NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 20TH TO APRIL 26TH
Editorial Updated April 22, 2020
This year’s theme is ‘climate action’, but unlike in the past, there will be no vibrant scenes of marches in the streets or large public gatherings.
There will be no packed speaking events inside auditoriums and stadiums.
And there will be no schoolchildren holding special events to celebrate the day, since most education institutes have been closed.
Covid-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of ‘normal’ life, and while most other issues have understandably taken a backseat in the midst of the pandemic, perhaps it is time to question the conditions we had come to accept as ‘normal’ in recent decades, particularly when it came to our attitudes towards the environment.
When confronted with nature’s absolute power, human civilisation suddenly appears so fragile and helpless.
As a reminder, just before the novel coronavirus grabbed all international headlines, Australia was struggling to contain horrific wildfires that ravaged 13.6m acres of land over a period of eight months, only to be finally extinguished last month.
According to an estimate provided by the government, the bushfires may have released up to 830m tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, exceeding the country’s annual greenhouse gas pollution.
In Iceland, mourners held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change.
Meanwhile, floods ravaged parts of Somalia, South Africa, Iran, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Italy, the UK and the US throughout the foregoing year.
Here at home, besides battling heavy monsoon rainfall and flooding, parts of Pakistan and India were enveloped in a blanket of smog, once again reminding us that (like viruses) climate change does not recognise human-created borders and hubris.
And despite producing only a fraction of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan sits in an uncomfortable fifth position in the Global Climate Risk Index 2020.
According to the report released by Germanwatch, between 1998 and 2018, nearly 10,000 people died due to extreme weather conditions, while the economy suffered losses of up to $3.8bn.
In recent months, however, something unusual is being witnessed in the world.
With large-scale lockdowns being enforced and much of the global economy coming to a halt, the skies are clearing up and pollution is lower than it has been in years.
But with the virus-related death count rising with each passing day, doctors and hospital staff being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of patients admitted for an illness that we cannot cure and do not even completely understand, mass layoffs and downsizing resulting in people losing their livelihoods, and the possibility of large-scale hunger looming in the distance, there is little reason to celebrate.
However, if greater wisdom prevails, there are lessons to be learnt, which must extend beyond the virus’s lifetime.
Unfortunately, our collective memory is fleeting, and it is not clear whether we will take a different path.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2020
FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE LIKE CORONAVIRUS: UN
By RECORDER REPORT on April 23, 2020
The world should fight climate change with the same determination it is showing in the battle against the new coronavirus, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said it was time to flatten the curve on climate change as well, with its impact on the planet “reaching a crescendo” in the past five years – the hottest on record.
The trend is expected to continue, the WMO said on Wednesday, as it marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
Carbon dioxide levels at one key global observing station are about 26 percent higher than in 1970, while the average global temperature has increased by 0.86 degrees Celsius in that time, the WMO said.
Temperatures are also 1.1 Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial era, it added.
The agency said the COVID-19 crisis was exacerbating the socioeconomic impacts of climate change – for example, making it harder to keep people safe from tropical cyclones.
However, the WMO’s climate monitoring programme has recorded a reduction in key pollutants and improvements in air quality as a result of the industrial downturn during the pandemic. “We estimate that there is going to be a six percent drop of the carbon emissions this year because of the lack of emissions of transportation and from industrial energy production,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
But he said the drop would only be temporary and “in the most likely case we will go back to normal next year”, adding that failure to tackle climate change could threaten people’s wellbeing, ecosystems and economies “for centuries” to come.
“We need to flatten both the pandemic and climate change curves,” he said.
“We need to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19,” calling for action not only in the short-term “but for many generations ahead”.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 13TH TO 19TH
APPROVAL OF ML-1 PROJECT DEFERRED
By Shahbaz Rana Published: April 16, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on Wednesday deferred once again, the approval of $9.2 billion Mainline (ML-I) project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to a host of unresolved issues.
The mega railway line project is the only project declared strategically important by China and Pakistan. However, the World Bank linked success of the project to bringing governance reforms in the railways and warned that the project’s debt servicing was not sustainable.
The CDWP had a threadbare discussion on the project in its meeting on Wednesday and the “forum underlined the space for improvement in the proposal and deferred the project till next meeting”, the planning ministry said in a statement.
The ministry raised serious objections over financial and technical working of the project. “The results of the financial and economic analysis provided in the PC-I, based on total cash flow are misleading,” according to the planning ministry.
It added that the sponsors needed to provide fresh analyses and all the required details of incremental economic and financial costs and benefits to carry out the analyses and rationally determine the financial and economic viability of the project.
