China’s President In Pakistan To Cement Huge Coal Power Projects

  • Date: 19/04/15
  • Jeremy Page, The Wall Street Journal

Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to unveil a $46 billion infrastructure spending plan in Pakistan that is a centerpiece of Beijing’s ambitions to open new trade and transport routes across Asia and challenge the U.S. as the dominant regional power. The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants.

The plan, known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, draws on a newly expansive Chinese foreign policy and pressing economic and security concerns at home for Mr. Xi, who is expected to arrive in Pakistan on Monday. Many details had yet to be announced publicly.

“This is going to be a game-changer for Pakistan,” said Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s planning minister, who said his country could link China with markets in Central Asia and South Asia.

“If we become the bridge between these three engines of growth, we will be able to carve out a large economic bloc of about 3 billion living in this part of the world…nearly half the planet.” [...]

If realized, the plan would be China’s biggest splurge on economic development in another country to date. It aims over 15 years to create a 2,000-mile economic corridor between Gwadar and northwest China, with roads, rail links and pipelines crossing Pakistan.

The network ultimately will link to other countries as well, potentially creating a regional trading boom, Pakistani and Chinese officials say.

The Pakistan program has been described by Chinese officials as the “flagship project” of a broader policy, “One Belt, One Road,” which seeks to physically connect China to its markets in Asia, Europe and beyond.

The largest part of the project would provide electricity to energy-starved Pakistan, based mostly on building new coal-fired power plants. The country is beset by hours of daily scheduled power cuts because of a lack of supply, shutting down industry and making life miserable in homes—a major reason for the election in 2013 of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who promised to solve the electricity crisis.

The plans envisage adding 10,400 megawatts of electricity at a cost of $15.5 billion by 2018. If those projects deliver, plugging the electricity deficit, Mr. Sharif would be able to go into the 2018 election saying he has lived up to his pledge.

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