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MAP — Seminar
"Investment prospects in Pakistan"

Existing investors, domestic or foreign needs to be taken care as a policy to attract investment in Pakistan Dr. Hafiz

By Amanullah Bashar
Jan 29 - Feb 04, 2001

Dr. Hafiz Shaikh, the provincial minister for finance has identified Pakistan Railways, WAPDA, KESC, Pakistan Steel, PIA, PTCL and the Banking and financial institutions in the public sectors as the main reasons for bringing economic and financial mess in Pakistan.

Speaking as the guest speaker at a seminar on "Investment Prospects in Pakistan" organized by the Management Association of Pakistan (MAP) the minister departing from the conventional style of the ministers as the spokesman of the government pin pointed the key areas in his impressive discourse where fundamental changes are required to restore conducive investment climate in Pakistan.

He did not approve the traditional campaigns through media or conferences for persuading the potential investors, instead he strongly suggested that the existing investors both Pakistanis as well from abroad be given fair treatment with consistent policies and effective follow up to ensure proper implementation of the policies. The minister in his dynamic way of analyzing the situation observed that the happy and satisfied existing investors can play more effective role to attract the potential investors hence there is the need for minimum controls and maximum facilities with an assurance of predictably and stability of the policies.

He said that there is no dearth of areas, which offer attractive opportunities to the investors the only thing required, is to restore their confidence. He regretted that while speaking about Sindh the size of the Annual Development plan has been reduced merely to Rs3 billion while the flight of capital out of the province has also been reported due to various reasons. There is an immediate need to catch up with the pace of progress elsewhere. He said that in order to achieve the goal various task forces have been instituted with an object of revival of the economy, urban revival and optimum growth of the agriculture sector in the province. Unfortunately, the provincial board of investment which was formed in the past was never met and lying idle since long. Steps are being taken to energize this board and committees have been formed for privatization in the province. The idea is to privatize Karachi Water and Sewerage Board to improve the functions of this important organization with especial emphasis of providing cheaper and potable water to the citizens of province.

Efforts have been made to exploit the opportunities available in the Information Technology sector. Karachi, which has over 75 per cent software of IT skilled personnel but the 75 per cent export — made by Lahore. We have to find out the reasons why this largest city is lagging behind in this respect. He said that Karachi will be the venue of an international IT Conference to be held in coming March. This conference is likely to open a number of opportunities in the IT sector, he said.

He said that currently the investors have to go through as many as 40 federal agencies and over 20 provincial agencies or setting up the projects. He said that he has recommended the government to reduce the number of agencies and evolve one window operation to curtail the role of these agencies. He said that stability and predictability of the policies is the key to attract the investors. He underlined three points to achieve the target of investment in Pakistan i.e. policy, market and follow up. It is easy to bring an investor for the first time but he would never come back he was handled badly in respect of consistency of the policy, hence the follow up is the most important factor in retaining and attracting the investors, he recommended.

Speaking on the occasion, Waseem Haqqie, Chairman, Board of Investment (BOI) said that present government has taken serious corrective measures to streamline pace of foreign investment in the country.

He said that image building of the country is one of the important areas of the investment policy to restore the confidence of the investors. Haqqie recalled that freezing of foreign currency accounts and long dragged dispute between WAPDA and Hubco were the issues, which caused serious damage to the investment climate in Pakistan. The economic managers of the country have successfully overcome these problems and efforts are being made to create an investor friendly climate in Pakistan. He identified three areas where especial attention is being focused by the government to attract the foreign investment. These areas include textile sector, Information Technology and Oil and gas sectors.

He was confident that the new investment policy might help achieving positive results. So far the oil and gas sector and IT have attracted commitment for $1.5 billion investment out of which $300 million is directed towards IT.

He said that aggressive market campaign is also under way through untraditional sources especially through image building of the country. The credit rating of the country which has gone down to the minus region has been improved to B+ as a result of concerted efforts of the government indicated in the approval of the IMF program and other donor agencies in the Paris and London Clubs. In order to achieve the targets, the government has decided oppoint prominent Pakistani businessmen as commercial attaches abroad, which hopefully produce better results.