ISLAMABAD, Jan 14 (APP): Prime Minister Muhmmad Nawaz Sharif Thursday invited the US investors to take advantage of the lucrative business opportunities available in Pakistan and play their part in strengthening the robust Pakistan – US relationship.
He was talking to US-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC) Business Delegation here at the PM House during a luncheon meeting.
He said Pakistan has one of the most attractive investment regimes in the world, allowing foreign investors 100% repatriation of profits and easy convertibility into foreign exchange.
Numerous investment opportunities are available in the Energy, Consumer goods, Food & Agriculture, Housing, Health care, Education, Financial Services, Capital Markets, Information Technology, Oil & Gas and Infrastructure sectors of Pakistan.
He said Pakistan was among the few places in the world that offers the promise of land, geography and people, all at the same time. Increased urbanization, favorable demographics, growing middle class and economically empowered women and youth, were the recognized drivers of growth.
The delegation comprised Chairman US-Pakistan Business Council Miles Young, President US-Pakistan Business Council Ms. Esprenza Jelalian.
The delegation comprises US businessmen, executives, investors, and industry leaders
The Prime Minister said the US Chamber of Commerce was the symbol of American enterprise and dynamism, and has been a close and a trusted partner of Pakistan, through the US-Pakistan Business Council. He said through its concerted efforts, the Chamber has been promoting business to business collaboration between the two sides, over the years.
The Prime Minister thanked Chairman Miles Young and President Espie Jelalian along with Mr. Mehmood for their commendable efforts in promoting trade, economic and business relations between Pakistan and the US.
The Prime Minister expressed confidence that this visit of US-Pakistan Business Council, delegation to Pakistan will go a long way towards exploring and creating excellent avenues for trade and investment between USA and Pakistan.
He said the event provides an opportunity to work together for the economic growth of both countries.
“I am confident that our interactions of today would go a long way in achieving the objective of promoting closer economic ties between the two countries,” the Prime Minister said.
He said for over 60 years, Pakistan and the United States have worked together to forge a relationship that benefits the people of both countries. He said this cooperation produced transformative ideas and institutions that were still being considered landmark accomplishments in almost all walks of life.
He said this cooperation was fostering Pakistan’s economic and social progress as well as reinforcing the country’s role in the world.
The Prime Minister informed the delegation that Pakistan has greatly improved its internal security situation, and achieved effective governance and public service delivery, resulting in robust macro-economic indicators.
“We have made a strategic choice to take on terrorists through targeted military operations Zarb-e-Azb.
“We have seen a marked improvement in the internal security situation in Pakistan, with the current year witnessing the lowest number of terrorist attacks since 2007. It is our firm commitment that we have to eliminate terrorism once forever,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister also shared with the delegation the robust economic growth of the country and said, the GDP has grown by 4.24 % in the fiscal year 2015, which was the highest in the last seven years.
Inflation was at 4.6% in the same year and in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, it was at historic low of less than 2%.
The per capita income has risen by 12.91% in the first two years of Government’s tenure.
“Our budget deficit has been brought down from 8.2% to 5.3% in the same period, tax revenues have increased by about 33%, due to measures aimed at tax-net broadening and removal of exemptions.”
He also mentioned the rebuilding of the country’s foreign exchange which was now highest in the history of the country, and has led to exchange rate stability.
“We will continue to take steps to further strengthen these economic gains,” he said.
He said overcoming energy shortages remains the top most priority for his government.
“We have evolved a comprehensive strategy, geared towards overcoming the energy problem on a sustainable basis. Our goal is to overcome energy shortages by 2018,” he added.
He recalled that his government paid around Rs 480 billion for the outstanding stock of power sector's circular debt.
“We have taken measures to curtail the flow of further debt by raising and rationalizing power tariffs. These were difficult decisions to make, but we made them to open the way for more investments in the power sector. We have therefore seen the commencement of projects in coal, solar, LNG and wind power.”
The Prime Minister said the government was building three major gas-based power plants, and by 2017, when the new plants come online, it was expected that end load-shedding would end in Pakistan. He said the government was working on a number of Hydel projects including the 4th extension to the Tarbela Dam and Dasu Hydropower project.
“Our focus is not just on ending load-shedding in Pakistan for once.
We are aiming at laying the foundations of a robust energy sector that will meet the country’s needs for the next two decades.”
Sharif said his government increased the well-head prices of oil and gas for the exploration companies.
He said there was renewed interest in exploration activities while new terminals and laying pipelines was being done to import natural gas and improve the provision of natural gas to homes and industry.
“Only two weeks ago, we signed an agreement with the Russian government to build a North-South gas pipeline, capable of carrying
1.2 billion cubic feet of gas every day.”
He said another pipeline connecting the northern and southern region of Pakistan and a pipeline connecting Nawabshah and Gawadar was being built.
