ADB Supports Smarter Country Programming, Stronger PPPs in Pakistan
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Pakistan agreed to chart new ways to pursue more robust and inclusive ADB investments in the country by scaling up public-private partnerships (PPPs) to tap private sector resources and meet Pakistan’s rising infrastructure needs.
The 3-day consultation workshop, titled “ADB Country Programming and Public-Private Partnerships in Pakistan,” which started on 14 May at Bhurban near Islamabad, will be attended by over 100 delegates including senior government officials, economists, planners from federal and four provincial governments, and ADB staff. Participants will discuss development opportunities and pipeline of projects as part of ADB’s Country Operation Business Plan, 2019–2021, for Pakistan.
ADB Country Director for Pakistan Ms. Xiaohong Yang and ADB Office of Public-Private Partnerships Director Mr. Takeo Koike opened the workshop by reiterating ADB’s continued commitment to support Pakistan in achieving its key development goals outlined in the ADB-Pakistan country partnership strategy. Ms. Yang called for closer coordination and consultation between ADB and partners to ensure smarter investment programs to better respond to Pakistan’s evolving priorities, particularly in the education and health sectors, as well as in energy, transport, agriculture, and institutional reforms.
Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom Head of Economic Growth Group Ms. Patricia Seex expressed her appreciation for ADB and the government’s efforts in facilitating an enabling environment and effective regulatory framework to promote PPPs at the national and provincial levels to increase Pakistan’s economic growth—needed to create jobs and help Pakistan achieve middle-income status.
Chairman of the Planning and Development Board for Punjab Mr. Mohammad Jahanzeb Khan and Head of PPP Cell and Member of the Planning and Development Board of Punjab Mr. Agha Waqar Javed reaffirmed the government’s commitment to work closely with ADB in delivering high quality development projects and programs. They also provided updates on reforms to improve regulatory and policy frameworks conducted by the government intended to encourage greater private sector participation in public sector development programs with the federal and provincial governments.
Pakistan’s public investment in infrastructure has historically fallen short of the estimated annual investment need of 7.6% of the country’s gross domestic product, or about $20 billion per year.
The current surge in infrastructure spending reaching more than 67% of the total development budget in the public sector requires effective fiscal consolidation measures and strategies to reduce the deficit and increase efficiencies, including mitigating potential fiscal risks posed by PPPs. The outstanding infrastructure financing from local commercial banks in 2016 was only about $4 billion, with 65% of the local bank’s lending going into energy projects.
“Project financing in Pakistan is only offered by a few commercial banks, with little or no role of capital markets or other financial institutions,” said Ms. Yang. “This leads to lack of sufficient financial depth and backing in the country’s domestic credit markets to accommodate the long-gestation of infrastructure projects. In the meantime, we are in short supply of a well prepared and bankable PPP pipeline.”
Ms. Yang added, “In this regard, I commend the Sindh and Punjab provincial governments’ efforts to develop their investment frameworks to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in infrastructure. The private sector has responded positively, but more needs to be done to create an effective fiscal risk vetting and management regime for greater private sector partnership in the public sector.”
ADB is already providing a total of $200 million in loans for projects supporting PPPs in Punjab and Sindh. The investments will augment and assist the provincial government’s efforts to increase the commercial viability of projects, as well as mobilize more private sector participation in PPPs. The loans will also help develop PPPs across sectors, and improve the government’s ability to review, develop, and implement sustainable and fiscally responsible PPP projects. ADB’s efforts are supported by DFID, through a $24 million grant and a $4 million technical assistance, both administered by ADB.
Gen. Li Shangfu: “When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns”
In his first international public address since becoming defense minister in March, General Li Shangfu told the Shangri-La Dialogue that China doesn’t have any problems with “innocent passage” but that “we must prevent attempts that try to use those freedom of navigation (patrols), that innocent passage, to exercise hegemony of navigation.”
A U.S. guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate were intercepted by a Chinese warship as they transited the strait between the self-governed island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, and mainland China. The Chinese vessel overtook the American ship and then veered across its bow at a distance of 150 yards in an “unsafe manner,” according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Additionally, the U.S. has said a Chinese J-16 fighter jet late last month “performed an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” while intercepting a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, flying directly in front of the plane’s nose.
Those and previous incidents have raised concerns of a possible accident occurring that could lead to an escalation between the two nations at a time when tensions are already high.
Li suggested the U.S. and its allies had created the danger, and should instead should focus on taking “good care of your own territorial airspace and waters.”
“The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries’ territories,” he said through an interpreter. “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”
He accused the U.S. and others of “meddling in China’s internal affairs” by providing Taiwan with defense support and training, and conducting high-level diplomatic visits.
“China stays committed to the path of peaceful development, but we will never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, let alone sacrifice the nation’s core interests,” he said.
“As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song go: ‘When friends visit us, we welcome them with fine wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns.’”
In his speech U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin broadly outlined the U.S. vision for a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights.”
Li scoffed at the notion, saying “some country takes a selective approach to rules and international laws.” “It likes forcing its own rules on others,” he said. “Its so-called ‘rules-based international order’ never tells you what the rules are and who made these rules.”
Republicans accuse Biden of corruption
Biden whistleblowers ‘fear for their lives’: Republicans say FBI won’t hand over alleged $5 million ‘bribery’ document because key informant’s safety could be in jeopardy, writes London “Daily Mail”. The FBI allowed leaders of the House Oversight Committee to view the FD-1023 form Republicans say proves President Biden was involved in a $5 million criminal bribery scheme.
