Third Pak-US Business Opportunities Conference concluded in Islamabad. Federal Minister for Commerce, Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, Ambassador of the United States of America Richard Olson and Secretary of Ministry of Commerce Muhammad Shahzad Arbab attended the inaugural session of the Conference. Mr. Arbab presented the summary of the two-day conference.
In his concluding remarks Federal Minister for Commerce, Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said that Pakistan is on the verge of economic take-off and the projected GDP growth rate for Pakistan in the next few years in 4-6 %. He said that the Government is making policies to reduce the cost of doing business and increase the ease of doing business in the country. He apprised the audience that there are 600 multinational companies working in Pakistan whose businesses are flourishing are and most of them are expanding their businesses. The minister said that a number of major US Corporations and businesses have a long history of association with Pakistan, and boast an extremely good return on their investments.
Mr. Dastgir said that in the past Pakistan’s pace of integration into the global economy was slow but the country is fast catching-up. He said that the Government wants to make export sector as an engine of growth for the country as done by several recently developed economies. To achieve this aim the country has to enhance export competitiveness in short as well as long term and increase cumulative exports, he said. He further said that the Government is bringing regulatory amendments in the trade regulations, strengthening institutions, improving governance and introducing measures to enhance export competitiveness.
The Minister said that in the conference the business communities of our two countries explored opportunities of trade and investment, shared information, developed linkages and deliberated on how best to move forward to turn prospects into tangible partnerships.
Various key initiatives taken by the Government to make Pakistan a top priority destination for investors for briefed in detail which included rectifying the Global Agreement on Trade and Environment, accession to Convention Against Corruption, strengthening of Competition Commission of Pakistan and revamping the tariff structure of Pakistan.
It was informed that Pakistan provides lucrative and profitable business activities in the several sectors where new incentives for foreign and local investors have been put forward. He said that mineral sector, coal mining, energy, infrastructure development at Gawadar Port, machinery import for port development is tax free. Tariff slabs have been reduced from 7 to 5 and the applied tariff is effectively at 25% which will be brought down further. He apprised that audience about the tax administration reforms and said that through automation of the system the Government is vying to put in place a corruption-free and speedy tax system in which the officials enjoy least discretion.
Mr. Zubair Umer said that Pakistan provides golden opportunities for the investors through its privatization program as the investors can make profits instantly after the acquisition. Nine electric supply companies, generation companies and institutions like Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills will be offered for privatization. For some, financial advisor has been appointed to facilitate the privatization and divestment process. Successful divestment of UBL, ABL and PPL is done by the Government. 42% shares of HBL will be offered for private sector which will be the privatization transaction in the history of Pakistan.
Talking about the improved conditions for doing business in Pakistan he said that the profitability of the companies listed on Karachi Stock Exchange has increased by over 30% over the quarter, inflation is at its lowest dring the last 11 years, discount rate lowest in 10 years and therefore the borrowing is at the highest in 9 years. He said that according to an Asian Development bank’s report Pakistan has the fourth largest middle class in the world grown 36 % in the last 14 years thus providing a huge consumer base.
Miftah Ismail said that Pakistan provides a liberal investment regime which provides all the three ingredients necessary for a profitable business i.e land, labor and capital and a vibrant consumer market. The Government of Pakistan is investing in infrastructure improvement, enhancing ease of doing business and improving the global competitiveness of the products produced in Pakistan. He said that although there are issues of security which is improving fast yet from a business point of view the risk-reward matrix is in Pakistan’s favour.
The representatives from the four provinces presented the investment opportunities that their respective provinces provide to the investors. Attention of the investors was brought to the 176 million tonnes of proven reserves of coal which are sufficient for production of 100 000 MW of electricity for 300 years. There is zero duty on the import of machinery for investors working in Thar and it provides a guaranteed 20% rate of return on investment.
Punjab has the fastest growing middle class in South Asia even faster than India’s and the consumer spending in Punjab has increased tremendously. It has 80 million youth and a huge skilled labour because of 200 universities and numerous vocational institutions imparting education. There is high demand in the energy, renewable energy, housing, infrastructure, corporate farming, food processing, hybrid seed production, livestock, poultry, services and manufacturing sectors.
The investment opportunities in hydel electricity production in KP were also brought to the notice of the delegates. Opportunities in Baluchistan in mining, electricity production and farming were presented
Separate session was held for the prospects of women entrepreneurs working in Pakistan in which women entrepreneurs shared their success stories.
The hallmark of the Day was the announcement by the USAID for $60 million as development credit support availability through four Pakistani Banks to the SME sector.
March 11, 2015