Pakistan to facilitate US investors : Khurram Dastgir

WASHINGTON: Pakistan offers tremendous business opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs in view of Islamabad’s liberal policies and recent macroeconomic progress, Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said, while pledging to facilitate American investment in various sectors of the economy.

“Pakistan offers liberal and transparent investment policies in different sectors, and opportunities for the business communities of the two countries,”the minister said, addressing members of U.S- Pakistan Business Council.

Khurram Dastgir, who co-chaired Washington for U.S.Pakistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting with U.S. Trade Representative, also apprised the gathering of Islamabad’s efforts towards predictable economic growth through trade liberalization, and the Joint Action Plan the U.S. and Pakistan unveiled this week to advance bilateral cooperation.

The Joint Action Plan on trade and investment over next five years follows Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House last year, which provided a fresh impetus to the bilateral relationship, the minister said.

Esperanza G Jelalian, President of the Council, welcomed the commerce minister and his delegation to the meeting at the U.S Chamber of Commerce. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani also attended the meeting.

In his address, Minister Khurram Dastgir said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government inherited a situation where energy shortage alone cause a loss of about 2 percent of our GDP annually.

“Promoting bilateral business, trade and investment in Pakistan is a key component of the Government’s policy”.

“We are currently engaging in efforts on economic recovery, improved security and good governance to attract local and foreign investment.”

The commerce minister cited the growing international confidence in Pakistan’s economic prospects since the inception of the government.

In this respect, he said the Foreign Direct Investment, which had gone to its lowest in last decade, has started to pick up. From $820.7 million in the year 2011-12, it has registered a jump of 76.31%, taking it to $1447.3 million in the year 2012-13. Moreover, there has been a 6.1% increase in Net FDI in 2013-14 (July-Mar) as compared to 2012-13 (July-Mar).

Islamabad, he said, attaches the highest priority to improvement in the energy scenario, which is the ideal sector for foreign investors.

In addition to bringing 1700 MW of power to the national system through payment of the circular debt, government is working on several energy projects including Dasu Hydropower project, Nandipur, Jamshoro coal power project, CASA 1000, Energy-park at Gadani, and Neelum-Jhelum.

“We are introducing structural reforms for market development and efficient public sector management. We will ensure fair competition, remove exorbitant taxes, rationalize tariff and policy distortions, ease entry barriers, reduce government involvement, and improve regulatory quality”.

“Most importantly, we will ensure good governance as our core principle,” the minister said.

He also cited a latest survey by Overseas Investors Chamber, according to which business confidence has improved 36 points ? from 34% negative in August 2012 to 2% positive in August 2013.

“There is a keen interest by investors of several major international companies towards investing in Pakistan. Major sectors where opportunities exist include energy, infrastructure, housing, agriculture and others.

“This is evidenced by the performance of the Karachi Stock Exchange, whose index rose by 43.74% from 19,916 on 11th May, 2013 to 28629.63 on 5th May, 2014.”

Besides, foreign remittances have increased by more than 10 percent to $9 billion in the first seven months of the current fiscal year.

The GDP growth is accelerating towards four percent and within the next three years, the government plans to raise GDP growth rate to 6-7 percent.