PM says Saudi Arabia to invest up to $25b in Pakistan in next two to five years
Says govt eyeing to complete two privatisation deals | Promise out-of-box solutions to provide relief to electricity consumers
By News Desk
September 4, 2023 11:40 PM
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said Monday Saudi Arabia will invest up to $25 billion in Pakistan over the next two to five years in various sectors.
The prime minister, in an interaction with foreign media representatives, said his government would also revive a stalled privatisation process.
Kakar said Saudi Arabia’s investment would come in the mining, agriculture and information technology sectors, and was part of a push to increase foreign direct investment in Pakistan.
If confirmed, a series of investments worth $25bn would be the biggest ever by the kingdom in Pakistan.
A longtime ally of Riyadh, Pakistan is dealing with a balance of payments crisis and requires billions of dollars in foreign exchange to finance its trade deficit and repay its international debts in the current financial year.
The prime minister did not specify projects Riyadh was looking at for investment, but last month Barrick Gold Corp said it was open to bringing in Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund as one of its partners in Pakistan’s Reko Diq gold and copper mine.
Pakistan’s untapped mineral deposits are conservatively valued at about $6 trillion, said Kakar, whose government is meant to be an interim set up to oversee national elections scheduled for November but are expected to be delayed by months.
Barrick considers the Reko Diq mine one of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas and it owns a 50 per cent stake, with the remaining 50pc owned by the federal government and Balochistan’s provincial government.
The premier also said his government would push to complete two privatisation deals, probably for state-run power sector entities, in the next six months, and would also look to privatise another government-owned enterprise outside the energy sector.
The country’s state-owned enterprises have long been an area of concern with bleeding financials adding to financial stress. Recently, Pakistan added struggling state-run Pakistan International Airlines to the privatisation list again.
The privatisation process has largely stalled in the country with the selling of state assets a politically sensitive issue that many elected governments have shied away from.
Kakar assured that his government was exploring realistic options to come up with out-of-box solutions to provide relief to electricity consumers.
The prime minister said the government would make informed decisions to satisfy the masses on the issue of electricity bills without deviating from the country’s commitments with the international financial institutions.
Mentioning the issues of circular debt, power theft, and taxes, the prime minister said the government would introduce short-term solutions to the issue without undermining the agitating people.
He assured that the interim government was mandated to facilitate holding the general elections as early as possible while observing the constitutional obligations.
He said the Constitution called for carrying out the delimitation following the population census. Prime Minister Kakar said without redesigning the government structure, the interim setup was mainly focused on rearranging the fiscal and monetary policies to build an edifice for economic revival.
Calling the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) a strategy for economic revival, he said it focused on agriculture, mines and minerals, defence production and information technology.
He said the reforms needed in taxation and power sectors and that the government would leave behind a basis for mid-level reforms. Kakar said the government was pursuing a policy of doing the doable and providing a strategic direction to the economic planning.
To a question, he said all the registered political parties would be provided a level playing field to contest the general elections without any discrimination. However, he said in certain instances, political behaviour turned into vandalism and the country’s law was already in vogue to deal with such conduct.
Talking about the terror attacks by the TTP, the prime minister drew attention to the leftover military equipment by the US and allied forces back in Afghanistan which he viewed were becoming a threat to peace thus necessitating a coordinated approach to deal with the challenge.
He said the foreign forces left Afghanistan after losing interest but “we are here to defend our home, children, mosques and places of worship.” He said the Pak-Afghan ties were deeply rooted in cultural and faith-based linkages as well as social integration. Pakistan showed magnanimity to the Afghan refugees and that the government was coming up with a policy to address the challenge of illegal immigrants, he added.
Responding to a query, the prime minister said the government had an “excellent working environment” with the Pakistan Army and both were working together, also for economic revival.
Prime Minister Kakar said regardless of any political association, the people of Balochistan welcomed every project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which had entered the second phase. He reiterated the government’s resolve to go to any extent to protect the Chinese workers taking part in the CPEC projects.