The Prime Minister mentioned Pakistan’s economic upturn that was being noted worldwide and said leading international publications, fund’s managers and rating agencies have acknowledged outstanding economic performance of Pakistan.
“Bloomberg has described Pakistan as the best undiscovered frontier market. Morgan Stanley’s Vice President has predicted that the rise of Pakistan is only a matter of time, on account of its strategic location and demographic dividends. Moody’s has upgraded Pakistan from CAA 1 to B-, while Standard and Poor’s have improved our outlook to Positive. On the other hand, Fitch has given a rating of B to Pakistan. All these positive assessments have been made on the back of a major turnaround in Pakistan’s economy. “
The Prime Minister said his government would like the private sector to flourish and provide the best possible services to the people of Pakistan.
He said with this objective, his government restarted privatization program in 2013, which aims to improve the efficiency of and service provision by the Public Sector Enterprises. He said the government has also successfully auctioned spectrum licenses for 3 G and 4 G for mobile networks, through a transparent and competitive process.
Prime Minister said his government has enacted Special Economic Zone Act, which provides numerous investment incentives.
He said the most promising element of this policy was the recently launched China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - a fusion of several development and connectivity initiatives, focusing on infrastructure, energy, Gwadar sea port and industrial cooperation. This multi-facet multi-billion dollar project will spur regional economic integration and bring prosperity to the entire region and beyond, he added.
He said Pakistan was also working on other regional energy and connectivity projects including Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, Central Asia South Asia (CASA)-1000 electricity project, Torkham-Jalalabad Road and Kunar Power Project.
Sharif said agriculture Sector was the backbone of Pakistan's economy.
It contributes 20.9% to GDP, employs 43.5% of the country's labour force and provides food security to the nation and raw material for various industries. Immediate attention was required to accelerate productivity and profitability of this sector both in vertical and horizontal directions.
He said urbanization was decreasing the current area under cultivation and water scarcity does not allow bringing new lands under cultivation from the available cultivable waste which 8.27 million hectares. The current area under cultivation was 22.08 million hectares, which needs to be enhanced to cater for food needs of growing population.
Similarly, he said the livestock sector can quite rightly be called the country's hidden secret. Pakistan has 3rdlargest livestock population and livestock and poultry sectors contribute 11.8% to GDP while poultry alone contributes about 28% towards the total meat production. This sector also has huge potential for mutual cooperation and investment.
The Prime Minister said Food processing has enormous significance for Pakistan's development because of the vital linkages and synergies that it promotes between the two pillars of the economy, namely Industry and Agriculture.
He said in Pakistan generally fruits and vegetables were consumed as fresh. He said there was a small fruit and vegetable processing industry in the country, which was concentrated around the major cities.
He said a lot of food was wasted thereby indicating a huge potential for production of squashes, jams and jellies, pickles and canned fruits and vegetables. Investors from USA can get benefits from these opportunities and set up their enterprises for agriculture, food processing and sea-food development and their export.
He said the United States remains one of the most important economic and trading partners of Pakistan. Major US companies have invested billions of dollars in Pakistan. The US also remains a major destination for Pakistani exports.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan will continue to encourage active investment of US companies in Pakistan, especially in the backdrop of our recent economic achievements. At the same, I would like to reiterate the need for greater market access for Pakistani products in the US markets for the mutual benefit of our economies. We expect that the US Pakistan Business Council will continue to play its positive role towards this end.
He said overall Trade Volume between USA and Pakistan in 2014-15 was $
5,156 million. He said Pakistan’s exports to USA stand at $ 3,959million and Imports are $ 1,197 Million. He said Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from USA to Pakistan was a matter of concern as during 2013-14 the total FDI was $ 212 million that has dropped to $
209 million during 2014-15. “We need to work in this area to address this downward trend.”
The Prime Minister said no region has lagged as far behind in the world today as South Asia.
“To lift our people out of poverty, we must first of all establish peace in the region. Pakistan, therefore, seeks good relations with all its neighbors.”
The Prime Minister said he firmly believe that shared prosperity is real prosperity.
“We cannot maintain peace within, unless there is peace without. This is what under-pins my approach to a peaceful and friendly neighborhood. One of the key pillars of my government’s foreign policy is to support and encourage greater regional integration and connectivity. This is where we have our biggest opportunities to reap the dividends of peace for the common good of our peoples.”
Prime Minister Sharif said Pakistan’s democratic and economic journey has not been without setbacks. But the Pakistani nation has once and for all decided that its future lies in a liberal and democratic country, where the private sector thrives and none is left behind.
“I can confidently say that our direction is set, and we are now implementing our nation’s economic and democratic agenda. And indeed, driving a democratic Pakistan forward in its journey towards an economically vibrant future is a labour of love for me.”