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PM Nawaz invites US investors to Pakistan

22 October, 2013

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WASHINGTON: Pledging an investment-friendly and secure environment, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday invited American entrepreneurs to avail the tremendous business opportunities Pakistan offers in a host of areas.

He was addressing a gathering of prominent business leaders at the US-Pakistan Business Council at the US Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business organisation.

The event was attended by US officials, including USAmbassador to Pakistan Richard Olson and US Coordinator for Non-military Assistance Ambassador Robin Raphel. Miles Young, Chairman of the US-Pakistan Business Council, and Worldwide CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and said Pakistan's proximity to regional markets, a large hardworking workforce and huge economic potential, make it an important country for international private businesses. Nawaz spoke about his government's important reforms and policies to put Pakistan's economy on sound footing.

"There are few places in the world today that so uniquely offer the promise of land, geography and people, as does Pakistan," he said. Perhaps it is because of this potential that US-Pakistan Business Council, in one of its recent reports, described "Pakistan as a giant you haven't considered for investment," he added.

Speaking about relations between Islamabad and Washington, he said Pakistan wants good relations with the United States "that can benefit the peoples of both countries. "It is true that there have been difficulties in recent past. However, the important thing is that both sides have remained fully engaged, even in that difficult phase. Happily, we have been able to put the relationship back on a stable and upward trajectory." Citing demographic advantages Pakistan offers, the PM said "nearly sixty per cent of our population is under the age of thirty, thus offering huge demographic dividends."

By 2025, Pakistan will be one of the six countries in the world with a 100 million strong middle class, ready to seek and afford better lifestyles and living standards, he added. He particularly highlighted the energy sector as offering promising opportunities to foreign investors. Nawaz said his government has taken immediate stability measures and structural reforms and has embarked upon a clear roadmap of bringing macro-economic stability in Pakistan in next three years.

"By fiscal year 2016, our targets include GDP growth at over 6%, investment to GDP at 20%, fiscal deficit to cut to half at 4%, public debt to be brought within statutory limit of under 60% and through enhancing tax net and improving fiscal governance to increase tax GDP to 13%," he said.

"We also have a target to double our national forex reserves to $20 billion by fiscal year 2016," he added. Even during these more difficult times, he pointed out, Pakistan witnessed growth, both in the financial sector and consumer spending.

The PM said: "Clearly, Pakistan is an upcoming emerging market. In fact, such multi-nationals as Uni-Lever, Colgate-Palmolive and Nestle Pakistan, have all made record profits in recent years.

"Their experience, as most of them will tell you, has been exceptionally rewarding. This has encouraged other enterprises to expand their investments in Pakistan," he added. Besides, in the regional perspective, he said Pakistan's proximity to two of the world's largest markets - China and India - places it right in the middle of where all the action is going to be in the years to come.

"The energy that will fuel growth in the region and beyond, is also in abundance not just up north of Pakistan in the largely untapped and locked Central Asia, but also down South in Iran, the Gulf and the Middle East," he added. Pakistan, Nawaz said, is making the required national investments and attracting more from overseas to develop trade and energy corridors, linking the ports in the South to Northern Pakistan and onwards to China, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

"In particular, firm decisions have already been taken on a number of major power projects totalling around 10,000 MW that would be able to meet the supply demand gap in power sector," he added. Other ambitious projects such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan- Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline, the Central Asia South Asia (CASA)-1000 electricity project, Pakistan- China Economic Corridor, the Torkham-Jalalabad Road and the Kunar Power Project, should give a good idea of what is possible and what is being done already, he said.

He said, "Our media enjoys complete freedom; our judiciary is independent, and our civil society proactive and well-informed. Collectively, they empower the democratically elected leadership and hold it to vigorous accountability and scrutiny, he added.

"With all the institutions of State committed to upholding the Constitution, observing the law and abiding by due process, we see the dawn of a new era in Pakistan."

On addressing the security situation, the Prime Minister said: "It is now my personal mission to push and prod all those who can and must contribute in building peace and enforcing the writ of the State, be it in Karachi, Quetta or FATA, or any other part of Pakistan."

Pakistan will do all it can, to support the realization of peace and stability in Afghanistan, as we believe that a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan is a pre-requisite, for a peaceful and stable Pakistan", he added.

In his remarks, Miles Young vowed the Council's full support in advancing commercial relations between the United States and Pakistan and the resumption of strategic ties between the two important countries would help bolster the relationship.

He noted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's economic reforms proposals to speed up economic growth have attracted attention of the US businesses. He called for the creation of US-Pakistan Business Forum to discuss practical issues.

On Business Investment Treaty, he said conclusion of such a treaty would spur the confidence of American investors and provide a positive framework for business.

End.

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