It was for the third time that the project’s PC-I had come before the CDWP for approval. Previously, the entire project was considered in the CDWP in 2016. The PC-I for Phase-I was placed on the agenda of the CDWP meeting in May 2018. The CDWP had then decided to address all the outstanding issues first.
The planning ministry saw no possibility of freight generation by the CPEC Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the near future as all SEZs in Pakistan were at the planning stage and also the Kashgar Economic Zone in Western China had not been developed.
“The instant project is only envisaged to seek Chinese loan, using CPEC framework to upgrade the existing railway infrastructure on ML-I,” the ministry said.
Recently, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission had asked the World Bank to provide the third-party review of the ML-I project. The Bank said in its analysis that the Project would not succeed without governance reforms in the railway.
It also stressed that the implementation of the Pakistan Railways Strategic Plan (PRSP) was a pre-requisite to the success of this project as well as the improvement in the quality and financial sustainability of the railway sector in general in Pakistan. “The costs estimates are adequate, however, the contingency allowance at 4% seems very low at this stage of project development and accordingly the estimated cost should be regarded as a minimum,” the Bank cautioned about reality of $9.2 billion proposed project.
There was also a view that the rolling stock should be separated from the main project to save capital cost. The World Bank said that financial rate of return to Pakistan Railways was generally negative, and it could only improve if there were real fare and freight increases such as those assumed in the Business Plan.
“If these are assumed, however, demand will decrease, and the economic case will reduce for the project,” the Bank said but it cautioned that the assumed Business Plan fare structure would increase the project savings to 50% of the 2035 debt service, but the proposed fare structure should be very carefully planned to be successful.
The Bank also raised questions about the debt sustainability of the project. “In the low demand case, the debt service is 80% of projected revenue. The high demand case has a better result, but the project savings only cover 20% of the 2025 debt service of the project,” it said.
The CDWP referred the Diamer Basha Dam land acquisition project at a cost of Rs164 billion to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), which is 173% higher than the original cost approved in 2008.
The CDWP meeting, chaired by Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan and attended by Planning Secretary Zafar Hasan as well as senior officials from relevant federal governments departments, approved three projects worth Rs1.04 billion.
In the meeting, the first project was presented by the Maritime Affairs Ministry. The meeting approved the ‘Establishment of Business Park at Korangi Fisheries Harbour” worth Rs784 million.
ML-I PROJECT UNDER CPEC WB SAYS PROJECT NOT LIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT RAILWAY SECTOR’S REFORMATION
April 17, 2020
KARACHI: The World Bank (WB) has said that the ML-I project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth $9.172 billion will not be successful without reforming the railway sector in Pakistan.
The implementation of the Pakistan Railways Strategic Plan (PRSP) is a pre-requisite to the success of this Project as well as the improvement of the quality and financial sustainability of the railway sector in general in Pakistan, WB stated in third party review of the project.
According to official documents, in its conclusion and recommendations, WB noted that the project has been designed to meet Pakistani conditions and reflect good current practices including its safety designs. However significant new human capacity and skills in operating and maintaining the upgraded system will be required.
About cost of the project, WB pointed out that the cost estimates are adequate. However, the contingency allowance (4 per cent) seems very low at this stage of project development and accordingly the estimated cost should be regarded as a minimum.
On economic aspect, the bank said that there is no demand elasticity with fare increase and no detail available for the economic evaluation done so it is impossible to give an opinion.
About the financial side, WB said that project generates significant savings in rolling stock capital. However, the financial rate of return to PR is generally negative, and only improves if there are real fare and freight increases such as were assumed in the Business Plan. If these are assumed, however, demand will decrease, and the economic case will reduce.
On debt service of loan for the project, WB said that in 2030 in the low demand case, the debt service is 80 per cent of projected revenue. The high demand case has a better result, but the project savings only cover 20 percent of the 2025 debt service.
The assumed Business Plan fare structure increases the project savings to 50 percent of the 2035 debt service, but the proposed fare structure should be very carefully planned to be successful.
If the Lahore-Peshawar section is deferred, the debt service reduces by 24 percent and with the assumed new tariff structure, the improved surplus would cover the debt service by about 2040, WB recommended.
Reviewing the implementation plan, WB said the basis of the proposed construction phasing on a section-of-line basis, whether because of the funding arrangements, resource availability, sections conditions or construction disruption to the existing lines, is unclear from the documentation.
An alternative approach could have been to perform all the bridgeworks first while resources were available and economically deployed, followed by all sub-grade and all track works, then signaling, with some practical overlap capacity, it pointed out.
