Pakistan official’s criticism of China’s ‘Silk Road’ projects raises worries

A Pakistani soldier stands guard beside a ship carrying containers during the opening of a trade project in Gwadar port, some 700 kms west of Karachi on November 13, 2016. (AFP file photo)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Pakistan official’s criticism of China’s ‘Silk Road’ projects raises worries

  • Commerce Minister Abdul Razak Dawood suggested that all projects in the $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor program were eligible for suspension and review
  • He said that China may have been granted too-favorable terms in many projects by the former government of Nawaz Sharif

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani official's critical comments about projects funded by China to the tune of billions of dollars rattled investors and sparked worries on Monday of a souring in ties, a day after Beijing's top government diplomat concluded a visit.

Abdul Razak Dawood, the Pakistani cabinet member for commerce, industry and investment, suggested that all projects in the $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor program could be eligible for suspension in a review to be conducted this week under the orders of new Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"I think we should put everything on hold for a year, so we can get our act together," Dawood told the Financial Times in an interview. "Perhaps we can stretch CPEC out over another five years or so."

He added that he thought China had been granted too-favorable terms in many projects by the former government of Nawaz Sharif.

"Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we're looking at because it's not fair that Pakistan companies should be disadvantaged," Dawood said.

Pakistani markets fell in early trading on Monday, with the benchmark KSE 100 index down 477.38 just after midday at 40,374 points, before recovering to close at 40,684, still down 0.4 percent.

Dawood's comments were "mind-boggling" and rare public criticism of China, said Mohammad Zubair, privatization minister in the previous government.

"This is probably the harshest statement about the Chinese in the last 50 years or so," Zubair told Reuters. "Even if there are issues with the Chinese, those issues could be dealt with in private rather than being made public."

Later on Monday, Dawood told domestic broadcaster Geo TV that his statements had been misconstrued and he would clarify them later.

The critical comments were published just after the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, visited Pakistan and the two sides reaffirmed the mutual benefits of the Beijing-funded projects.

While Khan, a former cricket star, has made no secret he plans to review all government projects and expenditure, the finance ministry last month said Pakistan was "fully committed to undertake and complete CPEC projects in their totality."


BP and SOCAR sign new Azeri oil deal

Updated 19 April 2019
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BP and SOCAR sign new Azeri oil deal

  • The Azeri Central East (ACE) platform, the latest phase of Azerbaijan’s giant Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) oilfields extension program, is expected to produce 100,000 barrels of oil a day
  • BP and the government of Azerbaijan extended their agreement to continue developing the ACG fields until 2050 in a major deal in 2017

BAKU: Oil major BP and Azerbaijan’s state energy company SOCAR signed an agreement on Friday to build a new exploration platform for the South Caucasus nation’s three major oilfields, BP-Azerbaijan said in a statement.
The Azeri Central East (ACE) platform, the latest phase of Azerbaijan’s giant Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) oilfields extension program, is expected to produce 100,000 barrels of oil a day and cost $6 billion to build, the company said.
The project is one of the biggest upstream investment decisions to have been signed in Azerbaijan so far this year.
The ACG fields, which to date have produced around 3.5 billion barrels of oil, are estimated to have the potential to yield another 3 billion barrels.
BP’s main aim now would be to maximize the extraction of remaining reserves, Robert Morris, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said in a statement.
“ACE is central to those plans, adding 100,000 barrels per day of production at peak in the mid-2020s,” he said.
BP and the government of Azerbaijan extended their agreement to continue developing the ACG fields until 2050 in a major deal in 2017.
Separately, SOCAR and its partners at the BP-led ACG consortium plan to participate in a tender to acquire stakes being sold by two of its members, ExxonMobil and Chevron.
SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev made the announcement to reporters following a meeting of senior SOCAR figures on Friday.