ISLAMABAD / D I KHAN: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that the government had established a robust mechanism in form of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to attract investments with a view to do away with the “addiction” of borrowings and put the country on the course towards self-sustainability.
The prime minister, addressing the participants of the third meeting of the International Partners Support Group (IPSG), said the government had chalked out an economic revival plan. Its implementation would require foreign investment and technical support from friendly countries to enhance per acre yield of wheat, sugarcane and other commodities and focus on other areas of action.
He thanked the member countries and organizations for supporting Pakistan amidst the difficult time of unprecedented floods and told them the people still awaited return to their homes as they lacked funding to rebuild the destroyed houses. This shows the severity of the challenge which required untiring efforts by the government, friendly countries and international partners to help Pakistan build climate-resilient infrastructure.
The prime minister thanked and appreciated the federal ministers for planning, climate change, finance, economic affairs and foreign affairs and their teams for reaching out to the international community and organising Geneva Conference where international commitments were made. He told the participants that the country had been facing economic challenges like international inflation in terms of crude oil and commodities prices.
He said as the government had reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it would strictly abide by it without any deviation. He said his government’s term was about to end by the next month, the upcoming interim government would also surely be adhering to the IMF deal as the first tranche had already been received. He thanked the friendly countries and IMF Managing Director for helping Pakistan to reach the $ 3 billion agreement for a nine-month period.
He said the SIFC would focus on the promotion of agriculture sector and introduction of value-added products which would obviously require an infrastructure to be built from the investment from Gulf nations, America, North America or any other country desiring to invest. Besides, the Council would also help promote the IT and mining sectors as the country was rich with immense potential in both sectors.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured the meeting that every penny coming from the donors for the rehabilitation of the flood victims would be spent transparently. He directed the relevant authorities that transparency should be given key importance in the rehabilitation and reconstruction projects of flood-affected areas. Third-party validation should be ensured in every project, he directed.
In the meeting, progress on flood recovery in Pakistan was reviewed. The prime minister appreciated the important role of IPSG in increasing cooperation as well as in climate resilience projects. It was told that $657.5 million were estimated to be received by June 30, 2023, under the pledges made for various projects during the Climate Resilient Pakistan Conference, while $715 million have been received from donors and friendly countries for these projects. During the current year 2023-24, around $913.5 million will be spent on construction and rehabilitation projects in flood-affected areas under the donors’ support.
The meeting was further informed that 19 projects have been designed for flood prevention and rehabilitation of victims, including eight for Sindh, seven for Balochistan, three for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one for the whole of Pakistan. The meeting was told that 64 percent of the money received for relief work was being spent in Sindh. It was told that $16.2 billion was estimated for reconstruction under the 4-RF (4RF), of which $8.15 billion are being funded by the federal and provincial governments through PSDP and ADP, while the matching amount will be provided by friendly countries and international organizations.
On this occasion, UNDP Resident Coordinator Samuel Rizk said that one year had passed since the disastrous floods in Pakistan and the presence of all partners to review the progress of the rehabilitation works was welcoming. He said the rehabilitation of flood-affected areas was possible only with the cooperation of all partners and UNDP would continue to play its full role in this regard as the Secretariat of the International Partner Support Group.
Federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Sherry Rehman, Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar, Special assistants Tariq Fatemi and Tariq Bajwa, representatives of UNDP, World Bank, European Union, ADB, IMF, USAID, and diplomats from America, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, Canada, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Azerbaijan, Italy and Norway, and other relevant high officials participated in the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Muhammad Shehabaz Sharif also said despite the history’s most difficult period, the coalition government had steered the country out of economic crisis.
During the last 16 months years, the incumbent government faced the most difficult challenges like the devastating flood hit the country soon after it took charge of the office, he added. The prime minister was speaking as the chief guest at an inaugural and ground breaking ceremony of eight development projects in energy and communication sectors.
“We faced the devastating flood on one side, and inflation, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) pressure, and political crisis on the other. Such challenging problems have never been faced by me in my whole life,” he said. He said all the coalition government parties had unanimously decided to ensure economic stability at all costs, including their politics. Such a resolve on their part helped the government to bring the country out of crisis. There was record wheat production in a decade, which saved billions of dollars .
However, PTI Chairman Imran Niazi exploited his own created situation which he used for political gains at the country’s cost, he added. The prime minister said political opponents had wished for the country’s default, which by the blessings of the Almighty reverted due to the efforts of incumbent government.
