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CPEC a blessing for Pakistan, PM Imran during China visit

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BEIJING: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday termed the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) a “blessing” for Pakistan and an opportunity to attract foreign investment in the cash-starved country.

He was addressing a ceremony at the Central Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, during his first official visit to China since assuming charge as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in August this year.

“We need foreign investments more than ever before because we have a current account deficit,” the Pakistani premier said, a day after he invited Chinese businessmen to explore Pakistan‘s vast investment potential.

“China, through CPEC, has given Pakistan an opportunity to attract [foreign] investments. CPEC is a blessing for Pakistan, it’s very important for the country, it’s an opportunity to attract investments,” he said.

PM Imran said his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Li Keqiang had given him even more confidence that Pakistan would be able to get out of the current economic crisis.

“My government is confident that we can get out of the crisis. For the last 15 years we have suffered as a result of the war against terrorism,” he told the gathering.

Pakistan’s foreign reserves have plunged 42 percent since the start of the year and now stand at about $8 billion, or less than two months of import cover.

Last month, Pakistan received a $6 billion rescue package from Saudi Arabia, but officials say it is not enough and the country still plans to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert a balance of payments crisis. It would be Pakistan´s 13th rescue package from the multilateral lender since the late 1980s.

PM Imran said corruption and money laundering were the biggest problems facing Pakistan.

“Corruption, money laundering by the ruling elites created problems for the country, badly impacted the economy.”

He noted that Pakistan had been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world in the 1960s, and its five-year plan had even been emulated by South Korea and Malaysia.

From the mid-1980s onwards, unfortunately, Pakistan had started to suffer from corruption, he lamented. “Money laundering deprives a country of its resources, foreign exchange. Rich countries get richer, poor countries get poorer.”

PM Imran lauded China’s phenomenal achievements in reducing poverty and alleviating corruption, and said Pakistan wished to learn from its progress.

No country [other than China] has lifted 700 million out of poverty in 30 years, he observed. “The steps taken by China to achieve this, is what my party, my government is interested in learning,” he added.

The premier said Pakistan enjoyed a multidimensional relationship with China which encompassed a wide range of fields including economy, climate change, and other socioeconomic areas.

Pakistan and China on Saturday signed 15 agreements and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for cooperation in diverse fields, including poverty alleviation in Pakistan, strengthening of cooperation in agriculture and industrial sectors and technical training.

Agreements were also signed between Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and Science Academy of China and between Chinese Academy of Science and Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Thanking China for the love and affection extended to him on his visit, PM Imran said the love between Pakistan and China did not only exist on a state-to-state level but could also be witnessed on people-to-people basis.

The premier will next leave for Shanghai to participate in the first China International Import Expo. He will be a keynote speaker at the inauguration of the expo, and among 18 heads of state and government who will be attending it.

More than 2,800 companies from 130 countries and regions, and 160,000 buyers from over 80,000 Chinese and foreign companies will participate in the expo.

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