Widespread talks over regional and economic issues
with the President of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga, President of the
World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn and with the Saudi Arabia's Minister for
Commerce and Industry were the highlights of Prime Minister Shaukat
Aziz's preoccupation last week.
Besides meetings with the visiting dignitaries, the
Prime Minister also presided over a number of meetings where he
explained policies and priorities of his government towards social,
economic, political developments in the country.
Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
held extensive talks on issues having direct bearing on the two
countries and the South Asian region with a particular reference to
their bilateral trade and economic relation.
The two countries signed many agreements including a
free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
Speaking on the occasion of FTA signing, the Prime
Minister said: "today is a historic day. This is the first such
agreement which have signed with any country." Later, addressing a
joint press conference with Sri Lankan President, Shaukat Aziz said,
"we believe that our FTA is a stepping stone for expanding relation
between the two countries.
The World Bank President was highly impressed by the
pace of economic development in Pakistan, on going economic reforms and
future economic agenda. He agreed with the Prime Minister that Pakistan
needed a long-term development partnership with the World Bank for
economic transformation of the country. He, however, announced that the
World Bank will provide $1 billion assistance for the next three years
to help Government of Pakistan fight poverty and achieve its economic
and social goals. The loan will be made available through International
Development Association (IDA), the concessional lending arm of the World
Bank w.e.f. July 1, 2005.
The Saudi Arabian Commerce Minister, Dr. Hasshim A.
Yamani, who arrived on a four-day visit to Pakistan with a 70 members
team comprising leading Saudi industrialists and investors had extensive
discussion with the Prime Minister and the Commerce Minister, Humayun
Akhtar Khan and showed keen interest in privatization process and
investment opportunities especially in power generation sector.
Addressing the annual dinner of the All Pakistan
Textile Mills Association (APTMA), the Prime Minister asked private
sector to help boost economy. He said that the government has pulled
itself out of business activities and left the job for the private
sector, which should now come forward to act as a catalyst for economic
The Prime Minister said that the government has
managed to pull the country out of danger zone by stopping downward
slide and that things were now moving in the right direction to help
Pakistan in achieving sustainable development. He said that Pakistan was
all set to achieve targeted growth by showing better performance in all
key areas. "The bumper cotton crop this year would help the textile
industry securing more export orders this year," said the premier.
He advised that the textile industry optimize the available cotton with
value addition and up-gradation in terms of quality and price to grab
due share in the quota-free regime.
He assured that the government will provide all out
help to the industry meet WTO regime challenges. He also urged the
textile industrialists to play a due role in plugging gap in
availability of skilled labor. He said that the government was ready for
partnership with the textile industry for training manpower to meet
future demands. He stressed upon the need of contamination free cotton
to improve the quality of textile related products.
The premier, however, asked APTMA to concentrate on
all areas to get sizeable share in the international market in post
quota regime. He identified the quality products at competitive prices
as the key to success in the new global trade regime. The premier said
that the government was now concentrating more on infrastructure related
projects to facilitate economic initiatives of the private sector in
trade and industrial related activities.
APTMA Chairman, Arif Saeed, in his address of welcome
said that the textile industry was taking a number of initiatives such
as expansion and up-gradation so that it could meet future challenges
under WTO regime and get maximum foreign exchange to strengthen national
economy. He said that the government should introduce mechanism for
direct relationship between the growers and the textile millers. He,
however, criticized the existing system of intervention by the Trading
Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), saying that it was not in line with
government's free market policy.
The Prime Minister also presided over the Textile
Board meeting where he briefed about his investment-oriented visit to
Brussels and his meetings with officials of European Union (EU) on
extension of duty free generalized system of performance and their trade
Addressing the foundation stone laying ceremony of
the residential bloc of Foreign Services Academy in Islamabad, Prime
Minister Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan has always stood for peace and would
continue its firm efforts to promote peace world over.
Referring to the importance of foreign office in
improving a country's economic and political ties with other countries,
he urged the diplomats to have a better understanding of the host
governments. He asked them to interact with the intelligentsia, the
intellectuals and to have more contacts with the people so as to have
stronger links. "It is important that our diplomats gain knowledge
about the host country's economic, political and other areas as it helps
broaden our policy," he said adding that the fact that those
countries, which had economic linkages, had stronger relations.