It’s a great honor for me to be here this morning. The speakers before me have eloquently spoken and touched upon very novel ideas on issues relating to poverty and sub-national co-operation. I am glad that I will also have my share in this thoughtful and insightful debate.

One of the great challenges we are facing today is how to deal with the issue of poverty. While answering this question there is both hope and despair as well as an onerous responsibility on the decision-makers to devise credible, sustainable, and inclusive policies that can lead to mitigation of poverty.

On the note of hope, I must mention the great economic transformation that has occurred in China over last forty years. China has brought 700 million people out of poverty in last four decades that too after epic historical struggles of 1960’s and 70’s. This scale of poverty reduction has never happened in human history. It is therefore quite important that we are having debate on poverty reduction in China and in Yunnan, a province which has successfully a substantially reduced poverty.

I must also commend here the great leadership of the Communist Party of China which has played a critical and a remarkable role in transforming China from an agrarian and poor country of 1970’s to a world-class industrial, technological, scientific and economically vibrant country. Pundits say that 21st century will be the century of Asia; this dream cannot be fulfilled without bringing meaningful, qualitative, and substantial changes in the economic well-being of our societies.

This is my eighth year dealing with China in different roles as a diplomat and all together this is my sixth year serving in China. With my very own eyes I have seen how ordinary cities have been converted into modern cities with sky scrapers, technological breakthroughs, and AI’s introduction. When I was in Beijing several years ago, one of the African diplomats asserted something. I told him that China was changing very fast. He interjected and said to me that China is changing by every day and hour. And now looking back I see how prescient he was.

Let me narrate another incident to get an insight into how Chinese leadership tirelessly works to bring qualitative change in the lives of millions of its people. A top guy serving in oil and gas sector told me that once he went to a rather underdeveloped county of Sichuan to assess the oil and gas potential there. He met many locals in the county who told him that members of Chinese communist party remain most concerned about issues of poverty and remain in touch with the locals to understand their narratives, their stories, and their grievances. The party members regularly report to their leaders about most basic issues that need to be addressed in a county. We need a thoughtful and caring leadership to deal with sensitive and painful issues such as poverty.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Here we are in a country that has demonstrated that with both will and pragmatic public policies poverty cannot only be reduced but hope and opportunities can be created that can be revolutionary to engage society in a resilient manner to carve out a promising future.

One of the greatest dangers that will be made in poverty reduction at the regional level will be through the “Belt and Road Initiative”. BRI involves more than 70 countries, and projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars. And let me mention here, one of the flagship project of the BRI, CPEC. It is a project worth 62 billion dollars. In the cities of Pakistan a lot of dynamism has been created by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Imagine the multiple effect on economy of this project over the long run. Not only CPEC will speed up Pakistan economic development but will also create employment opportunities and will significantly reduce poverty.

However we must remember that inequality of wealth and income are quite different than the issues of poverty. As responsible public policy officials we have to address the question of reduction in income inequality which in recent years has become a source of political and social conflicts.

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, has been a great advocate of policies of reduction of poverty in China. He wants to replicate some of those policies in Pakistan.

Personally I feel that China’s policy-making process is remarkable and long thought out with a lot of consultations at various levels.

I hope today’s forum will be an important step to understand those issues and will brainstorm innovative issues to reduce poverty. I wish it all success.

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