Pakistan calls to foreign investors
As the country is set to receive financial assistance from the UAE and IMF, new opportunities are expected to thrive
Investors looking for their next business-friendly destination will be hard pressed to find a better location than Pakistan, as the country offers unlimited opportunities for investment in various sectors, experts said.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, experts highlighted several recent reforms and initiatives that were introduced in the country that have successfully improved confidence in the country's business climate. Chief among these is Prime Minister Imran Khan's 'Kamyab Jawan' programme for youth development, that received international recognition from several governments and entities such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The UAE government recently announced the provision of $200 million in financial assistance to programme. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, promised the financial assistance during his recent visit to Pakistan.
Hamad Obaid Alzaabi, the UAE Ambassador to Pakistan, made the announcement while meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan's Special Assistant on Youth Affairs, Usman Dar. The ambassador described Pakistani youth as talented and capable, and said that the UAE will cooperate with Islamabad on the development of the next generation of talent. He also announced the start of a youth exchange programme between the UAE and Pakistan, where a delegation of Pakistani youth will be sent to the UAE to be trained in entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence (AI).
Naveed Godil, chief executive officer of International Packaging Films, noted that relations between Pakistan and the countries in the GCC have historically been very strong, particularly with the UAE. "These relations will only strengthen in the coming years, especially as both countries work together on areas such as R&D and energy."
"I would say that Pakistan right now is a country that offers some of the best opportunities for foreign investors. The industrial zones in the country are already helping those that are operating their businesses there gain an advantage. There is greater transparency and security in place and those that decide to invest will get the first movers advantage," he said.
He also noted that there has been a lot of interest among foreign investors about the opportunities that Pakistan presents. Among the many factors that have helped to increase the country's attractiveness are its large population, that is slated to increase to over 227 million by 2025, with 63 per cent below the age of 30.
"The new government, along with the industrial zones that have been launched specifically for businesses, are also inspiring confidence," he said. "There is still some risk-aversion, but investors have realised that there are plenty of opportunities to be found in sectors such as tourism, energy, petrochemicals, agriculture, and general trading."
Like Godil, Shabbir Merchant, managing director of Champion Neon, also observed the increasing interest from foreign investors. "We are seeing a lot of investment going into Pakistan right now in various sectors and industries. Chief among them are tourism, hospitality, education, and healthcare. There is a lot of confidence in the investment climate that has been built up slowly over the past couple of months. This is mainly due to the recent reforms that were announced in the budget, that made it easier to do business in the country and offered may incentives for those that were looking to start businesses in the country."
The investments into the country, he said, have been led by the Pakistani disapora that are attracted by the unlimited opportunities that they see, as well as the new safety systems that are in place. "The reforms that were introduced have already allowed many business owners to reap their rewards, and this will only accelerate in the next few years. Of course, when other business owners outside the country see the opportunities that are available and the rewards that they offer, then they too will be inclined to invest in Pakistan."
He added: "A key driver of the growth in the economy has been the SME sector; ensuring that they have the proper support that they need in the next few years will be critical. Right now, there are still some challenges that remain and there are a few areas in the system which need to be improved, but the business community has to have patience. The market will also have its ups and down, but we are confident about a steady growth."
The Kamyab Jawan programme focuses on the socio-economic development of the youth in the country. Under the programme, a vast array of projects and initiatives will be undertaken in education, skill training, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement. These initiatives will focus on '3Es' - education, employment, and engagement - while implementing six flagship programmes.
Under the six flagship programs, the first will be the 'Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme' as per which subsidised business loans would be provided to young aspiring entrepreneurs for the promotion of SME sector. The second would be the 'Skill for All Program', under which technical and vocational training is to be imparted to 150,000 youth both in conventional and high-end technological trades. The third initiative is the 'Startup Pakistan Program' under which potential young entrepreneurs would be trained and mentored to conceive, incubate, and mature their business plans through access to digital incubation platforms.
The fourth is the 'Green Youth Movement (GYM)' under which small grants are to be provided to Pakistani youth to bring economic innovative solutions to tackle environmental and climate crises. The fifth initiative, 'Internship Program', would impart effective internship programs both for undergraduate and postgraduate students to facilitate them in active participation in the private sector. The sixth initiative would be 'Jawan Markaz', a one-stop solution for youth-related issues at the grassroots level and it would not only provide access to sports and other youth engagement activities, but also provide them with career counseling, mentoring and access to a host of digital services.
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