Oct 19 - 25, 2009

With over 48,000 industrial units, Punjab province offers vast opportunities for local and foreign investment in various sectors, including livestock and dairy development.

In Punjab, which is country's biggest province, the small and cottage industries are in abundance. There are 39,033 small and cottage industrial units. The number of textile units is 11,820. The ginning industries are 6,778 while there are 6,355 units for processing of agricultural raw materials including food and feed industries.

Lahore and Gujranwala divisions have the largest concentration of small light engineering units. The district of Sialkot excels in sports goods, surgical instruments and cutlery goods. Punjab is also a mineral rich province with extensive mineral deposits of coal, rock salt, dolomite, and gypsum, silica-sand.

The Punjab Mineral Development Corporation is running over a dozen economically viable projects, it was learnt.

Punjab's economy is mainly agricultural, although industry makes a substantial contribution. The province plays a leading role in agricultural production and contributes about 68% to annual food grain production in the country. About 51 million acres is cultivated and another 9.05 million acres are lying as cultivable waste in different parts of the province. Cotton and rice are important crops and contributing substantially to the national exchequer.

With focus on promoting Punjab as destination of choice for local and foreign investors and to provide an 'Economic Development Plan for Punjab', aligned with economic policy of the province, the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) has also been constituted with the chief minister as its chairman.

According to spokesperson PBIT, the Board has been given operational and financial autonomy to coordinate and implement trade and investment policies of the federal and provincial governments besides innovating and rethinking investment in Punjab. The Board is striving to make Punjab as the destination of choice for local and foreign investors besides mobilising business leaders to contribute to Punjab's economic vision. It is also providing referral (matchmaking) services for prospective investors and existing businesses. The Board is facilitating investment through one-window arrangements and strengthening domestic commerce and export led growth apart from resolving disputes in government business relations. It is also providing a forum to share ideas, contracts, and business opportunities and promote private-public partnership models.

According to Senior Political Advisor to Chief Minister, Mohammad Pervaiz Malik, the Punjab government is working on various projects for generation of energy from hydel power and coal for coping with energy crisis.

He said that complete transparency was maintained in implementation of all projects of power generation. He said Punjab had massive coal reserves and power generation plants would be set up in DG Khan and Chakwal for generation of energy. He said that coal would be acquired from Balochistan for the plant in DG Khan and negotiations had been held with Balochistan government in this regard.

He said the Punjab government had created conducive atmosphere for foreign investment and all-out encouragement was being extended for this purpose.

He said that complete protection would be given to foreign investors in Punjab. He said that an investment board consisting of professionals had been set up for the promotion of trade and industrial activities in the province.

He said that Punjab was the hub of economic and trade activities and there were vast investment opportunities in the province. He said that all-out assistance would be offered in information technology, power generation, and other sectors to investors.

Punjab government has invited a Malaysian firm 'Renexus' to process its proposal of building 160,000 housing units on fast track basis in the province. Vice Chairman of Punjab Board of Investment and Trade Pir Saad Ashanuddin in a letter addressed to the Executive Chairman of Renexus (M) Bhd John B. Klerr has invited the top management of Renexus to build 20,000 low cost housing units in each of the eight major towns initially identified for the construction of housing units.

The towns identified are Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Gujaranwala, Rawalpindi, and Sialkot.

The proposal of Renexus was discussed threadbare by a committee constituted by the Punjab government to oversee the housing sector proposals in the province and observations made by it have already been communicated to the construction company for obtaining further information on the proposed project.

It may be mentioned that the province of Punjab with 82 million population is facing a shortage of five million housing units with the increasing demand of 700,000 units per year against the annual production of 150,000 housing units, leaving a huge gap besides creating immense opportunities for the construction firms.

Further, a Chinese firm belonging to Punjab's sister province of Sichuan has planned to set up an investment bank in the province with an initial investment of $30 million as a joint venture with a Pakistani firm for promotion of investment in the two provinces.

According to Pir Saad Ahsanuddin, vast opportunities are available for foreign investment in the province and chief minister Shahbaz Sharif is taking special interest in promoting trade and investment with China.

Moreover, the LCCI former presidents have urged the government to take immediate measures to put economy back on track after it has faced multiple external and internal challenges for the last few years.

The LCCI former presidents said that the IMF report on regional economic outlook wherein it has projected that GDP growth is expected to remain unchanged in the year 2009-10 needs to be taken care of by taking both the public and private sectors on board.

The former LCCI presidents, including Mian Tajammal Hussain, Shahzada Alam Monnoo, Syed Mohsin Raza Bukhari, Tariq Hameed, Iftikhar Ali Malik, Salahuddin Ahmad Sahaf, Bashir A Bakash, Sheikh Salim Ali, Sheikh Mohammad Asif, Mian Misbahur Rehman, Shahid Hassan Sheikh, and Mian Muzaffar Ali said that shortage of energy was top on the list of the issues being faced by the private sector. They said that there was no doubt in it that the government had adopted a three-pronged strategy to come up with a solution but there was a dire need to expedite work on the projects at hand to achieve the export target.

They hoped that the China Development Bank initiative to support Pakistan on undertaking major energy projects would definitely help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis. The China Development Bank has reportedly shown its interests in renewable and alternative energy sectors.

They also invited the attention of the ministry of finance and the State Bank of Pakistan towards the high mark up and urged them to bring it down to single digit as the availability of liquidity at such a high rate is coming in the way of industrialization in the country. The cut in markup rate on the one hand would help contain inflation while on the other it would improve supply chain and curtail unemployment and poverty, they added.

About the law and order situation, they said that all the developed countries including the United Sates should understand that Pakistan was a frontline ally in their war against terrorism, therefore they should extend a helping hand to it instead of doing the other way round.

They suggested that the LCCI must constitute a task force to work with stakeholders so that the SMEs were provided with some relief, as the industrial units once closed were facing difficulties to get back on their feet.