Pakistan offers encouraging investment prospects
Under Pakistan’s liberal investment policy, all economic sectors are open to foreign direct investment, 100 percent foreign equity is allowed, with foreign investment fully protected in the country. Essentially, Pakistan is entering an increasing number of meaningful bilateral investment treaties that give confidence and safety to the investors that their property and investment will not be expropriated or nationalized. In Pakistan, no foreign enterprise has ever been nationalized.
Thus, Pakistan is fast attaining the status of a Business Opportunity Zone ( BOZ) for potential foreign investors. From the energy sector earning rich dividends to the huge untapped mineral resources worth trillions of dollars, the country offers a great attraction for foreign investment.
An increased interest has been shown by Asian investors in the construction sector, as evident by details provided by the Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan ( ABAD). Saleem Kassim Patel, Chairman, ABAD, while briefing Chinese investors on investment opportunities offered by the construction sector, said, “As a top association of builders, ABAD wants to help foreign investors. A lot of Asian investors, especially those from Turkey, have recently enquired about investment opportunities in Pakistan, which shows the interest of foreign investors in the construction sector.”
Similarly, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Pakistan, Jayalath Weerakkody, has expressed the eagerness of his country to enhance trade relations with Pakistan. Jayalath said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka are two major countries in South Asia and mutual cooperation between them would benefit the region. “Sri Lanka is keen to invest in Pakistan and the business community in Pakistan must visit the Sri Lankan markets to further enhance relations.” Along with the signing of a Free Trade Agreement, both countries are focused on the increasing bilateral trade volume. Sri Lanka has also shown keen interest in strengthening single country Expos.
With the signing of the Pak- US Bilateral Investment Treaty ( BIT), a number of unresolved issues between the two countries including scope and coverage, transparency and financial services, claims on behalf of enterprises, investment agreements and arbitration rules, would be cleared. A BIT is set up to open the doors for a Free Trade Agreement ( FTA) between two countries. It promises to enhance trade volume, generate more employment and spur business activities. The Bilateral Investment Treaty between Pakistan and the US is expected to make up for Pakistan’s loss of billions of dollars in terms of lost investment opportunities and social unrest due to the war on terror.
The US is also committed to establishing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones ( ROZS) in Pakistan to provide market access and promote bilateral trade and economic ties. The Trade Project focuses on strengthening Pakistani capability in both private and public sector to plan, design, regulate and manage viable Special Economic Zones in some of the most challenging environments in the country.
It supports maximum private sector involvement in the development of ROZS, while focusing on the public sector on creating a business environment conducive to development and growth. At the same time, a twophased development approach recognizes the challenges on the ground. Phase- I is focusing on obtaining ROZ designation for existing factories and industrial estates under current laws to ramp up the ROZ program rapidly. Phase- II will establish new legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks for ROZS that will form the basis of a broader program to attract new investment.
In addition, the Trade Project provides technical assistance to SEZS, industrial estates and free zones in other locations in Pakistan, aiming to broaden the basis of support to facilitate investment by private sector developers and operators.
On projecting Pakistan as a best place for investment and welcoming foreign investors, Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, President LCCI, termed the economic indicators as turning positive supported by an improving law and order situation and the investment climate picking up. He said availability of cheaper skilled and unskilled labour, low priced land as compared to other regional countries and an infrastructure of international standards would definitely create a win- win situation for global investors.