Speech by Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif at the
INAUGURATION CEREMONY OF 2ND PAKISTAN INVESTMENT CONFERENCE ON 4TH NOVEMBER, 2015
Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Federal Minister for Water & Power
Miftah Ismaeel, Minister of State and Chairman Board of Investment
Excellencies, Distinguished foreign and Pakistani delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to inaugurate the second International Investment conference being organized by the Board of Investment. These conferences are useful in both showcasing the investment opportunities in Pakistan and also getting feedback from local and foreign investors about the type of policies they would like the government to formulate.
Ladies and gentlemen, the government is approaching the halfway mark of its term. It is therefore a good time to reflect on the journey we have undertakenover the last two and a half years, targets we have accomplished and the goals, we are yet striving for.
The government’s programme was built around four pillars, the four E's. These were, first, Elimination of Extremism and Terrorism, second, Economic development, third, Ensuring the continuous and affordable supply of Energy, and finally Enabling the entire society to have access to Education and Health. Our fundamental principle in running the government and achieving these goals has been to observe the highest standards of probity, fairness and transparency.
How far we have succeeded is for the people of Pakistan to judge, but the results of recent bye-elections and local electionsindicate that the people of Pakistan do acknowledge and appreciate the sometimes tough choices we have made,the reforms we have undertaken, and efforts we are making to realize the dream of a peaceful, progressive and fast developing Pakistan. And yes, it is true that we have had to take some hard decisions but by the grace of God we did not flinch in doing the job we were elected to do.
Days after being elected, and even before taking oath of office,we were engaged with the Chinese leadership to plan and formulate what would later be called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, an energy and infrastructure programme with investments of about 46 billion dollars in Pakistan. This programme when implemented, will help end power outages in Pakistan, and ensure seamless connectivity between China, South Asia and Central Asia. We expect that the increased trade on this corridor will render our Gawader port one of the busiest in the region, and will herald a new dawn of development for whole of Balochistan. We also intend to set-up around 25 industrial zones along the three routes of the corridor, providing thousands of jobs to our people.
Just weeks after taking over the responsibility of government, we 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. We will soon see these projects commission.
The government is building three major gas-based power plants, and by 2017, when the new plants come online, we expect to end load-shedding in Pakistan. In addition, we are 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.
My cabinet colleague Khawaja Asif will tell you more about our efforts to improve the capacity and efficiency of the power sector in the next session.
To expedite discovery of new oil and gas in Pakistan, we have increased the well-head prices of oil and gas for the exploration companies. We are already witnessing renewed interest in exploration activities. At the same time, we are also setting up new terminals and laying pipelines 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 everyday. In addition, we are building another pipeline connecting the northern and southern region of Pakistan and a pipeline connecting Nawabshah and Gawadar. We are determined to produce and import more gas to fully meet the demand for gas in the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, to underscore our commitment to austerity and prudence, during our first year in office we cut non-salary government expenditures by 30%. At the Prime Minister's Office, the expenses were cut by 40 percent. These and other politically difficult measures, including increasing the Sales tax from 16 to 17 percent, have helped us cut our fiscal deficit from 8.8% to around 5% in just two years. This fiscal prudence, combined with a reduction in the growth in money supply, has resulted in year-on-year inflation coming down to less than 2% last month and interest rates at the historically low levels. Our macroeconomic fundamentals are pointing in the right direction. We are ready to get high levels of investments from domestic and foreign sources. Our Minister for Finance will tell you the story of Pakistan's remarkable economic turnaround tomorrow. I would like to add here that the Pakistan’s economic turnaround has been duly noticed and acknowledged by credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor, Moodyand Fitch, as well as respected publications like Forbes and the Economist.
But I would like to emphasize that we have just begun. We have plans to make this great nation into a high growth economy in the next few years. We have only just laid the foundation for it.
We are making considerable progress in controlling extremism and terrorism. Our military operation Zarb-e-Azb has borne great results. Our nation has made a choice and we will not allow the cancer of extremism to infect the fabric of our society. Our desire is to have both peace and security within our borders and outside our borders. We want friendly relations with all nations in our region, and the world at large. I am particularly focused on improving regional trade, investment and economic connectivity. We want to progress very fast on major regional connectivity interventions like CASA 1000, TAPI Gas Pipeline and proposed road connections to Central Asia through China and Afghanistan. TAPI gas pipeline will bring gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. CASA 1000 is an electricity transmission project between Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Our goal is to create a progressive society, where our children---boys and girls---can go to school and get educated, where health care is available to everyone irrespective of their financial condition, where a bright young person can get college and university education, and where jobs are available to their seekers on a fair basis. We recognize private sector to be the engine as well as the purveyor of economic growth. We want the government to stay out of the market as an operator, and like it to only regulate efficient markets and provide helping hand to those in need.
You will be pleased to know that despite our limited resources, we have started taking steps towards making Pakistan an educated, progressive, forward looking and an enterprising nation.
Some of you may know that we are giving away around Rs 100 billion annually in monthly stipends to more than 5 million poorest of the poor women as part of our income support programme. We are also giving vocational training to poor qualified students to enable them to earn a dignified living.
And our programmes are not just limited to the poor. To ensure that the best and the bright in our society are not left out of academic opportunity, we are running a programme to pay college fees for qualified students. To help young graduates find appropriate jobs and build their professional skills, the government has started an internship programme to pay college students monthly stipends for a year, while they work in private or public sector organizations. We have also initiated a loans’ programme for the youth to help them start small businesses and provide employment to others. Half of these loans go to women, which will encourage them to participate in the economic growth and development of Pakistan.
With the direction we have set for Pakistan, in the near future, ladies and gentlemen, you will be able to drive from Karachi to Lahore in but a few hours, you will get power and gas in your factories continuously and with certainty, you will have high speed internet as well as rail links, and your biggest challenge will be to keep pace with the high demand for your goods in an increasingly affluent domestic market. Help me build this Pakistan by investing in it today and take advantage of the huge profit opportunities that are bound to come your way.
Our 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 noone 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.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to assure you that the government will extend all possible assistance to you in your business enterprise in Pakistan. In the end, I wish to thank you all for participating in this Conference. I hope that the Conference and its outcomes will be beneficial for you, the BOI, the government and the people of Pakistan.