CCC says Pak capitalized while SL dilly dallied
By Zohara Ghaffoor
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chief Rajendra Theagarajah told a recent Post- Budget Forum that unlike Sri Lanka, which was still weighing the pros and cons and dilly dallying with China's grand One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, Pakistan had grabbed the opportunities presented by the project with both hands, attracting a whopping investment of US$ 60 billion on developing infrastructure, energy and agriculture sectors.
Theagarajah in no uncertain terms stated that the Government had a huge role to play in disseminating information about what investors had done in other parts of the world, so as to make Sri Lanka aware of the benefits of initiatives taken by investors.
Addressing a Post-Budget Forum organized by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka recently, CCC Chief Rajendra Theagarajah said, "The current estimated market value of China's investment in Pakistan is US$ 60 billion; in addition to the road, it covers 4,400 megawatts of renewable energy.
This takes care of Pakistan's entire renewable energy requirement, just by that country choosing to seize this opportunity".
Highlighting that Sri Lanka had been blessed with a rare opportunity, with Hambantota being chosen as an OBOR initiative, Theagarajah said, "While we argue whether the OBOR initiative in Sri Lanka is good or bad for the country, it is certainly a one-time opportunity for Sri Lanka to take advantage of." The Pakistani component of OBOR, also called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), will initiate infrastructure developments in Pakistan with a total investment of US$ 60 billion, inclusive of loans to be paid by Pakistan.
CPEC will include the construction of industrial parks, energy-generating projects, roads, railways, agricultural farms, airports, a fibre-optic network and one of the world's largest solar farms. CPEC will also run a high-speed train between Karachi and Peshawar, said to travel over 160km per hour. The project is set to utilize Chinese planning and labour and will connect Chinese businesses, a report from the Economist stated.
A telecommunications network, linking Pakistan with China and through China to Europe, will also be implemented through CPEC.
Mid this year, Sri Lanka signed a US$ 1.12 billion, 99-year concession agreement over the development, management and operation of the Hambantota Port, amidst public anger and protests. Accordingly, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority agreed to sell a 70 per cent stake in the Hambantota port to China Merchants Ports Holdings.
Noting the long-term advantages of the OBOR initiative, Theagarajah, referring to a statement made by the acting CEO of China Merchant Holdings (CMH), noted, "CMH invested in a fishing village in Shekou, China, that had approximately 3,000 fishermen. Today, the port has blossomed and the per capita income of this area is nothing less than US$ 55,000. This is what the evolution around the port does."
OBOR is a development strategy proposed by China's paramount leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People's Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the oceangoing Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The strategy underlines China's push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network.
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