China State Construction Engineering Corp, the nation's largest builder, has announced completion of an infrastructure project each in Pakistan and Algeria, two economies that are participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.
This marks the construction giant's efforts to boost regional cooperation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to CSCEC, the Sukkur-Multan Motorway, which is the largest transportation infrastructure project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, was officially handed over to the Pakistani side on Wednesday.
The 392-kilometer-long motorway, also known as the M5 motorway in Pakistan, is part of the country's Peshawar-Karachi Motorway and was designed for speeds of up to 120 km/hour with a total investment of about $2.89 billion.
"The motorway opened to traffic in November last year and has greatly improved traffic conditions and helped drive economic development in central Pakistan," said Xiao Hua, general manager of the PKM project.
"More than 29,000 jobs were created for the locals in the peak time of construction and the operation of the motorway will be all done by the Pakistani side (from now on)," Xiao said.
Apart from the main body of the project, the Chinese constructor also built schools, roads, bridges, wells and water channels for the locals to make their lives more convenient, he said.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects have achieved major progress despite grave economic and health challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Asim Saleem Bajwa, chairman of the CPEC Authority.
"After successful completion of the first phase, the CPEC is expanding into its second phase as per schedule despite a very serious setback of COVID-19 around the world, ensuring economic stability and well-being of the people of Pakistan," Bajwa said while addressing an awarding ceremony for outstanding Pakistani staff of CPEC projects.
In Algeria in northern Africa, CSCEC has helped build an expressway linking Chiffa and Berrouaghia. It is part of the Algeria South-North Expressway project undertaken by CSCEC. The expressway opened to traffic last weekend, passing across the Atlas Mountains and through the Sahara Desert.
"The project is a great achievement and is of strategic significance to the nation," said Abdelaziz Djerad, prime minister of Algeria. "Opening of the Algeria South-North Expressway will play an important role in maintaining the national security and improving the comprehensive economic development."
With a total length of 53 kilometers, the expressway goes through the Atlas Mountains, which was the "bottleneck" part of the Algeria South-North Expressway, for its extremely high construction difficulties.
In the future, the expressway will also extend further southward to connect Mali, Niger and other countries in Sahil Area.
Proposed in 2013, the BRI comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which aim at building trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road.
The government will continue to encourage SOEs to build more key infrastructure and manufacturing projects in the country and BRI partner economies over the next five years, said Peng Huagang, secretary-general of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.