Punjab is home to an estimated 101.4 million people and is the most populous province of Pakistan. It is the second largest province in terms of area after Balochistan.
Contributing to the country’s inflation profile in the most effective manner, Punjab’s development and economic growth have brought it down to 4.78 % which is forecasted to be brought down to 3.2% till July 2017. Also, contributing significantly to Pakistan’s economic growth, Punjab enjoys the status of effectively playing its role in reaching 5.3% economic growth. It is the highest in a decade and has put Pakistan in the group of countries that have an economy of over $300 billion.
Punjab continues to put maximum effort at all levels by attracting large scale foreign investments in every sector. Only recently, successful business meetings were held and MoUs were signed in China on Chief Minister Punjab’s visit to China and now, a two day business conference called the “International Seminar on Business Opportunities in Punjab” was held in Lahore. Around 450 delegates from over 26 countries were present in order to seek investment opportunities Punjab has to offer. China, U.K, Turkey, United States of America, Germany, Spain, Italy, KSA are among the 26 countries that participated. Former Chinese diplomat and China Pak Friendship Association President Sha Zukang was the guest of honour. He said that Punjab has emerged as the most developed and prosperous province of Pakistan. Speaking of CPEC and OBOR, he mentioned that “there is no conspiracy but only transparency”.
On the opening day, Chief Minster Shehbaz reaffirmed, “investors are my masters”. As one of the basic aims of the conference was to highlight the sectors where investments could prove to be fruitful, CM Shehbaz said that there are a number of sectors in Punjab in which investors can do business. He also magnified that during the time between the first ISBOP (2015) and the second ISBOP (2017), a number of projects have been completed including the Bhikki Power Plant, Multan Metro Bus Service and the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Service.
Punjab Finance Minister was also present on this occasion. Delivering the opening remarks, she said that Pakistan offers a number of incentives, including fiscal incentives to investors from all around the world. Quoting an example of this, she said that investors have been allowed exemption from Income Tax for green field industrial investments. She also said that the country’s inflation rate has been brought down to a significant level and the fiscal deficit is also declining. President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industries said that Punjab provides 55% employment opportunities in Pakistan and has performed better than the average. He also said that Punjab enjoys a manufacturing rate of 72% – higher than any other province.
Praising Chief Minister Shehbaz’s visionary leadership, CEO of the Chinese company working on Sahiwal Coal Power Plant said that the project was a milestone initiative and is being completed in a record time while speaking on “Progress Achieved in Business”. The remarks of Mr. Marek Minkiewicz, Managing Director Metro Cash and Carry are noteworthy. He said that the company operates in 27 countries and Pakistan distinguishes as being an emerging economy of the world. He said that he feels “right at home” here, in Punjab and the environment is absolutely secure. The same was acknowledged by Mr. Atila Kaya from Anadolu Group in these words, “Everyone should feel at home here in Punjab”.
Virtual opening of Pakistan Aluminium Beverage Can Ltd – M3 Industrial City Fasialabad was also done by the Chief Minister. Later, the Chief Minister had several meetings with foreign investors on government to business and government to government levels. These investors were keen to mention that the progressive vision of the Chief Minister has made Punjab the leading province of Pakistan. They also mentioned, “We are witnessing Shehbaz Speed in Punjab”.
On the conclusive session of the conference, the Chief Minister noted that speakers from China and other countries appreciated the prevailing environment in Pakistan. He said that they feel a sense of security in Punjab. He marked this a “glorious moment” to celebrate as some agreements that were signed in 2015 have been materialized already. China, France, Germany, Britain and investors from other countries have shown willingness to invest in Punjab. Foreign investors have shown investment interest in energy sector, infrastructure, transport, health and cheap housing. 7 agreements and 47 MoUs were signed between Government of the Punjab and international companies. The agreements signed were witnessed by the Chief Minister Shehbaz and other officials.
The basic aim of the conference was for local and foreign investors to exploreand utilize business opportunities in Punjab and also, to raise awareness about the better than ever and improved business environment in Punjab. To be able to gather investors from these countries in Punjab is in itself an achievement.
By: Shanzay Minhal Mustafa