WB noted that another option could consider rapid upgrading using a light-handed approach on line sections that are in good condition. Electrification would probably be an attractive follow-up project, at least for the southern portion of the corridor.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM APRIL 6TH TO APRIL 12TH
CPEC PROJECTS TO MEET DEADLINES DESPITE COVID-19 ISSUE: HASHMI
BR Web Desk April 06, 2020
Pakistan Ambassador to China, Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi has said that all the projects being completed under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework would meet their deadlines as all the preventives and control measures had been put in place against the spread of Covid-19.
“In consultation with the Chinese government and companies, we have put in place a double quarantine system for the Chinese workers returning to Pakistan after the New Year’s vacations to ensure that other workers don’t infected,” she made these remarks while speaking in “World Insight” of China Global Television Network (CGTN). The interview was conducted by one of top and celebrated Chinese anchorperson Tian Wei.
She informed that the first phase of CPEC was almost near to completion as 90 percent of projects were already commissioned and the remaining were only months away from the finishing point.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic happened in China, the government of Pakistan didn’t stop issuance of visa or impose any restriction on traveling between Pakistan and China to ensure that projects were continued and completed on time. The double quarantine system also worked 100 percent and as a result there was not a single case of coronavirus that went to Pakistan from China and the projects didn’t stop.
Terming the CPEC as an extremely important project for Pakistan, she remarked, “If we need to recover from our economies, it is even more important that this cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Special Economic and Industrial Zones doesn’t stop under any circumstance.”
About President Dr. Arif Alvi’s recent visit to China during Covid-19 outbreak; she said that Pakistan and China were all weather friends. Two weeks ago, President Dr Arif Alvi visited China to express solidarity and show the world that both the countries were standing by each others in difficulties and challenges.
“At a time, when there was a lot of politics being played on the new coronavirus and there were very determined efforts by some countries to isolate China, we stood by China. Pakistan did not evacuate its people and we donated our entire stocks of medical supplies to China,” she added.
About medical supplies recently airlifted to Pakistan to help combat Covid-19, she said that this was a combination of some crucial equipments procured and purchased by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan but overwhelming tonnage of the equipment and supplies consisted of donations made by the Chinese companies and friends. “It is great satisfaction for me to tell you that donated items have a value of RMB 25 million and it is very huge contribution made by the Chinese friends,” she added.
Ambassador Hashmi said that some of the items included crucial testing kits, X-ray machines and other lot of equipment. It also included a reasonable amount of traditional Chinese medicines. “It is a huge help and this is not only one flight that we are operating. A lot of our Chinese friends have promised for many more donations. We are very grateful to our Chinese brothers and sisters,” she added.
Terming the current outbreak huge challenge, she said that Pakistan was a developing country and there were large areas in the cities and villages where poverty still existed while the population was not 100 percent literate. Under the prevailing circumstances, the government had so far done quite well. It had allowed local business under strict regulations to open up for certain number of hours every. The government also announced economic package to support the small and medium enterprises besides directly supporting the families and individuals who depend on daily wages. Prime Minister Imran Khan had also formed a youth tiger force against coronavirus to create social awareness and to provide food and ration on daily basis to families who depends on daily wages, she added. Ambassador Hashmi said that the government also involved the Islamic scholars who come up with advice in the light of the religion on virus controls.
About the shortage of testing kits, she informed that the entire population could not be tested with 50,000 testing kits because Pakistan was a country of over 230 million people and most of them were living in remote areas. “So learning from the Chinese experience, we are also employing the same method. And we are very closely monitoring the patient or population that is showing signs of coronavirus. If he or she tests positive, we trace the people who have been contact with him or her in last 40 days and put them in self quarantine,” she added. “We will have to take the methodical approach which China adopted that is the only method which is feasible.”
Regarding lesson from China’s heath advisers, she responded that it was not only Pakistan but the entire world had learned from China. “We are also very carefully analyzing the practices of Chinese government, hospitals and doctors.”
The embassy was summarizing and transmitting all that material to the relevant authorities back home. “At this moment, our country needs us and each member of my embassy has risen to the challenge and we are working round the clock.”
Ambassador Hashmi said, “We started the awareness program well before the epidemic and cases of coronavirus started coming to Pakistan; as a large number of Pakistan community including 28,000 students, of which 1300 students were concentrated in Hubei and about 1186 in Wuhan evoked a lot of interest back in the general public and students.
They were again and again urging that this virus situation could hit any country. So in Pakistan also, we should be aware to how to deal with it. When it came to Pakistan, general public to a large extent was already aware about the disease. “This awareness gave our doctors and institutions to print out and prepare a lot of videos and written material which they circulated to the general public to create awareness that helped us in big way,” she added.
