Islamabad: Pakistan's Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has given perhaps the first bold reality check on the much praised China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by saying that at best it would create 85,000 Jobs for the Pakistani youth and not one million jobs as claimed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Addressing students of the Fast School Management, Ahsan Iqbal spoke on the subject 'CPEC-Myths and Realities'. The idea was to provide the youth with information on how the CPEC would increase their chances of landing an appropriate job, when they will step out in search of employment.
The minister predicted that the multi-billion dollar project would create 85,000 jobs for the youth. He, however, did not specify the time period in which these jobs would be created, or the nationality of the 'youth' who would benefit from these jobs.
This figure of 85,000 is in sharp contrast to earlier claims made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who has claimed that the 51 Billion Dollars project would generate one million jobs.
Adding more confusion to the CPEC's benefits for Pakistan, the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong had said last month that 13,000 jobs had already been created as a result of the project. He, however, did not specify whether these jobs were solely for Pakistani nationals or the total number of jobs for Chinese and Pakistani nationals put together.
It is a fact that at least 10,000 Chinese nationals are engaged, at various levels, in CPEC projects. If the figure mentioned by the Ambassador is that of the total number of jobs generated, it is fairly clear who is actually benefitting from the CPEC.
The Chinese Prime Minister has recently claimed that despite a slowdown in the economy, his country has added 13.14 million new urban jobs in 2016, and aims to add another 11 million in 2017. This is a clear sign of China's strategy of securing jobs for its citizens by 'going out' through various projects under the One Belt One Road initiative.
So while China pushes out internationally in order to promote its own economy, Pakistan's leaders continue to distort facts, not only before the people but also before the elected members of the Parliament.
Briefing the Senate recently on the progress of the CPEC, Ahsan Iqbal stated that the majority of workers on the project were Pakistanis, going to the extent of claiming that they were working as engineers and in management positions.
However, a scrutiny of job advertisements for CPEC projects clearly indicates that the limited job openings available for Pakistanis are as cooks, welders, drivers, electricians, carpenters, unskilled labourers, and the like. Speaking to the media in Washington DC earlier this week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar admitted that large tax breaks, to the tune of billions of rupees per annum, had been extended to Chinese companies investing in the CPEC.
So what is Pakistan gaining in return for opening up its economy to China? Sources say it is time that Pakistanis realise that the CPEC will, in no way, benefit Pakistan, and will instead gradually lead the country down the path of bondage and debt.
After all, that is what the experience of countries in Africa and Sri Lanka has been!