10 months ago

Urban Asias – Essays on Futurity Past and Present

90 III. Infrastructures

90 III. Infrastructures of Future-making highways, railway networks, communication links, and transportation. The second component features the development of special economic zones or regional hubs along the route, including power projects and several tradehighway corridors linking different parts of Pakistan both internally and externally. The first-phase projects will receive $45.69 billion in concessionary and commercial loans, for which financial facilitation to the Chinese companies is being arranged by the Silk Road Fund established in December 2014 to extend investment and financing support to CPEC projects. The Silk Road Fund is a consortium of leading Chinese banks that have raised funds of approximately $40 billion. In Pakistan, the financing of the project is a two-pronged strategy: approximately $34 billion is direct foreign investment by Chinese companies, and $12 billion is in concessional government-to-government loans whose terms have not yet been negotiated. 10 Interestingly, the Silk Road Fund’s launch coincides with the advent of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that has been established with a capital base of US $100 billion and is solely focused on infrastructure programs. Some of the initial initiatives that the AIIB is financing are situated in Pakistan and Central Asia. 11 In Pakistan, the ADB recently announced a partnership with the AIIB to finance the construction of a 64 kilometer motorway in Punjab, a move that signals the joint-financing of a mega-project between two Asia-based banks. The CPEC and more broadly the OBOR aspire to reshape the geographies and political economies of the South-Central Asian region, recasting the role of peripheral zones, borders, and frontiers that were once deemed vulnerable. Pakistan is now perceived as an integral space for connecting new global production and trade networks and for exerting geopolitical influence. For Pakistan’s planners, infrastructure is the future that enables them to dream of a prosperous and democratic Pakistan. The Planning Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, posits that the CPEC “changes the scope of the [Pak-China] relationship from geopolitics to geoeconomics”. 12 Iqbal has routinely emphasized the CPEC’s importance as a fate-changer for billions of people, not only within Pakistan where “backward” areas will soon be “uplifted”, but across the wider region. Put bluntly, the CPEC aspires to plan a built environment that will signal to the world Pakistan has everything needed to operate: everything needed to operationalize the workings of global economic production. I find it useful here to think again in terms of Neil Brenner’s (2014) idea of planetary urbanization; a concept of the urban condition as stretching beyond the city and onto the wider terrain of the South-Central Asian region where complex geopolitical dynamics and transnational alliances alongside private capital are intervening

91 PLANNING MEGA FUTURES IN SOUTH-CENTRAL ASIA 8.1 Breakdown of the CPEC investment. in the construction and extension of new infrastructure networks and, in the process, remapping territories. The planning minister’s words have been enough to stoke the Pakistani imagination for a potential shift in statesociety relations: from longstanding corrupt bureaucracy and politicians to an imagined democratic and regionally inter-connected space of prosperity, harmony and transparent governance, and all of this courtesy of “friendly neighbor” China. Notably, the Pakistan government has been reworking the democracy and transparent governance discourse in light of the CPEC developments. For instance, the Chairman of Transparency International Pakistan emphasized that in speaking out against corruption, Pakistan was the only country amongst the five SAARC members to have improved its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score. The importance of the CPI score