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CPEC is tool of connectivity: Sartaj Aziz

06 December, 2018

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Former finance minister Sartaj Aziz has said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a win-win arrangement for both Pakistan and China and all the projects under CPEC must be materialised without any delay, as it would lead to industrialization in Pakistan.

He was speaking at the opening plenary of 21st Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.

Aziz said that the CPEC is not only a package of road and energy projects, but also a tool of connectivity. For the successful transformation from trade to knowledge corridor, he said, it is very important to take confidence building measures among all the stakeholders.

“The real challenge of 21st century is artificial intelligence and technological upheaval, which took over the physical existence of labour force,” he said. He maintained that technology is going to transform the job market and the real challenge is how “we are preparing ourselves to take up this challenge”. He stressed the need to build knowledge corridor under the CPEC that could help Pakistan bridge the gap between artificial intelligence and technology.

About the issue of climate change, he said the real issue is of capacity to tackle the dire implication of climate change. He further said water is an important part of climate change and “we need to go beyond building dams, which is water security, water course lining, drip irrigation and water management”. He said that the existing irrigation practices were not compatible which is consuming 60 per cent of Pakistan’s freshwater resources. He said that planning for affordable energy resources is another challenge to tackle and Pakistan needs to concentrate on agriculture sector which will increase its exports and agricultural trade.

In his introductory speech, SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that one of the objectives of this 21st edition of Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) is to highlight the importance of knowledge connectivity among three culturally and academically rich regions, i.e. South Asia, Central Asia and China.

He said that one of the pre-requisites for knowledge corridors is intellectual and academic interaction, where CPEC has the potential to link South Asia to China and Central Asia. However, in order to get maximum benefit out of this economic corridor, Dr Suleri said, Pakistan needs to build a knowledge corridor with China and Central Asia. In order to harness the full potential of emerging economic corridors, governments in South Asia must take specific initiatives within the new policy paradigm for pursuing peace, overcoming poverty and protecting the life support systems of the planet, he added.

Haroon Sharif, the chairman of Board of Investment, said that it is important to reflect upon why South Asia is lagging behind capitalizing its true potential of trade, connectivity, and investments. “The opportune time will not come by its own, and we have to create and strive for the right time to move.” The lens with which the developed world used to look at South Asian countries is changing from security to huge market for trade and investments, he said, adding that this transition from geo-political and security lens to economic lens is putting Pakistan back on track of growth and development.

“The economies in West Asia, East Asia and beyond is now looking towards us in terms of improved and enhanced economic relations.” He also stressed the need to look at Pakistan’s capability to handle the demands of the emerging markets. Sharif said that economic diplomacy has emerged as a major tool in this region for peaceful co-existence and traditional diplomacy is changing rapidly, where narrative is building and the nations are talking about peace and prosperity.

After shift in globalization decade, he said, when Brexit is happening in UK, and China and Russia are impacting the global economy, the individual countries at regional and sub-regional level start finding new solutions to their economic challenges. He also stressed the need for looking at new economic geography, where Asia, China, west Asia and East Asia are eager to work with each other. He said that new financial architecture is emerging in the region, such as opening of Asian Infrastructure Bank, Silk Road Fund, China Development Bank, and BRIC bank, therefore, there is a need to learn as to how this region can use smartly these resources for growth and prosperity. At public policy level, Sharif said there is a very clear realization at political leadership level that the partnerships with key Asian states can be successful only if “we ensure transparency and zero-tolerance for corruption”.

Prof Amitabh Kundu, distinguished fellow of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), India, said that climate change and environmental degradation is a major issue and it is the shared responsibility of all countries of Asia to tackle this challenge through cooperation.

Identifying the issue of growing inequality, he said, is a big hurdle in achieving SDGs in the region. In order to achieve the shared objectives of growth and prosperity, he said, “We must address the three major dimensions of human development, i.e. inequality in economic, health and education sectors.”

He said South-South Cooperation (SSC) and regional integration would go a long way in handing these challenges and that must be built on mutual trust. The essence of this cooperation is solidarity among countries of the south that could contribute to national well-being. “We should all work for a collective agenda for the development of South Asia that may lead the region towards new heights of hope, progress, and prosperity.” In his welcome address, Shafqat Kakakhel, former ambassador and Chairperson of SDPI Board of Governors, said that there are growing signs of populism defining xenophobia, terrorism, unfair trade practices, which are causing decentralization in advanced countries of the world.

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