Exclusive Interview with Mr Lal Dino Mari Baloch — Honorary Investment Counsellor, Board of Investment (BoI) Prime Minister’s Office Government of Pakistan in Hong Kong & Chief Executive Bizz & Trade International Limited, Hong Kong
Mr. Lal Dino Mari Baloch was born in Khairpur Mirs in a political/landlord family. He got involved in business rather than going to political side. Mr. Baloch has 28 years business experience in various fields. He is the Chief Executive of Bizz & Trade International Ltd (BTI) and few other companies. Under his leadership, BTI has been successfully providing consultancy services besides trading natural resources, energy products, agriculture commodities and electronic products between Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, United Kingdom and the Middle East. Mr. Baloch was recommended by the Government of Pakistan and it was sponsored by the Netherlands Government in 1991 and was the youngest representative among 116 delegates from 56 countries. Mr. Baloch has led various delegations from China mainland and Hong Kong to Pakistan especially to solve the energy crisis in Pakistan. Mr. Baloch has tremendous record to encourage overseas investment to Pakistan. Mr. Baloch is currently serving as an Honorary Investment Counsellor, Government of Pakistan in Hong Kong to encourage overseas investment into Pakistan.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON CPEC IN TERMS OF PROSPERITY OF GWADAR IN PARTICULAR AND PAKISTAN IN GENERAL:
LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: CPEC is a mega project of One Belt One Road (OBOR) and no doubt it is a game changer. CPEC gave way to 51 agreements and US$46 billion creating considerable benefits for Pakistan and it is exceeding it investment figures. However, only US$6 billion of the investment is for improvement of facilities in and around Gwadar and another US$5 billion has been set aside for metro for Lahore and railway track from Karachi to Peshawar, thus it has a positive impact for the development of Gwadar. There are some reasonable worries among the locals who are natives of Gwadar and government is sorting out those issues to facilitate and take them onboard. Gwadar Port is the cornerstone of the whole gambit and gateway to South West and Central Asia with its strategic significance extending from Persian Gulf through the Indian Ocean to South East Asia and the Far East. Almost 35 to 40 percent of sea borne oil shipment transits through Strait of Hormuz. Thus Gwadar has its strategical location which will reduce sea land route distance between Europe and Western China to less than half.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE PROGRESS OF CPEC PROJECTS?
LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: Around US$33.8 billion is for renewable energy projects to tackle Pakistan’s energy crisis but Chinese power companies have pulled out of such commitments before on grounds of non-feasibility. For example in January 2015, Chinese investors pulled out of a 6600MW power project in Balochistan’s Gadani. These were a few hurdles, but somehow for a year plus the speedy progress has been observed for the development projects.
a) Work stopped on 5 Chinese power projects in Punjab that generated 6600MW, which government is re-negotiating.
b) Though Pakistan’s installed capacity is 22,800MW to meet current demand of 19,000MW, it produces only 12,000MW and government is seriously considering it to be solved.
c) Circular debt standing at $5 billion confronts Pakistan’s energy sector which is bit alarming and hopefully it will be minimized with recent government policies.
PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR CPEC?
LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: As far as the provincial governments are concerned, they are fully cooperating with the federal government. The small provinces have some issues with the federal government regarding the equal share of development projects but they are being awarded reasonable stake in CPEC projects.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT:
LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan increased to $297 million in March, up 39% from $213 million compared to the same month of the previous year. Cumulatively, FDI increased to more than $2 billion during fiscal year 2016-17. This is an encouraging sign but it is not enough for long term sustainability. Pakistan has been recording low levels of foreign investment since 2008. Many foreign investors especially from Western countries have pulled out due to the persistent energy crisis, poor governance and security challenges. In my various official meetings, I always raise the security issues but the policing system is paralyzed due to various factors. Pakistan received FDI worth $5.4 billion in fiscal year 2008, which was the highest FDI in the country’s history, according to the Board of Investment (BoI). Mr. Saleem Mandviwala, former Chairman of BoI had done his extra ordinary efforts to encourage FDI and it was a historical achievement.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCALS IN CPEC PROJECTS?
LAL DINO MARI BALOCH: CPEC has lot of employment opportunities across the country which will heavily reduce the economical burden. Capacity building will create more jobs and safeguard the brain drain from Pakistan. At present, Balochistan holds a population of eight million with a low literacy rate but their IQ level and learning capability is admirable. CPEC consists of hundreds of projects and requires hundreds of thousands jobs for completion as well as maintenance and operations. The work on different infrastructure development projects are creating more jobs which will resolve the issues faced by the provinces. Hence, the huge employment opportunities are expected in near future.