Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pace of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects would be accelerated as some were delayed after the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic. Addressing the inauguration ceremony of the Matiari to Lahore 600KV transmission line in Islamabad on Thursday, the prime minister said that losses would be limited to four per cent on the line. He pointed out that the pandemic had stalled communications in many areas, led to travel bans and affected supply chains across the world. PM Imran explained that due to it, difficulties were also faced in the execution of CPEC projects; however, the setback was “temporary”. He expressed the hope that with vaccinations against the coronavirus picking up pace across the world, the coming waves of the pandemic would not be as intense as earlier ones and in turn, the work on CPEC projects would not be affected but expedited instead. He also said during the ceremony that the country’s power distribution system was very old, especially in the northern areas of Pakistan, and this remains the main hindrance in providing those areas with electricity. Earlier in September, a Senate panel had expressed concern over the slow pace of development on the CPEC and dissatisfaction being expressed by Chinese companies over the negligible progress in the last three years. However, Federal Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar had dismissed the reports a day after the Senate body’s meeting. He had rejected a perception that CPEC had been slowed down over the past three years and claimed that major work on the corridor projects had been completed during the tenure of the current PTI government. The Matiari-Lahore transmission line is one of the projects completed under the CPEC, dubbed “state-of-the-art” by PM Imran in his address. He said the project was officially commenced in 2013, but work on it had not been started until 2018. “On this occasion, I congratulate all those involved in the speedy completion of this project over a course of three years,” he added. The prime minister said the project would help minimise line losses. “One per cent line loss costs us billions of rupees … and it is one of the reasons we are unable to meet electricity demand and end the problem of load shedding,” he said, adding that this 886-kilometre-long transmission line would help address these issues. In this connection, he further said that the scope of initiatives taken under the CPEC had now been expanded to cover electricity transmission. “We started with [building] roads and power generation [schemes], and now have expanded the CPEC to further cover electricity transmission,” he said. “In the next phase, we will move towards industrialisation, which will help with wealth creation and eventually, the repayment of debt.” Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong said that the Matiari-Lahore transmission line would strengthen the safety and reliability of the grid system, optimize energy distribution of the entire country and lower electricity costs. “CPEC up to now has brought an investment of $25.4 billion and created 75,000 job opportunities. The project has made a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of Pakistan,” Rong added. Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said the present government started construction work on this landmark project. “The project is now ready for electricity transmission after a testing phase of six months. Other projects under CPEC will also be completed on time,” the minister said, expressing the resolve to address the country’s power-related issues.