KARACHI: With a focus on regional trade and investment, a high-profile Pakistani delegation will present a bundle of projects before its 54-nation fraternity at the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) starting early next week.
Business giants, representing 80 percent of Pakistan's trade and industry, will attend the forum on October 25-27 in Perth, Australia.
"Regional cooperation is now the main driver of growth and that's the area where the Trade Development Authority is focusing at the moment," Tariq Iqbal Puri, Chief Executive TDAP, told The News. "Pakistan can be the basket of food for the entire region if all of us put our acts together."
This is the government's first and biggest participation strengthened by big names like Mian Mohammad Mansha of Nishat Group; Abdul Razak Dawood of Descon Engineering Group; Asad Umar of Engro Corp and Salim Ghauri of Netsol Technologies. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will also chair a powerful session at the CBF.
In a separate Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled for October 28-30, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is likely to participate along with other senior government officials.
Arif Zaman, Commonwealth Business Council's advisor on South Asia and Corporate Governance, said Pakistan is taking the opportunity quite 'seriously' for the first time in the club's history.
"People are getting sick of hearing a familiar narrative about Pakistan. Here is an opportunity to make the country understood better. It will only happen once it hits the radar," Zaman said.
Around four trillion dollars or 20 percent of the world trade is between commonwealth members and there is a huge potential to grow it further.
India and Pakistan, being the largest members, have failed to capitalise the potential of this largest group of countries after The United Nations. The CBF will get a much-needed flip from a special session on South Asia focusing Aman ki Asha initiative ñ which will highlight the 19-month struggle to bridge gaps between Pakistan and India led by two independent media giants, Jang Group and Times of India.
Shahrukh Hasan, Managing Director Jang Group, said the Aman ki Asha initiative between the two countries will prove quite positive for the regional trade and investment. "From our vision to achievements, we will share everything about this movement before the 54-member body," said Hasan.
In a bid to give peace a chance, both groups held the biggest conference under Aman ki Asha in New Delhi last year, in which 65 delegates from Pakistan and 250 from India participated. Another mega conference will be held in February next year in Lahore. Hasan said that there is a sea change in perception, quoting a recent survey in which 80 percent Indians agreed to the idea of more interactions with Pakistan for a lasting peace. India is the biggest commonwealth member and there is a huge market for Pakistan if bilateral relations continue to progress positively. "We are looking for both trade and investment with a focus on the later, which is rather irreversible," Hasan said.
Investment in Pakistan has nosedived during the last three years. The government is striving to lift Pakistan's image in the eyes of the world by highlighting boundless opportunities that lie in each sector of the economy.
Around $10 billion deals are likely to be finalised at the CBF platform. TDAP chief said energy will be the main focus, including all types of alternate resources like solar, wind and bio technology. Thar coal reserves are likely to be a big drawer among the participants while Information Technology has got a tremendous potential in terms of high spread. Among other projects, minerals and stones will come under focus as well while the government is also planning to woo investment in the agro sector, particularly to spur value addition in commodities such as corn, rice and wheat. Telecom, insurance and other businesses belonging to the services sector will also be showcased for investment.
The forum will host around 2,000 delegates coming from all over the world where Pakistan will get the opportunity to market its products.
"Focus will be to live up to expectations of what others want to know about Pakistan," Puri said. "In countries where currencies are firmer and cost of doing business is high, Pakistan has got a visible edge. All we need is to boost productivity and hone our skills. Human and natural resources are where we get our strengths from."
Zaman agreed that there will be challenges in realising dreams and results might not come that quickly. "Pakistan first needs to be heard, understood and then the opportunity will come its way," he said.
Zaman said people are quite receptive to the opportunity in commonwealth. Many medium to large corporations, he said, are own by women and they will have their voice heard in the conference. Likewise, the youth forum will provide an opportunity for young people to interact, so will the business and civil society forums. "The Pakistani diaspora also has a crucial role to play in highlighting the country at the forum," Zaman said.
The present 38 to 50 percent cost of doing business among the Commonwealth members is way too high. With growth in intra trade and joint ventures, the cost of doing business is bound to come down automatically.
Pakistan is set for a win-win situation in the first-ever high profile meeting at the CBF. The wind of change is blowing through the region and Pakistan can get a bigger slice of the regional trade and investment with the help of a very strong presence.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
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