"Overseas Pakistani investors have shown interest in 30 areas, and the highest indication of their investment is $500mn, $496mn and $372mn in power plants, construction and agri farming sectors, respectively."

SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Bureau Chief, Islamabad
Mar 12 - 18, 2007

The two-day Overseas Pakistanis Investment Conference attended by over 250 expatriates coming from 29 countries, apart from leading local industrialists and businessmen, concluded with a positive note in Islamabad last week.

The conference was organized by the Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis with the main objective of providing a platform to overseas Pakistanis to interact with the private sector and policy makers in the country, besides being instrumental in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan. The conference provided an opportunity to bring together all relevant stakeholders from federal and provincial governments, local business leaders and potential overseas investors for identifying areas of investment and forming trade and joint venture partnerships.

Briefing newsmen, the Minister for Overseas Pakistanis said that due to the policies and efforts of the government, the overseas Pakistanis in different parts of the world including the UK, US, Europe and the Middle East and Far East regions are keen to invest in Pakistan. He said that 64 Pakistani investors from US attended the conference, followed by 55 from United Kingdom, nine from Canada and three from Italy. The response from Middle East has also been satisfactory as 23 and 19 overseas Pakistani investors came from Saudi Arabia and UAE. The remaining were from other countries.

He said that overseas Pakistani investors have shown interest in 30 areas, and the highest indication of their investment is of $ 500 million, $496 million and $ 372 million in power plants, construction and agri farming sectors, respectively, while an investment of $ 906 million was offered in services, tourism, light engineering, information technology, pharmaceutical and export sectors.

The conference was inaugurated by President General Pervez Musharraf who made out a highly impressive case for investment in Pakistan. Top bosses of the Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis, including Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan, highlighted the plans, efforts and achievements of the Ministry and its departments. A number of technical sessions were also held during the meeting in which Minister for Privatisation and Investment Zahid Hamid, Chairman National Vocation and Technical Education Commission Altaf M. Saleem and other senior officials participated. "The four provinces and interested parties were asked to announce incentives and bring projects to the conference, which could be of interest to expatriates."

In his inaugural speech, President Musharraf urged the participants to contribute to the national economy, and fight against poverty and extremism by entering joint ventures in heavy engineering, energy, hi tech and food processing industries. It was essentially a call to help alleviate poverty, improve economy, generate employment and to bring a change in Pakistan in the long term. Significantly, he laid due emphasis on the need for the small and medium enterprises to create more jobs, invest in value addition of food items, dairy products, building and construction, energy sector, IT and telecom, besides concentrating on the downstream industries.

His appeal to the overseas Pakistanis was inspired by the need for accelerating the pace of progress thus far achieved. As he was briefing over 225 expatriate Pakistanis from 35 countries, and another 155 local entrepreneurs, on the upsurge in national economy in the past six years, he had all the reason to take such a gathering into confidence about the encouraging realities on the nation's economic scenario. He referred to a wide range of positive developments, increase in foreign direct investment from $ 300 million in 1999 to a targeted over $ 5 billion by the end of current fiscal year, besides a similar target of foreign remittances.

Similarly, he referred to other success stories, notably, the jump in collection of revenue to Rs.900 billion from Rs.300 billion in 1999, besides the target of Rs.4 trillion by 2015. Sounding confident of meeting the target, he qualified it with added emphasis on attaining it without increasing the taxes, while pointing to the possibility of reduction in taxes. As for the Public Sector Development Programme, which he recalled was hovering around Rs.90 billion in 1999 has now gone up to Rs.415 billion.

However, instead of taking pride for these success stories, he drew the attention of his enlightened audience to the need for doing more, as a great deal remains to be done in the larger interest of the country and its teeming millions. This was why he made a pointed reference to the urgency of reflecting the gains of the economy in the lives of the people of Pakistan by reducing unemployment and poverty, as also by keeping the inflation in check. Again, recalling the gains accruing from pursuits of deregulation, liberalization and privatization, he pointed out that the country's macroeconomic indicators have been showing stability. As for the task ahead, the President asked the overseas Pakistanis to diversify and invest in heavy and high tech industries instead of only textiles. As for the prospects for the new thrust with prime focus on public-private partnership, his elucidations will be found as appealing to reason. And it was highly appreciated by the participants.