The 2-day International Seminar on Business Opportunities, organized by the Punjab government on November 6-7, presented a perfect opportunity to the international and local businessmen and investors to have frank and candid discussions on investment opportunities in Punjab and explore avenues for possible cooperation. Going by about 150 MoUs and agreements signed on the occasion, it can be said that the event was a successful effort to lay down the foundation for a reinvigorated relationship between the public and the private sectors.
Following improvement in security situation, there is a discernible turnaround on economic front as well, a fact acknowledged by international financial institutions, rating agencies, fund managers and leading business journals and publications.
The change in national fortunes and ‘can-do’ optimism prevailing across the country today is a direct outcome of the strategic policy choices by the government. There is a complete consensus among all elements of national power on the need for addressing the fundamentals to put Pakistan on the upward trajectory. Today, Pakistan is undoubtedly a big story of transformation.
We live in an era that is undergoing huge flux as global political and economic tectonic plates are shifting fast. It is an era where in role of governments is diminishing and private sector is fast emerging as the leading engine of growth. The current epoch is being constantly shaped by the forces of globalization. Nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the world of business as the captains of commerce and industry and the CEOs of multinationals make conscious strides to capitalize on the momentum of regional and global integration.
Endeavours for the promotion of trade are powered by the idea of seeking regional and transnational cooperative partnerships founded on mutuality of interests. There is now a greater and more urgent demand for progressively moving towards globalization of commerce and trade. The seminar rightly represented an attempt to offer opportunities of market globalization and product diversification. In order for businesses to diversify and expand, they need innovative plans based on study of target markets. It calls for a viable emerging market strategy to target the business partners in overseas markets.
Known as a land of five rivers, Punjab is the most populous, industrialized and developed province of Pakistan with a population of over 100 million. Agriculture forms the core of Punjab’s economy. The share of Punjab province in large- and small-scale manufacturing in the country is 39.2% and 70% respectively. On the whole, Punjab’s imprint on the national economy is highly significant.
The province has a large middle class with high purchasing power. The English-speaking youth, who happen to be graduates from top national and international universities, provide the readily-available, qualified human resource.
Today, Punjab offers the most lucrative, highly secure and productive investment opportunities across different sectors such as infrastructure, mines and minerals, transport, industrial estates, housing and energy, etc. It has made the most effective investment policy framework that is unparalleled in the region. This framework has been developed from the perspective of the investor.
The chief reason why Punjab takes a lead when it comes to attracting FDI in Pakistan is that the province is investment-ready with worth US$ 6556 million projects to be invested in 48 identified key projects. The province has got the systems that support transparency and fair competition in business, the infrastructural spine that will network all connectivity needs and, more importantly, the workforce that has the skill as well as the drive to make a difference in a competitive market.
Investment flows to those regions where competitive advantage exists in production and delivery of services. Punjab is extremely advantageous because of its burgeoning young population; its growing consumer market of 100 million people and its sophisticated business acumen. There is a government commitment bound by law to protect foreign and local investment with guaranteed and reasonable rate of return coupled with high liquidity and no restriction on movement of capital.
Punjab Growth Strategy 2018 aims to make the province ‘secure, economically vibrant, industrialized and knowledge-based province, which is prosperous and competitive.’ The Strategy aims to grow the provincial economy by creating favourable conditions for massive private investment. Besides focusing on reform and development of key sectors of economy, it offers solutions to key challenges such as underutilized manufacturing capacity, energy shortages, exports, unemployment, low productivity and skill shortages.
Energy continues to be critical area for success of investment ventures. There is no denying the fact that our national growth has suffered a lot due to the worst energy crisis, so much so that 2-3% of GDP per annum is lost. All of our plans for economic revival and attracting investment cannot be successful unless we add sufficient amounts of electricity to the national grid to meet the requirements of growing economy and population.
Considering the importance and criticality of the energy sector to overall health of national economy, special attention has to be paid to completion of energy projects in time. The government introduced a National Power Policy that addresses all facets of energy crisis in an institutional manner. There is need to stick to the Policy as the efforts get underway to generate enough electricity to oil the engine of economy with both current and projected demand requirements. There is a need to focus on broadening the energy mix by tapping all available resources such as hydel, coal, solar, wind, LNG and biomass. If all things go right, by the time projects mature, enough electricity will be available to meet the requirements of a growing economy.
The $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of is a flagship project in ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Poised to connect Gwadar Port in south-western Pakistan to China’s north-western region of Xinjiang, the Corridor will have a huge network of highways, railways, industrial zones and pipelines to transport oil and gas.
About $36 billion of the package will be spent on energy sector development. Under the CPEC, the hydel, coal, wind and solar energy projects will add a total of 10400MW to national grid. A Pakistan-centred road network will facilitate contacts between Pakistan’s neighbours on east as well as west, while this Corridor will also bring closer integration within regional economies. The CPEC is a game-changer with a potential to transform socioeconomic landscape of Pakistan and beyond with enormous investment potential.
Punjab has all the ingredients for a profitable investment in different sectors of its economy. Liberal investment regime is in place, which is complemented by unique geographical location and a huge consumer market. The basic principles of the province’s investment policy are: reducing the cost of doing business; reducing the process of doing business and facilitating businesses with creation of industrial clusters and special economic zones
As presentations at the seminar made it clear, Punjab offers most attractive and secure amounts of profit on investments. By holding the seminar, the government made a strong case for investment of capital in energy, housing, mines and minerals, infrastructure, transport, and industrial sectors; transfer of expertise and management skills to expedite the process of development and fresh business ideas and technology to foster growth in the province.