Com­mon­wealth Busi­ness Fo­rum spells new hope

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Pak­istan for the first time par­tic­i­pated in the Com­mon­wealth Busi­ness Fo­rum or­gan­ised by the Com­mon­wealth Busi­ness Coun­cil and a spe­cial ses­sion was held in Perth on Pak­istan`s Po­ten­tial: Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Trade and In­vest­ment.

With fo­cus on re­gional trade and in­vest­ment, a high-pro­file Pak­istani del­e­ga­tion pre­sented a bun­dle of projects be­fore the 54-na­tion Com­mon­wealth. The fo­rum hosted around 2,000 del­e­gates from all over the world. Pak­istan re­ceived favourable vibes to mar­ket its prod­ucts. Busi­ness giants, rep­re­sent­ing 80 per­cent of Pak­istan’s trade and in­dus­try at­tended the fo­rum.

Trade De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (TDAP) chief ex­ec­u­tive Tariq Puri chaired the spe­cial ses­sion with Mian Man­sha, chair­man of Nishat Group and Raz­zak Da­wood, chair­man of Descon group, were pan­elists of the ses­sion.

This ini­tia­tive of the Pak­istan govern­ment was com­mended through­out as Arif Za­man, Com­mon­wealth Busi­ness Coun­cil’s Ad­vi­sor on South Asia and Cor­po­rate Gov­er­nance, has said Pak­istan took the op­por­tu­nity quite se­ri­ously for the first time in the Com­mon­wealth’s his­tory.

Tariq Puri chaired a spe­cial ses­sion on ‘Pak­istan’s Po­ten­tial: Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Trade and In­vest­ment’. He high­lighted the trade po­ten­tial be­tween Pak­istan and other Com­mon­wealth mem­ber states and stated that our exports to the Com­mon­wealth coun­tries are US $3.63 bil­lion while our imports are US $7 bil­lion. How­ever, the 173 ex­port prod­ucts to the Com­mon­wealth coun­tries have a mar­ket share of just a 0.3 per­cent of range of prod­ucts which con­sti­tute 55 per­cent of Com­mon­wealth na­tions’ to­tal imports worth US $1.18 tril­lion. He said that Pak­istan could in­crease its share by adding value to its sup­ply chain and also em­pha­sized on the need for prod­uct di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.

Puri said the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Do­ing Busi­ness In­dex’ has ranked Pak­istan as num­ber 1 in South Asia. Dis­cussing the Agri­cul­ture sec­tor; he said Pak­istan is the sec­ond largest buf­falo meat pro­ducer, the sec­ond largest buf­falo milk pro­ducer, the third largest cot­ton­seed pro­ducer, the third largest chill­ies pro­ducer, the fourth largest goat meat pro­ducer, the fifth largest mango pro­ducer and the sev­enth largest wheat pro­ducer but it has not been able to op­ti­mize its strengths and has not cap­tured a larger share in the global pro­cessed food mar­ket. He also em­pha­sized on the fact that Pak­istan has the fifth largest coal re­serves in the world and it is also be­stowed with an abun­dance of other nat­u­ral re­sources.

Puri also high­lighted the need for for­eign in­vestors to bring the req­ui­site tech­nol­ogy to Pak­istan through mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial en­tre­pre­neur­ial ar­range­ments and in­vited them to in­vest in the po­ten­tial projects. Min­er­als, stones and agri­cul­ture sec­tor projects came un­der ma­jor fo­cus, par­tic­u­larly to spur value ad­di­tion in com­modi­ties such as corn, rice and wheat. The fo­rum also show­cased tele­com, in­sur­ance and other busi­nesses in the ser­vices sec­tor for in­vest­ment.

Mian Man­sha said that national and multinational com­pa­nies work­ing in Pak­istan are sat­is­fied with the con­ducive environment be­ing pro­vided by the Govern­ment and that the rate of re­turn on in­vest­ment and the prof­itabil­ity ra­tio are sub­stan­tial. Raz­zak Da­wood also added that poli­cies of the Govern­ment of Pak­istan are en­cour­ag­ing and that the pri­vate sec­tor is thriv­ing. Man­sha and Da­wood, both re­posed their con­fi­dence in the fact that open­ing of trade be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan will at­tract more in­vest­ment in the re­gion, es­pe­cially for Pak­istan.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, deals of around $10 bil­lion were fi­nal­ized at the CBF plat­form. Ac­cord­ing to Tariq Puri, the aim of par­tic­i­pa­tion at the fo­rum was to ful­fill the ex­pec­ta­tions of what oth­ers want to know about Pak­istan. “In coun­tries where cur­ren­cies are firmer and cost of do­ing busi­ness is high, Pak­istan has got a vis­i­ble edge. All we need is to boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and hone our skills. Hu­man and nat­u­ral re­sources are where we get our strengths from.”

The sig­nif­i­cance of the Com­mon­wealth fo­rum for Pak­istan was also af­firmed by Arif Za­man, “Pak­istan first needs to be heard, un­der­stood and then the op­por­tu­nity will come its way.” Za­man said peo­ple are quite re­cep­tive to the op­por­tu­nity in the Com­mon­wealth. Many medium to large cor­po­ra­tions are owned by women and they will have their voice heard at the con­fer­ence. Like­wise, the Youth Fo­rum will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for young peo­ple to in­ter­act, so will the busi­ness and civil so­ci­ety fo­rums.

Tariq Iqbal Puri said re­gional co­op­er­a­tion would be the main driver of growth and the ma­jor area of fo­cus for the Trade De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity at the mo­ment

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