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Promotion of trade with Saudi Arabia

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Feb 28 - Mar 06, 2005
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Besides having in depth talks with his Malaysian counterpart Abdullah Ahmed Badawi, British and Indian Foreign Ministers, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz presided over a historic 12 hours long cabinet meeting in Islamabad and addressed the Jeddah Economic Forum as a special invitee at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last week.

During his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister addressed Jeddah Economic Forum, called on crown prince Abdullah, Saudi Finance Minister, leading businessmen and investors and high ranking officials of the Saudi government.

He also availed this opportunity to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai who was also present in Jeddah to attend the same meeting.

Delivering his keynote address at the Economic Forum, Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz said that five years of wide ranging economic and structural reforms have transformed Pakistan into an exciting and resurgent economy with confidence of domestic and foreign investors gaining new heights. Pakistan is witnessing massive upsurge in economic activity "not seen before in many decades," he added.

The Prime Minister recalled difficult times which had forced economy on the verge of collapse. However, it was the wisdom and dynamic leadership of President General Pervez Musharraf and his team that steered the country out of the troubled water. They worked together with honesty and devotion to make Pakistan an economically stronger and politically stable country today. The reforms introduced during the last five years have started yielding results in terms of improved macroeconomic environment and acceleration in economic growth. The premier said, the industrial sector was growing in the range of 16 to 18 percent per annum whereas the economy will probably record around 7 percent growth mark this year.

"Pakistan offers immense investment opportunities. It is a market of 150 million people with a growing middle class and in the next five years we will be adding another 15 million people," he added. Shaukat Aziz also referred to the aggressive privatization programme, which offers attractive opportunities to investors. On the investment front, he said, the government was pursuing transparent and consistent economic policies. "Our trade regime is highly liberal and open; the average tariff rate is around 11 percent, there is no exchange control, exchange rate is market determined, over 65 percent of our development projects are concentrating on expanding and strengthening the country's physical infrastructure," he added.

"Pakistan was endeavoring to resolve all issues with India, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir through political dialogue," said the premier when he referred to the recent agreement between the two South Asian countries on starting a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.

Later, the Saudi Finance Minister Dr Ibrahim al Asaf called on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and discussed various issues relating to Pak-Saudi investment and promotion of trade and commerce relations. The performance of Saudi-Pak Investment Company was also discussed and the Saudi Finance Minister expressed satisfaction on its operation. The progress on the joint commission between the two countries was also discussed and reviewed its performance. They expressed the desire to further promote activities of the commission.

The premier also discussed the role of Islamic Development Bank with the Saudi Finance Minister and suggested that the role should be made more proactive for the development of Islamic countries. Shaukat Aziz emphasized the need to further promote contacts in the private sector and assured Ibrahim that Pakistan would provide all possible incentives and cooperation to the Saudi businessmen.

 

 

LONG MEETING

All the Ministers and Minister of State were mandated to attend the unprecedented 12 hours long cabinet meeting (9 am to 9 pm) in the Prime Minister House last Monday. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz presided over the meeting during which the National Accountability Bureau held a workshop for the cabinet. The President General Pervez Musharraf also turned up and presided over the meeting and addressed the full cabinet. The exercise titled as "Cabinet's Ethics retreat", first of its kind ever held in Pakistan,  focused attention on eradication of corruption at all level and promotion of good governance. NAB Chairman Lt. Gen. Muneer Hafeez and other senior officers of the organization spoke on the occasion and provided insight of the working of various ministries and their performance since return to democracy for the information of the ministers asking them to take corrective measures.

"We are convinced that mere rhetoric can hardly help banish the menace of corruption, alleviate poverty and ensure good governance in the country. In fact, it sounds disgusting that quite a few Federal Ministers, some top state functionaries and a section of the ruling party elite are involved in white collar crime, yet they continue to hold on the their position and the government seeks advice of the same corrupt to fight corruption and ensure good governance. Even NAB's operations need more transparency as its image has received serious jolts due to number of non-transparent deals in recent past."