Pakistan is the 25th-largest economy in the world. The country has a sound manufacturing base and well-developed agriculture and service sectors. Additionally, the country is abundantly blessed with natural resources.
It is the sixth-most populated country in the world, and 60 percent of the population is young. Geographically, it is ideally located between east and west. All these factors make Pakistan ideally placed to become one of the world’s leading trade partners. Despite having all the positive essentials of an export hub, annual global exports from Pakistan are only about $20 billion, much lower than its potential. This untapped potential provides the best opportunity for investors across the globe looking for maximum returns on their investments.
The following are some of the best avenues for investment in the emerging Pakistan. The textiles sector is the mainstay of our exports sector which, together with cotton and yarn, accounts for more than half the total value of Pakistan’s annual exports. Pakistan is one of the few countries where the complete value chain of textiles manufacturing exists. Pakistan annually produces more than 11 million bales of cotton. The cotton is domestically ginned and then spun into yarn by a robust spinning sector. Weaving, knitting and processing sectors produce a wide variety of fabrics that are stitched to produce world-class garments.
The blossoming fashion industry renders ultimate value-added products. However, some of the subsectors are not completely integrated. Due to value-chain constraints, Pakistan exports more than $3.5 billion of cotton, yarn and woven fabric each year. These are relatively low value-added products and the proper placement of value-chain addition through investment can bring three to four-fold export proceeds and a handsome return for investors. Similar potential for huge value-addition exists in other sectors. Gems and jewelry are one example.
Emeralds mined from the Swat region are considered some of the best in the world. Careful mining of precious and semi-precious stones through advanced equipment, and artful cutting, polishing and rendering into jewelry, immensely increases the value of finished products. There is equally great scope for product diversification, as is the potential for raising new sectors.
Pakistan has overcome to a great extent its short-term issues affecting the exports sector. The law and order situation has long been restored to normalcy. The success of the Expo Pakistan event in November 2017 in Karachi is clear testimony to this. Hundreds of business delegates from throughout the world participated in this mega event and discussed and concluded business agreements with their Pakistani counterparts. In view of the interest of investors and businessmen traveling to Pakistan, the government has recently relaxed its business visa regime.
Great emphasis has been laid on improving energy availability. More than 10,000 MW of electricity is being added in the national grid as a result of recent initiatives. After operationalization of all energy-generating projects, there will be surplus electricity. Already the situation regarding industrial load shedding has been markedly improved. In addition to this, the State Bank of Pakistan has recently made adjustments to its exchange rate regime to make it more attractive to exporters.
These interventions have started to yield positive results.
After registering negative growth over the past four years, exports from Pakistan are picking up. The first six months of the current financial year have seen a more than 11 percent increase in our exports, and the trend is continuing. February 2018 registered the highest month-on-month increase of 16 percent in the dollar value of exported commodities.
Apart from immediate measures, the government is pursuing a comprehensive plan of medium to long-term interventions aimed at realizing the true export potential of Pakistan.To enhance the competitiveness and strengthen the manufacturing base, a number of schemes have been launched to help industry modernize its machinery; improving access to utilities; enhancing labor productivity; and ensuring quality infrastructure. Apart from schemes for the general industry, the government has incentivized the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) that additionally provide the benefits of subsectors integration, improved connectivity and economies of scale.
In addition to already notified SEZs, the government has recently announced the setting up of nine more zones along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to better leverage emerging opportunities in the region. Product diversification and branding are also being given attention. Dedicated funds have been set up aimed at promoting research and development. Pakistan has elaborate laws and the necessary organizational setup for the effective protection of intellectual property rights to provide a conducive environment for promotion innovation.
Pakistan is also moving toward achieving more market diversification and improved market access. The “Look Africa” plan is a part of such efforts. Pakistan has achieved some notable successes in the field of trade diplomacy in 2018. In January, successful negotiations earned unilateral concessions by Indonesia in 20 tariff lines. In February this year, Pakistan successfully had the GSP Plus facility reviewed by the EU Parliamentary Committee on International Trade. The committee expressed satisfaction over the progress made by Pakistan and decided in favor of the continuation of the facility.
In short, Pakistan is poised and ready to become a regional hub of connectivity, investment and productivity and the coming days will witness the emergence of this nuclear power as a significant player on the global trade landscape.
“Emerging Pakistan” is the best place for all investors, especially investors from Saudi Arabia.
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