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Pakistan Safe For Foreign Investment, Assures Minister
 
News From : DagangHalal.com (11/3/2009)

By R. Ravichandran

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 (Bernama) -- Pakistan is a safe country for foreign investment.

The assurance was given by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a written interview with Bernama in conjunction with his visit to attend the Foreign Minister's meeting of The Group of Eight Developing Islamic Countries (D-8) on Monday.

He was responding to questions on whether with the ongoing security-related problems, Pakistan remained a safe place for foreign investment from Malaysia, and also about potential areas for investment and trade.

Qureshi said Kuala Lumpur and Islamabad have excellent relations, and Malaysia is the largest foreign investor with US$656 million in Pakistan in the first half of 2008.

"The time to invest in Pakistan is now given the low asset prices and the country's growth potential, large population, low costs, English-speaking middle classes and similarities between both countries' land codes as part of the lure," he said.

Last year, Malaysia's exports to Pakistan totalled RM5.95 billion while imports amounted to RM363.3 million, which Qureshi said was an indication of better trade for both countries.

The bilateral trade turnover between the two countries has also picked up significantly.

The total annual trade for 2008 stood close to US$1.9 billion, with Pakistan's exports at US$128 million and imports at US$1.7 billion.

"While both sides are committed to further enhance the trade relations. it is imperative to also give attention to the vast trade gap," Qureshi said.

"It is hoped that the FTA (free trade agreement) signed between the two countries would help forge substantive economic partnership," he said.

According to Qureshi, there is huge scope and potential for joint ventures and investments, specially in areas such as Islamic finance, halal industries, energy, housing and infrastructure development, telecommunications and media as well as education, health, agriculture and human resource development.

"Both our countries continue to work together. We look forward to translate the tremendous goodwill, on both sides, into increased engagement in economic, trade and developmental linkages and joint ventures," Qureshi said.

Malaysia and Pakistan have achieved a bilateral FTA which was the first among the Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries.

"We are confident that business leader on both sides will utilise the benefits flowing out of the FTA to achieve manifold increase in our trade, investment and economic cooperation," the minister said.

Calling on the Malaysian business community to continue doing business in Pakistan and potential investors to venture there, Qureshi said there were several reasons which made Pakistan an ideal destination for investment.

Among them is Pakistan's geo-strategic location, with it being the gateway to the energy-rich central Asian countries, and fast-developing western and central China.

"This strategic advantage alone makes Pakistan a marketplace teeming with possibilities," he said.

Qureshi said a large part of the country's trained workforce is proficient in English language and also hardworking and intelligent.

"Pakistan possesses a large pool of trained and experienced engineers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, IT (information technology) and other professionals with many having substantial international experience," he said.

Another reason, Qureshi said, is that Pakistan has been one of the fastest growing economies, having touched a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 8.4 per cent in 2005.

"Today Pakistan has over 170 million consumers with an ever growing middle class. Foreign direct investment has risen sharply from an average of US$300 million in the 1990s to over US$3.7 billion in the 2008-2009 period," he said.

"Despite the global financial downturn, we are expecting a growth rate of about 3.5 to 4.0 per cent this year," he added.

On investment policies, Qureshi said the current policies have been tailored made to suit investors' needs.

"Pakistan's policy trends have been consistent, with liberalisation, deregulation, privatization, and facilitation being its foremost cornerstones," he said.

Qureshi said for the financial markets, Pakistan's Securities and Exchange Commission has improved the regulatory environment of the stock exchanges, corporate bond market and leasing sector.

"Whilst the Federal Board of Revenue has facilitated structural reforms in tax and tariffs, the State Bank of Pakistan has invigorated the banking sector into high returns on investment," he said.

-- BERNAMA

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