On temporary hospitals, she said that Pakistan had done exactly that China had done. For remote areas where 70 percent population existed, the government had even converted rail coaches into temporary isolation units. “We are also converting a lot of our government buildings and schools to reduce the pressure on the hospitals. We have asked our retired doctors and nurses to come and work as volunteers. We are also trying to monitor residential areas and people as well to identify the patients.”
Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2020
IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON CPEC
BR Web Desk April 11, 2020
COVID-19 pandemic has spread to more than200 countries and regions causing severe shocks in the whole world. Even though the situation in Pakistan is not that worse as in some countries for the time-being, as the confirmed cases are on the rise, the social and economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic, especially the lockdown across the country, have been increasing.
Along with the growing worries across the board, people from all walks of life have been asking questions about the likely impact of COVID-19 on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
As this writer mentioned in his previous articles, the COVID-19 pandemic is a common threat and enemy of human beings and its effect is multidimensional. Because there is no vaccine and effective medicine till now, the only and most effective way to deal with it is cutting off the transmission channels by practicing social distance – isolation.
This practice has so far brought a vast majority of the world to a standstill. The effects are obvious in manufacturing, service and foreign trade sectors. Worldwide, the production chains, supply chains and value chains are all incurring a severe damage. Furthermore, labour supply has been also witnessing a worsening situation.
There3 is the need to shed some light on the achievements of CPEC. The cooperation and implementation of CPEC enjoys the support of Pakistani people, serves their well-being and has won high respect of our two countries.
CPEC construction has achieved fruitful results over the past years with a score of projects completed already, and another score under construction. It’s worthy to mention energy sector here especially.
Nine energy projects have been put into commercial operation with a total installed capacity of 5320MW. The actual power generation of CPEC projects was 17.728 billion kWh during Pakistan’s fiscal year 2018-19, accounting for 14.5% of the total power generation of Pakistan’s national power grid.
In the meantime, CPEC has created 75,000 jobs directly and 200,000 jobs indirectly for Pakistani people, enabling Pakistan’s percapita income to increase by 23%. More than 100 small and medium-sized enterprises have been involved in construction of CPEC projects creating over 100,000 jobs.
According to Pakistan government’s analysis, CPEC is expected to create 2.3 million jobs in Pakistan from 2015 to 2030, and fuel the average annual economic growth rate up by 2~2.5%. In a word, the signal project has brought huge changes, benefits and well being to Pakistan and her people. There are some synonyms for CPEC – change maker, fortune maker, king maker, etc.
Under the current circumstance of fighting a war against COVID-19 worldwide, frankly speaking, no sector can escape from the effects, so does CPEC. The main possible effects are as follows.
Firstly, the risk of contraction of the virus may impact negatively on the steady supply of the work force for CPEC projects. Shielding the work force at every CPEC project from contraction of the virus forms the top priority at present.
Along with the rise of confirmed cases, in case some cities or regions become the epicenter and large number of people are infected, these will surely add more pressures to the management of each project.
If there occurs infection, tough measures of isolation as well as prevention will be applied which will impact in varying degree on the implementation of the projects based on how many people will be affected. This may lead to the risk of reduction of work force.
Some replacements may not materialise and some expired visas and passports may not be renewed in due course. On the other hand, the local employees form the bulk of the work force of the projects, there is a high risk that the current status quo may not be maintained and replacements may be delayed. These will more or less impact the operation and implementation of the projects.
Ever since the outbreak of the epidemic early this year, every project has been taking stringent preventive measures with strong support rendered by the Pakistan Federal and Provincial governments together with the Special Protection Forces.
The Chinese side has been taking strictest measures to screen and check the inbound personnel from China, and so far there is not a single imported case from China. And Zero contraction target has occurred and maintained in all projects till now. And all the projects are operating smoothly according to schedule.
Secondly, the import and shipment of the equipment, spare parts, materials, etc., may not be made on time and may affect the smooth operation, and cause delays in implementation of some projects. The lock-down of the cities and provinces, and closure of government and business offices may cause delays in clearance by the customs, handling and transporting of the relevant goods.
Thirdly, the pandemic may cause many legal issues based on force majeure. This may add more burdens to the relevant companies.
In short, the less the pandemic prolongs the smaller the effect on CPEC. If the pandemic prolongs a longer period of time, the bigger the effect will be. But one thing is clear and that is also the advantage Pakistan has, the quick recovery of China after her winning the preliminary battle against the pandemic.
