President urges business community and political forces to work together

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday urged the business community and political forces in the country to work together for achieving consensus on economic policies for the next 10 years to boost economic growth and ensure robust business activities in the country.

He called upon the businessmen and entrepreneurs of the country to play their role in bringing together all stakeholders to ensure continuity of economic policies.

The President said this while addressing at the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI)’s annual lunch at the Presidency.

Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the President on the occasion congratulated the Parliament and the government for passing a law whereby incentives offered to the investors cannot be withdrawn without Parliament’s approval hence ensuring continuity of economic policies in the country, which he said, has been one of the major problem of the Pakistan economy.

He termed the Special Economic Zones law a landmark achievement of the government to attract domestic and foreign investment calling upon the business community to take ownership of the policies and defend long-term economic policies even as governments change.

Citing examples of Singapore and many other Asian countries, the President said that the strength of a country lies in human resource and economic capability.

He said that government was vigorously involved in creating an enabling environment for business and reiterated that the job of the Government was not doing business but to create a business friendly and conducive environment for the businessmen to do business.

Highlighting the government’s efforts for promoting an investor-friendly environment, the President said that Pakistan offer the most liberal investment policy regime in the region which includes besides other facilities, full repatriation of capital, capital gains, dividends and profits, adding that government have signed Business Investment Treaties with many nations.

The President said that we welcome and eagerly seek investment in order to create jobs and to upgrade skills and to improve the quality of life of our people as well and welcomed the invaluable suggestions of the business community in this regard.

He said that we need greater private investment in infrastructure development adding that our railways need to be brought back to its past glory and modernized besides the need to expand road network.

The President said that buoyant stock market has offered a great opportunity to raise equity through the stock exchange. “Together with the people of Pakistan you all can benefit from the opportunities”, he remarked.

He urged the provinces to play a proactive role in promoting investment and trade as 18th Amendment has empowered the provinces to play a much major role in this regard.

The President said that government has achieved political consensus on a number of issues and reiterated that it was high time for all of us to work together for consensus on economic policies as well.

The President said that government was aware of the adverse impacts of energy shortages on business in the country and termed this issue as the mother of all economic problems.

If the energy policy of the previous PPP government had not been reversed there would have been no power crisis today, he remarked and added that government was making efforts to overcome the power issues by diversifying sources of power generation.

He urged the need for increasing power production as well as reducing its price, adding that government has undertaken mega
hydro projects including Basha Dam and raising of the Mangla dam project besides importing gas and electricity from other countries to address the energy problem.

The President said that beside energy problem, the country is also facing the problem of lack of access to international markets, which he sad has been very poor.

He said that Pakistan was in dire need of trade and not aid and appreciated the EU for Preferential Market Access to Pakistani goods however he stressed the need for GSP + status by the EU, which he said would further increase market access.

Besides government’s efforts for trade access to international market, the President said that government was vigorously involved in enhancing our exports.

He said that Trade Development Authority of Pakistan has launched a campaign to promote exports by organizing trade exhibitions and trade delegations to explore new markets in China, Hong Kong, Russia and Malaysia besides expanding access to existing markets. New markets are also available for Pakistan t explore in the African region, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

He assured that government would continue making efforts for enhanced market access for Pakistani products in a bid to promote export and generate economic activity besides creating employment opportunities.

The President said that global financial crises and Militancy and terrorism have also adversely impacted investment and business activities in the country. He said that for the past ten years we have been fighting extremism and militancy and Pakistan lost 44,000 nationals including six thousand military and police personnel.

The ongoing fight against militancy adversely impacted economy and development and halted progress on many social programs in various parts the country. He said that the global financial crisis hit the government at a time when began the transition from dictatorship to democracy,
he however said that government has taken some hard decisions which are paying dividends and the situation is improving.

Commenting on positive results of government’s measure, the President said Tax collection and the remittances from Pakistanis abroad and country’s exports have increased. He said that Karachi Stock Exchange KSE 100 index which was trading at 6,000 points in 2008 have performed remarkably and stood at over 16,000 points now which reflects the investor’s confidence in government’s policies.

The Spokesperson said that on measures for trade liberalization, the President said government has taken number of measures to liberalize trade with India and in the region which he termed a major policy shift and expressed hope that these steps will reconstruct the region’s economies and help increase regional stability.

He said that this shift in policy was driven by the business sectors on both sides of the border and will benefit all. Earlier the managing committee of overseas Investors Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (OICCI) headed by its President Mr. Asif Jooma called on the President and shared the role and ideas and suggestions of the OICCI for promoting trade and investment in the country.

Mr. Asif Jooma, lauded the various measures being undertaken by the government for attracting investment and creating enabling environment for business in Pakistan. He assured that overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the collective voice of all major foreign investors in Pakistan, would continue playing its role in the economic development of Pakistan.
He apprised the President that 189 members of OICCI from 33 countries have presence in 14 sectors of the economy and contributing over 20% of Pakistan’s total tax revenues and GNP.

He further informed that one third of OICCI membership is listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange and about half of the awards for the top 25 KSE companies are won by its members annually. The President said that OICCI has a very long history and appreciated the contributions of OICCI in economic and skill development of Pakistan.

He said that government would welcome every suggestion and idea by the business community for boosting economic growth. The President said that government firmly believes that no economic development was possible without active involve of all the stakeholders including the businessmen and entrepreneur and assured that government would continue working hand in hand with the business community for bolstering economic growth.

The Spokesperson said that President wished good luck and all success to the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry in promoting foreign investment and expressed hope that OICCI would continue to play its positive role in the country’s progress and prosperity.