PAKISTAN INVITED TO JOIN SAARC ENERGY COALITION

SAREC's primary mission is to promote the concept of an integrated South Asia energy market

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Sep 05 - 11, 2005

Pakistan should join the South Asia Regional Energy Coalition (SAREC) to influence regional energy policy as SAREC is the right body through which this goal could be achieved.

These views were expressed by Mr Aram B Zamgochian, Project Director, SAREC, while talking to LCCI President Mian Misbahur Rehman recently.

LCCI Vice President Sheikh Mohammad Arshad and Executive Committee member Mohsin Banday also attended the meeting.

Mr Aram B Zamgochian said that SAREC's primary mission is to focus on and promote the concept of an integrated South Asia energy market and for this purpose it is necessary to cultivate and facilitate cooperative relations among South Asia's national and bi-national business organizations through the leadership support of US Chamber of Commerce.

He said that SAREC is funded by USAID through its South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Cooperation and Development (SARI/energy). He said SAREC has partners in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and there is no representation of Pakistan and it is the need of the hour that Islamabad should join the SAREC club to promote the concept of an integrated South Asia energy market.

Mr Aram B Zamgochian said that with the help of SAREC Pakistan could not only diversify traditional energy supplies but could also promote expansion of indigenous energy resources, besides getting additional foreign investment for energy infrastructure development.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President, Mian Misbahur Rehman, promised to extend total cooperation saying that expansion of regional energy trade and investment is gaining importance with every passing day.

He said that due to high energy consumption, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are already running short of it and it is high time that the issue of trade and investment in the energy and power sectors should be taken up seriously and sincerely.

Mian Misbah said that the SAREC could not only help develop effective public-private partnerships to enhance interest in energy and power sectors but would also encourage the flow of investment.

The LCCI President said that in order to meet our requirement for energy Pakistani businessmen should also focus on conservation of energy in industries and other uses. Building designs, even in the major cities are wasteful of energy. Even buildings constructed by professionals lack basic energy conservation concept. Despite subsidized electrical energy and gas at half the international price the cost of manufacturing major items is higher than the cost of imported items. A lot of energy is wasted particularly in the textile sector as entrepreneurs refuse to use energy-efficient processes for production of electrical energy and steam or hot water so essential for textile finishing. The LCCI President also stressed the need for creating awareness about energy deficit and its causes.

Meanwhile, a high-powered nine-member LCCI delegation, which is on a three-country visit to Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia, during the first leg of their visit signed a MoU with National Chamber of Commerce, Colombo, in order to enhance the cooperation and develop business relations between the two countries as well as the both organizations.

The delegation held meetings at Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The head of the delegation, LCCI Senior Vice President Sohail Lashari, also invited the Sri Lankan business community to come to Pakistan and invest in different potential sectors like textile, leather, IT, food and food processing, tourism, etc.

He said that Pakistan has transformed itself into a stable regional economy and an investment friendly state. Sohail Lashari said that it is high time that the foreign investors should take advantage of the situation by making investment in their field of choice. He said that almost all the economic sectors have been opened for direct foreign investment.

He said that the policies have been so liberalized that all the foreigners have a free access to the stock markets and there are no restrictions on repatriation of profits.

He said that there is no limit on equity held by foreigners and no requirements for entering into joint ventures with Pakistani businessmen.

The meeting at Ceylon Chamber of Commerce was held in very cordial and conducive atmosphere. During the meeting it was agreed that both the sides would make more concerted and sector-specific efforts to increase the two-way trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It was also agreed that both the sides would adopt a solid strategy to bridge communication gap between the two countries.

The delegation also held one-to one meetings with the counterparts in Sri Lanka.

During one to one meetings, the Sri Lankan businessmen showed keen interest to import rice, leather products, gyms equipment, food items, spices, etc., from Pakistan. They were also interested to have joint ventures with Pakistani counterparts in leisure/recreational industry, tea plantation in Pakistan and food and food processing industry.

It is worth mentioning that the High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo arranged the meetings of LCCI delegates in a very professional manner and all types of cooperation and support was extended to the delegation to make the visit a success. The leader of the delegation Engr. Sohail Lashari thanked the High Commissioner of Pakistan in Colombo for providing them all sort of support, cooperation and arranging successful business meetings with Ceylon Chamber and National Chamber of Commerce at Colombo. He also thanked the High Commission of Pakistan for arranging an exclusive dinner in the honour of LCCI delegates.