PM TRACKER
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Regional and economic issues

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Feb 21 - 27, 2005
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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 boost.

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 related issues.

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.