PAKISTAN: A Land of Opportunities [Archives:2001/34/Reportage]
By S.R. Kazmi
As a nation, Pakistan has a rich and ancient past. The culture of Pakistan presents a beautiful blend of old and new, mystic and modern. The diversity and wide extent of Pakistan’s geographical range has endowed it with a richly varied appearance, from the perennially snow-capped mountains in the north to the beautiful sunny beaches in the south. These include the famous Karakoram Highway built on the ancient “Silk-Route” in Hunza and Gilgit, the beautiful valleys of Kaghan and Swat, the rugged and rocky Khyber Pass, the historic cities of Peshawar, Lahore and Multan, the serene and silent sites of Taxilla Mohenjodaro and Harappa, the fertile plains of the Punjab -the land of five rivers- and the vast coastal-lands of Baluchistan and Sindh leading to the large commercial and cosmopolitan city of Karachi. The variety of Pakistan’s scenic beauty, its Buddhist, Muslim and British legacies, the diversity of the terrain, the variety of flora and fauna, the wide range of temperatures, the different types of climate, and, above all, the very friendly and hospitable Pakistanis, all combine to make the country interesting and attractive to any foreign visitor.
Pakistan ranks among the fast-growing economies in Asia with a 5% gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate. Agriculture contributes to 24% of GDP. It is the main stay of the economy and employs about 48% of manpower. The share of the manufacturing sector in GDP has been increasing steadily and has shown a growth rate of over 8% over the years. Cotton-yarn and textiles lead the manufacturing sector. With the liberalization of the economy and the structural reforms initiated by the government, there has been a growing emphasis on the development of the engineering, electrical and non-electrical machinery, automobile, processed food and chemical industries. The economic package being implemented by the Government of Pakistan encompasses a comprehensive program to revitalize the economy, assigning high priority to harnessing the potential of the agricultural sector, promoting small and medium-sized industries, stimulating industrial growth, encouraging oil and gas sector development and arranging the growth of the software and information technology industry.
Owing to the policies of the government to adopt a market-friendly approach, Pakistan is now viewed as a leading emerging market. This perception has resulted in a strong flow of foreign investment and collaboration in various fields. Pakistan offers very profitable investment opportunities to both local and foreign investors, and private investment is being encouraged in major sectors of the economy. Pakistan has a fairly large market with an availability of skilled and trained manpower at competitive rates. There is also a large emerging middle class in the country. Pakistan, due to its strategic location, provides an ideal transit route to the markets of Iran, Central Asian Republics and the Middle East.
Pakistan has a developed financial sector consisting of many public, private and foreign commercial banks and other financial institutions. Commercial banks have assets of over 1 trillion rupees, of which domestic banks hold about 80% and the rest shared by foreign banks. In addition to providing working capital and long-term financing to investors, these banks offer a range of vital facilities, such as remittances of profits or dividends and foreign currency accounts. Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have developed stock exchanges with an aggregate capitalization of over $20 billion. Hence, Pakistan is an attractive destination for expanding economic activity.
High-quality Telecom and IT services are available in the country. The government has waived all taxes on items pertaining to information technology and all duties have been lifted from raw materials imported from re-export purposes. Pakistan’s record in intellectual proprietary rights has been good and there is a stable legal system that offers protection to all. Law and order has been under control. The constitution and business laws are in place, which provide the most liberal investment policies for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in all economic sectors. The country features attractive investment incentives and equal-investment opportunities for foreign and domestic investors. Repatriation of capital, profits and dividends is fully allowed. Pakistan is proud of having an investor-friendly environment with single-window opportunity.