while other things have been neglected for the time being. For example, industrial zones were very important in CPEC; there can be increase in development due to industrial zones, but in this budget no money has been set aside and they have been ignored.
The largest project allocated for this project in this budget is Zhob Kuchlak Road. Rs10 billion has been earmarked for this project. This road is connected to the western corridor of CPEC. An amount of Rs2.5 billion has been announced for the second phase of Havelian Thakot section while Rs1 billion has also been provided for the construction of Nokandi Mashkhel Road. Similarly, it has been felt for a long time that Chitral, Bonni, Mastuj and Shandur Road is very dilapidated and due to its connectivity with CPEC, attention should be paid to its improvement and width, which does not meet requirements. Keeping in view all these factors, an amount of Rs350 million has been earmarked for the improvement and widening of this road. The importance of railways in the Pakistani economy is undeniable and in CPEC its importance has doubled. ML-1 is a huge project in this regard. Six billion rupees have been set aside for the upgradation of ML-1 and the first phase of construction of the dry port at Havelian. The CPEC Support Project is being launched in the railways itself and an amount of Rs50 million has been allocated for it. It is also important to note that Rs60 million has been provided for the establishment of PIDE Centre of Excellence. The CPEC Support Unit is being set up separately and Rs17.9 million has been earmarked for it.
Gilgit-Baltistan is the gateway of CPEC to Pakistan and Shahra-e-Karokaram is of fundamental importance in this regard. Therefore, in order to improve the communication facilities, a huge amount of Rs. 709 million the money is earmarked for this purpose. Five hundred million rupees has been earmarked for the Pakistan education and research network which is attached to the higher education commission. It is important to know that CPEC Optical Fiber (PERN-111) is also attached to it. An amount of Rs17.5 million has been earmarked for the consortium of universities under CPEC. Rs. 80 million has also been earmarked for CPEC project management. A major problem in Gwadar is drinking water and in this regard a plant should be set up to drinkable water, which will produce 5 MGD of drinking water and Rs700 million has been set aside in this regard.
If we put all these figures in front of us, we will come across the fact that most of the expenditure is being made on a few roads and railways. However, being an agricultural country, Pakistan has a lot of potential in the field of agriculture and it can be further developed with the help of CPEC in collaboration with China. Also, due to a lack of focus on industrial zones it will be difficult to get an achievable growth rate. In spite of all this, it is gratifying that CPEC is still in progress and it is hoped that after getting rid of the coronavirus, there will be increased work on various projects, which is needed by both friendly countries.