The Gwadar projects are the “kingpin” of CPEC but have been lagging behind schedule. The Joint Working Group held a meeting through video link, and both sides, Pakistan and China, have agreed to expedite the projects. Apart from the global pandemic, there have been issues such as lack of telecommunication facilities in the area, which have slowed down the work. Several key projects are behind schedule, as well as the supporting infrastructure required to complete them, ranging from cell phone towers, to power plants. An expressway, hospital, and school, are also amongst the lagging projects.
There is a drive to speed up the Gwadar Airport project to completion, as well as some socio-economic projects which are to be supported by China. These are related to agriculture, fisheries, and livestock. The Eastbay Expressway is slated for completion within months, by April 2021. The 300 MW coal-fired power plant is also to be expedited, with the relevant agreement documents to be signed within December 2020.
It is hoped that the meeting of the highest CPEC authority, the Joint Cooperation Committee will also take place this month, after being postponed for 2 months. The issues raised in the JWG meeting will be addressed but due to the lagging projects, it is doubtful that any other completed projects will be presented.
Despite the delays, there is a bright side. The Gwadar Free Zone has over forty registered investors out of which a few have already completed construction. Most importantly, the Gwadar port is operational, with Afghan Transit Trade already flowing through it. Gwadar port suits Afghan traders for several regions, and the use of this port will hopefully lead to stronger regional cooperation overall. The Gwadar Port is a prominent way in which CPEC will yield benefits to regional states, not just Pakistan and China.