Zardari invites Japanese investors to rejuvenate Pakistan’s economy

TOKYO: Seeking cooperation of Japanese investors to explore enormous possibilities of strengthening and expanding business relations with Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday invited the Japanese Business Community to rejuvenate Pakistan’s economy through their individual contribution, joint venture or consortia and help Pakistan. Commenting on investment-friendly environment established by the present government, the President said,” Pakistan is a natural route for trade and energy corridors for central Asia and west Asia and the government has designated a 2000-acre Special Economic Zone (SEZ) exclusively for the Japanese investors near the port city of Karachi.”The President was addressing a luncheon meeting with Japan Pakistan Business Cooperation  Committee (JPBCC) here on the second day of his three-day visit to Japan.He said that a Japan-Pakistan Special Task Force has been set up to fast-track interaction in trade, economy and investment and to cut through the usual red tape.“Pakistan has steadfastly pursued liberalization and de-regulation of economy, continued with liberal and friendly policies for foreign investors and the privatization process. There is no upper limit of foreign equity and no restriction on repatriation of capital, profits and dividends,” the President maintained.Among other leading companies, the luncheon meeting was also participated by the chief executives of Sharp Corporation, Toyota Tsusno Corporation, Mitsubishi, Toyota Motors, Jetro, Marubeni Corporation, JCCI, AEON Ltd, Mitsui and Co Ltd, Suzuki Motors Corporation, Meiji Gakuin University, ORIX Corporation, Honda Motors Company Ltd and Panasonic.President Zardari said that Pakistan was strategically located in the neighbourhood of the mega markets of China, India, energy rich Central Asia, West Asia and the affluent Gulf region and it could act as a hub for exports to these regions with its own 170 million consumers, backed up by availability of abundant raw material, cheap and skilled labour.He said that with an attractive package of tax incentives, investments in Pakistan were given comprehensive legal protection.The President said that Pakistan was an energy deficient country and its deficiency was an opportunity for the foreign investments. Pakistan had coal deposits of 180 billion metric tones in southeast of the country and similarly the southern coast provided tremendous potential of wind energy. Other key sectors offering profitable ventures were agriculture, infrastructure development and mining.President Zardari said that Pakistan and Japan have  enjoyed decades of cordial, political and economic relations but the potential existing in trade and economic sectors between the two countries is yet to be fully realized.

Pakistan with its continued economic growth has attracted more than US$24 billion in Foreign Direct Investments in the last ten years where an inflow of US$6.6 billion has been witnessed during the tenure of the present government, he said.The major investments, the President said, were made in telecom, oil and gas, financial businesses and power sectors besides textiles, construction, chemicals, trade and transport.The exports witnessed a growth of 10 per cent in the fiscal year 2010 and are projecting a very healthy outlook for the current fiscal year, the President said, adding, foreign exchange reserves were well over $ 17 billion today against $10.8 billion, when the government came into power.The government has effectively controlled depreciation in the value of its currency, which is now stable and trading at an appreciated level compared to 2008-09, he added.The Karachi Stock Exchange Index , which serves a nerve centre for the state of economy is trading well over 12000 points today as compared to 550-0 in December 2008, he said.“The government is bringing structural reforms for fiscal discipline, transparency, improved tax  governance and widening the tax net, he said, adding, “it is also eliminating subsidies, containing fiscal deficit and inflation and has embarked upon a massive drive against poverty by introducing  Benazir Income Support Programme to support millions of poverty ridden households at their doorsteps and economic support to jobless youth.”

He said the government was committed to support the agriculture sector, patronage of industry and trade, human resource and skill development, integrated energy programme, public-private partnership.On the political side, the President said, the government had a chosen conciliatory path with all the political forces against the history of confrontation which had helped it to resolve issues of national interest and bring landmark constitutional changes with consensus.President Zardari said that a strong economy was the key of winning the war against terrorists and their outfits, adding, the people with steady employment and prospects of a better future for them and their children were less likely to turn towards violence and terrorism.About Pakistan economy, the President said that it had faced massive challenges and setbacks in the past few years. The devastating earthquake in 2005, worst floods of Pakistan history in July, last, the colossal impact of our role as the front-line state against terrorism, supplemented by global recession are all enough to flatten any economy of the world, he said, adding, “the strength of Pakistan’s economy is evident from its continuous positive growth despite these catastrophic odds”.The President said that the present government inherited a crisis ridden economy  and despite its resilience the economy was under severe stress due to fiscal chaos and shortsightedness of the previous dictatorial regime. The present democratic government, he said, moved immediately to address the most immediate risks and entered into a macro-economic stabilization programme and reforms with IMF assistance, he added.The fiscal year 2009-2010, which was only the second of the government, witnessed a growth of 4.1 percent in GDP against 1.2 percent in the previous year, he said, adding, the major turnaround was in the manufacturing sector, where a negative growth of -3.7 percent in 2008-09, turned into positive 5.2 percent in 2009-10.

The President said that the GDP in current fiscal year was expected to grow by 2.3 percent despite the fact that unprecedented floods in 2010, damaged crops on millions of hectares, livestock, agro based industry, infrastructure, disrupted manufacturing and trading activities besides displacing more than 20 million people.President of the Marubeni Corporation and Chairman of the Japan Pakistan Businesses Cooperation Committee (JPBCC) Teruo Asada told reporters after the meeting that they were going to invest in agriculture, communication, railways, mines and infrastructure development in Pakistan. He said that trade volume between Japan and Pakistan had reached to $100 million and Japan wanted to further boost its trade ties with Pakistan.Chief Executive of Trade Development of Pakistan Tariq Puri said that President Zardari’s visit would fetch more investment in Pakistan and boost value added exports to Japan and other countries.He said, Japan was one of the big importers of textile with a total volume of $90 billion with 85 per cent from China. He said that Pakistan had a good opportunity to expedite its exports to Japan as Japanese companies, already working in Pakistan, could outsource Pakistani products to Japan.He said that Pakistan would start export of mangoes to Japan on test basis and  its full fledged exports would start very soon, which would fetch a reasonable foreign exchange.President of Rice Exporters Corporation Ishaq Ahmed Sheikh said that Japan would provide technology and capital to manufacture rice products. He said that cooking oil made from rice was most suitable for cardio vascular  patients, which was highly popular in Japan – APP