According to the latest statistics, China’s PMI in March hit 52% after it nosedived to 37% for the first two months. This indicates that China’s economy has returned to the fast track of development.
China has been the biggest trading partner of Pakistan for five years in a row and the biggest investor in Pakistan for six consecutive years. Pakistan and CPEC projects will surely benefit a lot. Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, China has been giving a big hand to Pakistan and we firmly believe that together we can win the battle against COVID-19. And the effects by COVID19 on CPEC will be manageable.
(The writer is China’s consul-general based in Karachi)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
CPEC: UNIT PRICE OF CHINESE, PAKISTANI LABOURERS NEEDS TO BE RATIONALIZED: PC
BR Web Desk April 12, 2020
The Planning Commission of Pakistan has identified huge disparity in unit prices of Chinese skilled labourers and that of Pakistani labourers in ML-I project in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
According to comments of the Employment & Research Section of the Commission, the unit price has been calculated at the rate of US$59.65 and US$4.50 per man per day for Chinese and Pakistani labourers respectively.
The unit price of Chinese skilled labourer is more than 1,300 percent higher as compared with the Pakistani labourer which needs to be rationalized, the Commission proposed.
Moreover, the ratio of Chinese labourers to Pakistani labourers for different categories of work is 1:9, but in case of equipment installation and tunnel work, this ratio has been shown as 3:7 which needs to be reduced to an appropriate level for the purpose of cost rationalization, the Commission suggested.
It has been mentioned in PC-I that all the raw material will be procured from local markets except steel which will be imported, for which it proposed that steel may be purchased from local market apparently on BOT.
The project may be outsourced to the private sector instead of being operated and executed by the Pakistan Railways because the expenditure-revenue gap of the PR is on the rise and subsidy of over Rs30 billion have been given every year by the federal government, which is expected to increase with the passage of time as mentioned in PC-I.
It noted that the private sector has the capacity to revive the dying public sector projects, and it has been mentioned in PC-I under Employment Generation that 16,000 local labourers/tech experts will be hired and 2,000 Chinese technical experts will be employed as well as 150,000 indirect jobs will be created.
However, their bifurcation in the allied industries also needs to be provided, and the cost of the project needs to be mentioned in local currency terms as indicated in the instructions of PC-I form.
Moreover, cost of local items/expenditure may be mentioned as local component and only imported items need to be mentioned as FEC keeping in view the exchange rate volatility, it proposed.
The Commission also suggested that the cost of generating cheap electricity through generators (25 percent of total capacity) needs to be rationalized to not more than the level of Rs15/unit.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD MARCH 311ST TO APRIL 5TH
PM WANTS RESUMPTION OF CONSTRUCTION, CPEC WORK
Syed Irfan Raza April 03, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his satisfaction over the government’s efforts in combatting Covid-19. — Photo courtesy PM Imran Khan Facebook/File
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday ordered a relief package specifically for the construction industry and directed resumption of all China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related infrastructure and energy projects.
The package for construction industry will be unveiled today (Friday).
The premier also directed formation of a Codal Research Committee (CRC) for devising an action plan that would allow the centre and provinces to jointly deal with Covid-19’s brunt on the country’s economy.
The decisions were taken in two separate meetings held to assess the impact of the pandemic on economy and common man.
During a meeting, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar apprised the prime minister about steps being taken for better coordination between provinces and the centre to combat Covid-19, revival of construction industry, CPEC projects and food security.
Another relief package to be announced today
“The relief package will also support the uplift of other industries allied with the construction sector,” PM Khan said.
He added that the construction of road infrastructure will not pose any danger regarding spread of coronavirus. The PM further said a Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) was being devised about how the construction industry and its related sectors will work the during lockdown. “SOPs will also be made for the safety of the workers,” he added.
The primer said the Ministry of Commerce has compiled a list of industries which will operate during countrywide lockdown.
In a separate event, PM distributed tax refund cheques to businessmen. He said these were part of the relief his government is giving to keep industry afloat.
A press release issued by the Prime Minister Office (PMO), quoted the PM as saying: “A Codal Research Committee (CRC) should be formed to give suggestions to the National Coordination Committee in its next meeting regarding different sectors and how these could perform during prevailing lockdown situation.”
The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the government’s arrangements to combat Covid-19.
Chairing a meeting on energy, he directed the ministry concerned to accelerate reforms in the energy sector by removing systemic hurdles and effectively utilising the limited resources for ensuring relief to the common man.
Minister for Energy Omar Ayub, Finance Adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, Special Assistant to the PM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar and senior officers of ministries attended the meeting.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020