House Republicans say that the FBI is violating a subpoena to turn over an alleged Biden ‘bribery’ document because the original informant’s life could be in danger if they are ‘unmasked’ – despite the names being redacted.
According to a ‘highly credible’ whistleblower, an internal FD-1023 memo created in 2020 based off information from a highly-paid FBI informant apparently details a $5 million ‘arrangement’ for an exchange of money for policy decisions between then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., told DailyMail.com that the foreign nation involved in the $5 million money exchange was Ukraine, and that it happened seven years ago. Greene added that the FBI could take measures to protect the informant’s life if they ‘cared about doing the right thing.’
The Georgia congresswoman added that it is necessary to move forward with contempt charges against Wray because the information contained in the document is ‘so damaging and so dangerous to our national security’ that Americans need the facts.
After reviewing the document, House Oversight Committee Republicans Chairman James Comer told reporters the accusations contained in the form ‘suggests a pattern of bribery’ consistent with findings the committee has put out publicly.
It’s called ‘money laundering,’ he said, saying it fits within the pattern of over $1 million in Romanian-linked payments to the Biden family revealed last month.
The White House has also pushed back, calling the Republican-led investigation ‘unfounded’ and ‘politically motivated.’
China takes leadership role in Central Asia
The China-Central Asia Summit, which took place recently in Xi’an on May 18-19 was every bit a geopolitical event as much as the G7 summit in Hiroshima that it overlapped. The symbolism was profound, notes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.
China and Russia were the elephants in the room for both summits but the Xi’an summit distinguished itself as an inclusive affair, whereas, the G7 event was, regrettably, an exclusive gathering of wealthy countries of the Western World dripping with cold war-era animosities, and it didn’t hide its intentions even in its choice of “special invitees” — one ASEAN country; two BRICS countries; one tiny African state; a Pacific island etc. — borne out of the old colonial mindset of “divide and rule.”
The biggest difference was that the Xi’an summit was substantive and focused on a positive agenda that is quantifiable, while the Hiroshima summit was largely prescriptive and partly declarative and only marginally tangible. This was because the China-Central Asia summit took place on native soil while the G7 has no habitation and name in Asia except that one of the seven member countries is of Asian origin and the summit itself was a thinly-veiled attempt to insert the alien Western agenda into the Asian setting.
The China-Central Asia Summit was motivated by the growing realisation that the countries of the Eurasian region must play a proactive role in the common task of pushing back the United States, the driving force of the G7, which they perceive to be attempting to destabilise the common neighbourhood of Russia and China in Central Asia. Simply put, the Xi’an summit tacitly signalled that Russia and China are unitedly circling the wagons for a common purpose — to borrow an idiom which was employed by the Americans in the 19th century to describe a defensive manoeuvre.
From a historical perspective, it is for the first time ever that Russia and China are explicitly joining hands to stabilise the Central Asian region — a momentous happening by itself — with Beijing assuming a leadership role, given Russia’s preoccupations in Ukraine. This paradigm shift belies the western propaganda that Russian and Chinese interests collide in the Central Asian region. There is a strategic convergence between Moscow and Beijing that stability in Central Asian region, which is vital for both capitals in their own interests, is best achieved through ensuring security, boosting economic development or international political backing.
The Xi’an Declaration released after the summit includes 15 points, divided into several blocks of issues: security, logistics, trade and economic cooperation, humanitarian cooperation and ecology.
China’s thesis is that security is best strengthened through economic development and for that reason, therefore, the region is important from the point of view of economic cooperation and regional development — although in aggregate terms, Central Asian economic resources are nowhere near sufficient for meeting China’s needs.
Suffice to say, terrorist threats emanating from the region, posing threat to Xinjiang, are China’s main concern and Beijing is willing to openly invest its resources in the security of the region and take part in the training of the anti–terrorist forces of the Central Asian states. Geographically, three out of the five Central Asian countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, share borders with China. As for Russia, it has long regarded the region as its traditional sphere of influence and a strategic buffer zone, and thus prioritised the security of its southern border. Therefore, a safe and secure Central Asia aligns with China and Russia’s respective national interests.
In the context of the Ukraine crisis, Central Asia has emerged as a frontline for the US strategy to contain and weaken Russia. However, although Central Asian countries have adopted a neutral stance on the Ukraine situation, Russia’s influence in the region remains strong and is unlikely to be largely disrupted. Three key factors are at work here.
First, Russia is seen as the provider of security and Russia’s defence capabilities continue to play a crucial role in maintaining stability in the region.
Second, Central Asian states heavily depend on Russia in regard of labor migration, market access, transportation, and energy resources, and no other outside power foots the bill.
Third, do not underestimate that the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union continues to systematically build up regional economic integration.
The Xi’an Declaration talks about resisting religious extremism and attempts by external forces to impose their own rules on the region.
It stands to reason that China and the Central Asian states and Russia felt the need to create more effective mechanisms and plans in their common space so as to impart a new quality of cooperation, and supplement the SCO if need arises.
So far, Russia was engaged in strengthening political integration, while China systematically and powerfully interacted with the governments of Central Asian countries for the development of energy and infrastructure projects within the framework of a full-fledged economic expansion. That division of labour worked rather well, but then, the regional security environment changed dramatically of late.
For example, it has become vital for Moscow in the context of the rupture of Russia’s energy ties with Europe to divert its oil and gas exports to the Chinese market, and that requires Central Asian infrastructure in transit mode — a novel idea altogether.
Suffice to say, a high level of harmonisation and synchronisation of the national plans of the Central Asian countries is needed. Currently, there are no agreed common strategies in the Central Asian region, which has a population of 75 million, M.K. Bhadrakumar stresses.
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