Date : 16-12-2021
Remarks of Ambassador Dr. Asad Majeed Khan during Pak-US Investment Webinar
Thank you Qureshi sb and and a very good evening to those joining from Pakistan and good morning to everyone tuning in from here in the United States. Thank you Secretary Farina Mazhar for your very comprehensive opening statement. And I’d like to congratulate the Board of Investment and also its Chairman Mohammad Azfer Ahsan for taking this initiative on basically introducing investment opportunities in Pakistan. I can say that over the years that I have served here in United States in various capacities, we have come across three kinds of impediments or of constraints, if you will, on promoting and expanding investments in Pakistan.
First has been, frankly, the question of lack of awareness, lack of awareness on both sides in Pakistan, on how the system works here in United States, How and what are the new opportunities arising in the private sector, which institutions/ agencies might be able to facilitate investments in Pakistan And also, what are the private sector /companies that may have some interest in Pakistan?
But more importantly, there is a complete lack of awareness here in the United States on the kind of opportunities there are in Pakistan, on the kind of incentives that the Government of Pakistan is offering. There has also been unfortunately, this freeze in terms of the image and perception of Pakistan where Clearly, the security situation on the ground has improved remarkably but still, the perceptions here of Pakistan and how Travel Advisory stand in the way of allowing people to actually go and see for themselves what is available in Pakistan. So I believe that in terms of promoting awareness, both in Pakistan as well as here in the United States, on where we stand what is the situation like on the ground and what are the incentives? I think this particular initiative would go a long way in filling that gap.
The second challenge that I have perceived or seen over the years is basically the lack of involvement of the private sector. Because yes, we as representing governments, we as the so called facilitators of creating the right kind of environment the enabling environment for investment, but the actual players are the private sector, people and in that regard, again, I would say that because, for instance from Pakistan, Visa related constraints, difficulties in obtaining visas for entrepreneurs and executives here in the United States, the travel advisory on our side, lack of availability of direct air connections, and also our inability, frankly, to cast the net wide in terms of reaching out to those who may not actually be invested in Pakistan, but may have interest in investing in Pakistan And I must say, that COVID actually has allowed us has enabled us to reach out to as many as we can, and to start and initiate a conversation so in that regard also, I think, I really would like to congratulate Board of Investment, and we, here in the Embassy and four Consulates across the United States keep creating or striving to create those networking opportunities, because they are absolutely critical. There is hunger for exploring opportunities here but sometimes people don’t find the right kind of partners or partners that they can trust. So for us to create those platform, and this I see as one of such platforms where we can bring the private sectors of both the United States and Pakistan together.
Last but not least, is actually the perceived gap between the incentives promised and the incentives delivered on the ground.
I do keep talking to those interested in investing in Pakistan. We also institutionally interact with those that are already invested in Pakistan And since this is a platform where we want to engage in a candid, honest conversation, I can say this, frankly that there is clearly a sense and perception here That while we may have very attractive packages on paper, the actual implementation often is not as smooth and as seamless as it should be. And that’s where I think we need to foster this conversation in the spirit of better understanding where the problems are and I can tell you that we already we are already seeing this approach work by way of creating a smaller group for conversations on technology-related investment constraints steered by none other than the President itself. In that small forum is now almost acting as a clearinghouse mechanism where Individuals who face problems, who face challenges, they bring them up and then the system comes together to resolve those issues and challenges and I think nothing would go as far as our ability to essentially, you know, reduce the gap between the incentives promised and incentives delivered. I can tell you that at the political, we touched upon the importance of this relationship, and I think, while we talk a lot about the security-centricity of this relationship, but despite all that focus being on the security side, United States is still the largest export destination for Pakistan. United States is still the third or the fourth largest remittance centre for Pakistan. United States is still the destination, the largest destination for our tech related export. United States is the number one non-so-called debt related inflows into Pakistan. So that really highlights and brings out the importance and significance of United States and how and why we need to focus on this and I can tell you as Pakistan’s ambassador here for the past three years, I see a compete political bind both in Pakistan here in the United States also, people and leadership sees the potential of expansion except that we need to work out the nitty gritty. Clearly, we see that over the past one year, since particularly over the last six months, we are seeing intensification of engagement starting with Foreign Minister’s meeting with Secretary Blinken in New York, then Deputy Secretary Sherman’s visit to Islamabad. we have had a very senior congressional delegations also and in each one of those visits the importance of building a stronger economic, trade and business relationship was underscored. And I think I can also point out that structurally also, the IDFC, which is the International Development Finance Corporation, which is the successor to PIC, provides that framework where they have doubled the equity for DFC and that allows actually United States to expand its corporate footprint overseas. So these are the opportunities that I think we need to sensitize, and apprise and educate our investors and our businessmen. I look forward to working closely with you and all those who are here joining this conversation. I also look forward to a productive exchange. And I do hope that we are able to sensitize everyone attending on what the real incentives are on the ground And that we continue this as a not one time but as a regular exercise. So thank you very much for your leadership. And I thank all the participants for joining. Thank You.
Washington DC, December 16, 2021
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