By Minister of State and Chairman of the Board of Investment, Pakistan, Haroon Sharif
Pakistan is rapidly gaining investors’ attention for a variety of reasons. The country has successfully managed to overcome many security challenges, the infrastructure has significantly improved, connectivity with Western China is in the final stages, a new deep-sea port is being developed and the long-term economic outlook remains positive.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is leading reforms to facilitate investors and to ensure Ease of Doing Business. Recently, Pakistan has announced transformational visa reforms by introducing E-Visa facilities to so many countries. It is pertinent to note that Pakistan has a fantastic landscape and a strategic location right at the confluence of South Asia, Central Asia, Northwest China and West Asia. With ongoing positive developments and the government’s focus on inviting private investment in key sectors, many of Pakistan’s bilateral ties around the world are shifting from transactional relationships to mutually beneficial economic partnerships.
Pakistan is already connected to Western Chinathrough the China-PakistanEconomic Corridor (CPEC) under the umbrella of the Belt and Road Initiative, and in the next 10 years this connectivity will expand to Eurasia. In addition to its huge market size of about 207 million people, this connectivity will double Pakistan’s access to a vibrant regional market. With an outlay of more than US$60 billion under CPEC, huge investments are underway in infrastructure projects i.e. roads and highways, gas and oil pipelines and terminals, port development, shipping, airports, railways, logistics management, energy and power. Besides, a pro-business investment policy remains a central plank of Pakistan’s investment strategy that arranges for 100 per cent equity ownership, full repatriation of capital, tax breaks, and customs duty concessions on the import of plant, machinery and raw materials. Moreover, five out of nine planned Economic Zones are being fast-tracked to facilitate industrial cooperation with efficient infrastructure, and one-window facility administered by the Board of Investment (BOI), Islamabad.
The BOI has received concrete investment proposals from local and foreign investors. Some key countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatarand Malaysiahave shown keen interest to invest in Pakistan’s priority sectors that have immense potential for investment: (1) Agro-based Food and Industry, (2) Value added Textiles, (3) Tourism, (4) IT, (5) Light Engineering, and (6) Logistics. Additionally, Pakistan’s economic partnership with Saudi Arabia has taken a transformational turn with the recent Saudi decision to invest US$20 billion in large-scale infrastructure and private industrial ventures. Furthermore, both countries agreed to work on long-term capital investments to address the structural weaknesses in Pakistan’s economy and to help Saudi Arabia diversify its investments in the region.
The BOI team aims to have Pakistan included in the list of top 100 economies in Ease of Doing Business by 2020. Foreign Missions abroad are closely coordinating to increase the influx of investment into Pakistan. To facilitate the UK and other local and foreign investors, the BOI has established a dedicated unit with the aim of facilitating investors in materialising their projects in Pakistan in a transparent, timely and efficient manner. Also, the one window concept has been embodied by the BOI and company registration time has been reduced to just four hours to expedite investor facilitation.
The government of Pakistan is committed to strengthening its long-term economic ties with the UK. With a sound institutional framework in place and the unwavering commitment of the Pakistani government to protect and encourage foreign investment, the confidence of present and potential investors in Pakistan is increasing.
Many multinationals operating in Pakistan have affirmed that their experience has been exceptionally rewarding. There are immense opportunities for the UK private sector in Pakistan, especially in the telecommunication, energy, infrastructure and agriculture sectors. Given the long history between the two great nations, Pakistan intends to go beyond traditional relations with the UK, and develop close and intense business-to-business ties.
Haroon Sharif is Minister of State and Chairman of the Board of Investment, Pakistan