More than 10,000 Chinese workers are now building at least 10 partly Beijing-financed energy projects across Pakistan that are set to grow the country’s energy output by 60% within two years in the first major boost to supply in two decades.Mr. Sharif’s government plans to inaugurate a nuclear plant this month and a pipeline network in January that will carry large-scale gas imports upcountry.
Mr. Sharif’s promise to solve the electricity crisis propelled him to office at a time when the energy deficit was knocking some 2 percentage points off growth, economists say, stifling industry and leaving school children to study by candlelight.
Pakistan’s economic growth has risen to almost 5% annually under Mr. Sharif’ and his government set a 7% target for the years ahead. That, his government hopes, will boost the moribund private sector, reduce unemployment and provide youth with more alternatives to extremism.
Mr. Sharif’s plan depends heavily on China, which is translating its long-term strategic ties with Pakistan into an economic partnership, part of a broader infrastructure push across Eurasia. China is financing many plants as commercial investments. But to expedite projects, the Pakistani government is funding some power stations in the run up to the election, including three gas-fired plants in Mr. Sharif’s home province of Punjab. The eventual aim is to more than double Pakistan’s current output of around 16,000 megawatts.
Washington’s multibillion-dollar civilian aid program for Pakistan has been far less ambitious, adding 1,000 megawatts to the country’s power generation in recent years by enhancing existing power stations.