Daily Times Editorial 19 June 2020
Onwards with CPEC Phase-II
That Pakistan and China have decided to move ahead with the second phase of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) is welcome news indeed and one that seems to have come at just the right time for both countries. Pakistan has just decided against another lockdown in order to facilitate growth and employment, and there is no better way to get off the mark than work on the most crucial projects. For CPEC doesn’t just bode well for the future of Pakistani trade, it will also revamp the basic infrastructure of the country which has its own added advantages. The way out of the present predicament, brought about by the pandemic and the lockdown, is precisely such targeted, high-value projects to lead the way as small and medium enterprises provide much needed volume to economic activity.
This must be a moment of relief for China as well. It has had to stand firm against momentous political and financial challenges over the last few years. First there was the political space getting cold with the US, then there was the long and mutually destructive trade war, then came the coronavirus with all its damage, and now there’s the sanctions as well as the prospect of a cold war with America. Eyebrows were naturally raised when China announced earlier that it would not set a growth target for this year. Skeptics took that as a show of weakness, thinking Beijing had somehow got lost in all these troubles, but it was in fact very smart thinking since the Middle Kingdom is taking this time to reprioritise. Now all the needless noise in the regional press, especially form India, indicating that China no longer had the money for CPEC will have no ground to stand on.
Yet it’s not as we should not expect any trouble down the road. Both India and the US are vehemently against CPEC, and would do anything to see it unravel. Indeed, it is little surprise that most Indian spies that Pakistan has caught lately were active in Balochistan. No doubt relevant security agencies of both countries have the situation well under control, and the only thing to really worry about would be maintaining social safety protocols so that the coronavirus, of all things, is not allowed to unsettle the pace of progress between China and Pakistan. All efforts must be made to make sure that everything about CPEC Phase-II remains on track. *
The world ought to be very concerned about the latest warning from the United Nations Refugee Agency that an unprecedented 79.5 million people across the world were displaced as of the end of 2019. It is also a very big problem that except for one, all countries in the top five hosts of refuges have rather average or small economies, like Turkey, Columbia, Pakistan and Uganda. This number represents almost one percent of the entire world’s population, which is unprecedented in all the years of the UN’s recordkeeping. Since these figures are till the end of last year, a very large number of them are Syrian refugees or people fleeing appalling living conditions in countries like Venezuela. And figures that take into account all the people that are reduced to refugee status because of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus will no doubt be worse.
It is moments like these that should make all nations, especially developed ones, hang their heads in shame. The Syrian problem, for example, is indicative of what can happen when rich governments join hands with big arms companies and bring death and devastation to the world in the quest of their own political and financial gains. Also, these numbers seem to reflect the forced movement of people across borders only, though someone should also be made to answer for all the misery brought to people in places like Yemen, where they have been tossed all around within the borders because of the cruel war imposed on the country. It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, when mankind has advanced so much, such issues continue to dog us. And they might only be statistics for a lot of people at the end of the day, but each number represents a life torn apart or a family ruined forever.
Perhaps, as the world emerges from the fight against the coronavirus, there will be an overwhelming realisation that in the hunt for money and power all of us forget the real value of life. It is very possible with all the resources that have been created in this day and age for all the world to live in peace and harmony. Yet so far the world as a whole has chosen a very different route. Lately, much of the world has also become xenophobic, so it is not really surprising that many of the biggest and richest countries have routinely turned away even the most vulnerable refugees. This trend must change, or the whole world will suffer for it. *