He said had the former regimes fully utilized the country’s rich resources such as hydro power the country might have affordable and clean energy, and stressed to overhaul the faulty power transmission system causing over Rs 400 billion annual losses to the national exchequer. PM Shehbaz vowed to break the begging bowl by curtailing the government expenses. A comprehensive plan of the Pakistan Green Initiative had been undertaken to take the country to new heights of development and prosperity.
Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman thanked the prime minister for his personal interest in ensuring development of the area. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had laid the foundation of many mega projects, which the PTI government seized hampering economic development, he added.
Fazl said industrial estates being established in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan would change the fate of the people of the area. Minister for Energy Khurram Dastgir said the development projects, which remained suspended during 2018 to 2022, were being completed on priority. He said due to the PM’s personal intervention, 5000 MW of electricity was added to the national grid in just 16 months.
The transmission line in Thar was completed in a few months, while work on three new grid stations of Rs 2 billion in Dera Ismail Khan was initiated by the current government, he added. Minister for Communications Asad Mehmood said the coalition government was committed to create a road link between the Gwadar Port and the Central Asian countries under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
He said the projects inaugurated by Nawaz Sharif were being restored and completed in various areas, especially in the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik said on the prime minister’s direction, sufficient supply of energy to the people at affordable price was being ensured. During the last one year, he said, around 270 mmcf gas worth over $1 billion had been discovered from various areas of the country, and of which 138 mmcf had already been injected to the system while the rest would be included soon. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Haji Ghulam Ali, National Assembly Deputy Speaker, provincial ministers and government officials were present on the occasion.
PM for owning IT talent through maximum financial, professional support: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said that maximum financial and professional support to the youth was inevitable to exploit their immense potential in information technology which could also guarantee the county’s prosperity.
The prime minister, addressing the launching ceremony of PM’s Freelancer and Venture Capital Initiative, and National Innovation Award Investor Connect, said the network of incubation centers needed to be spread across the country by carving out maximum funding keeping in view the country’s future.
He said considering the talent and importance of the IT, Rs 2 billion allocated for the venture capital was just “peanuts”, though it was scraped by the government despite financial constraints. The prime minister was “taken aback” as he visited the stalls and was briefed about the innovative projects prepared by the youngsters, including drones for agriculture purposes, IT-led medical systems, and usage of banana peels for different products.
“I really salute all of you,” he remarked and particularly lauded Sahar Munir, a girl from Naushki for her vision and ideas to promote the IT sector. He said the network of incubation centres should have been spread countrywide some 10 years ago and recalled the establishment of such a center at the Arfa Karim Tower in 2009 by him while being the Punjab chief minister.
“This is the untapped talent across Pakistan which we have to own. This is our responsibility to arrange trainings and provide maximum funding,” he said and called for holding similar innovation award ceremonies in other parts of the country. He said the funding for the IT endowment fund should be increased by billions annually to capacitate the youngsters, and support their research and development.
Prime Minister Shehbaz, who earlier launched the initiatives and gave away awards among top 10 winners of the second round National Innovation Award, also instructed the formulation of a coordinated mechanism and a policy framework for the IT sector for onward cabinet approval so that the interim government could carry the projects forward without any impediment. He said the whatsoever party forms the next government, they should facilitate the IT sector, which, if supported for next five years, could bring in billions of dollars to the country.
In his address, Minister for IT and Telecommunications Syed Aminul Haq said his ministry was coordinating and cooperating to execute the prime minister’s vision of a ‘Digital Pakistan’. He said the ministry was facilitating around 20 incubation centres in various parts of the country. He told the gathering that efforts were underway to enhance women participation in the IT start-ups as during the last five years, out of 1387 start-ups, 37% were of women.
He said the IT Ministry was endeavouring to increase connectivity as a prerequisite for the IT growth. He said during his ministerial term, the cellphone users grew from 160 million to 195 million and broadband users from 70 million to 122 million. Special Assistant to the PM on Youth Affairs Shaza Fatima Khawaja said that the ceremony marked the second round of National Innovation Award with 50 winners and connect them with the investors to capitalise their ideas. She said the government had allocated Rs 5 billion for the IT sector, including Rs 2 billion for venture capital and Rs 1 billion each for IT training and IT endowment fund. Besides, Rs 200 million had also been specified for the women-led business ventures, she added. The event also marked the playing of a short documentary on two rounds of PM National Innovation Awards as well as the testimonials by two award winners who apprised the audience about their projects and vision.