CPEC Authority bill passed by Pak NA panel

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning and Development cleared the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Bill 2020 with majority despite members belonging to the opposition parties strongly opposed the bill.

Former minister for planning Ahsan Iqbal opposed the bill and presented seven reasons for opposition to creation of the CPEC authority. However, after conducting heated debate, the NA panel passed the CPEC authority bill with majority, The News reported.

The National Assembly standing committee held its meeting under chairmanship of Junaid Akbar.

Iqbal, who belongs to Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), gave a note of dissent in writing.

“Creation of CPEC authority is superfluous and unnecessary,” he said. “Ministry of planning has discharged the role diligently and effectively in the past.”

The ex-minister said effective implementation of CPEC demands the line ministries to perform their role properly and with full ownership. Creation of separate CPEC authority will create confusion and conflict between the authority and ministries.

“CPEC authority will make CPEC top heavy with members and will become parallel Planning Commission with little vitality and real role but create another white elephant,” he said. “For success of CPEC, if there are gaps to be filled those require strengthening of line ministries.”

In the initial phase, ministries were empowered for next levels. Now, the Board of Investment, Commerce, agriculture, industries and other relevant ministries should be strengthened instead of creating a super structure of CPEC.

“If there is any support required for ministry of planning and development to deal with CPEC related work,” said Iqbal. “The CPEC secretariat should be strengthened instead of establishing CPEC authority.”

More than $29 billion investment was channelised by the ministry of planning and development without any authority in partnership with line ministries. The same model that has worked successfully should be continued instead of creating a top heavy structure without any real vitality, said the ex-minister.

During the proceedings of the meeting, the question was asked about pay and package of CPEC authority chairman. Ministry of planning replied that there was no hefty pay and package provided to the CPEC authority Chairman.

“The chairman CPEC authority did not sign any memorandum of understanding after lapse of CPEC authority ordinance,” said the ministry of planning.

The NA panel also took up issue of students scholarship provided by Higher Education Commission (HEC). The committee members inquired why students were barred for going abroad on scholarship and the HEC high-ups responded that no one was stooped to go abroad on HEC scholarships. However, all universities around the globe were not accepting foreign students after outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.