Hafeez Shaikh upbeat on economic performance, sees consolidation ahead

WASHINGTON: Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Tuesday concluded his visit to Washington with the confidence that hopeful macro-economic performance, coupled with expected investment inflows into Pakistan would help bolster the national economy.

Dr Shaikh, who led Pakistan to IMF-World Bank annual meetings and discussed bilateral cooperation with senior US officials and counterparts from friendly countries, said during his engagements he advocated greater trade access for Pakistani products and sought investment in energy, infrastructure and other promising area.

The Pakistani delegation’s 53 meetings included discussions with IMF and World Bank leaders on cooperation towards Pakistan’s economic development.The finance minister listed a series of positive indicators on the external front including a 24 per cent jump in exports in the first two months of the new fiscal year on top of 30 per cent growth last year.

The first two months have also seen a 24 per cent increase in tax revenue and a 40 per cent leap in foreign remittances that follow last year’s record $ 11.5 billion, he added.Additionally, foreign exchange reserves remain at comfortable levels at over $ 18 billion. These factors were a major reason in Pakistan’s not seeking a fresh arrangement with the International Monetary Fund.

“So, the coming year will be a year of consolidation for us,” Dr Shaikh said, sitting beside Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Husain Haqqani at the Pakistani embassy.At the same time, the finance minister acknowledged challenges ahead including those in the power sector reforms. Responding to a question about an international finance institution’s report about economic risks in the country, he referred to upbeat performance in external sectors and his job is to present facts to the people.

Besides, Pakistan offers tremendous investment opportunities in a host of areas including energy and infrastructure. During his visit, the finance minister had meetings with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development.Dr Shaikh met with US officials including Deputy Secretary Treasury Neal Wolin, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, USAID Chief Rajiv Shah and discussed bilateral economic cooperation with an emphasis on easing trade access for Pakistani products.

Dr Shaikh also interacted with Pakistan-US Business Council and invited American and Pakistani-American business leaders to make use of attractive investment opportunities existing in several sectors of the economy.Pakistan’s $ 11.2 billion arrangement with the IMF will conclude on September 30, the finance minister confirmed. However, he said, cooperation with the Fund will continue and an IMF mission will visit Pakistan in November for Article IV consultations.The finance minister told his interlocutors and American think tank experts that Islamabad remains committed to pursuing reforms in key sectors. During the visit, the World Bank signed an agreement with Pakistan to provide $300 million for promotion of higher education in the country.

An American finance agency OPIC inked an agreement to provide $ 20 million to a Pakistani company for construction of a modern 28-storey building in Karachi that would house business offices.The IFC has indicated its agreement to give $ 150 million to bolster small and medium businesses in Pakistan. The International Finance Corporation has been giving $ 1 billion dollars annually to Pakistan for energy, agri business, financial sector and housing. Meanwhile, China and Saudi Arabia showed interest in investment prospects in energy and infrastructure projects, Hafeez Shaikh said.

According to Dr Hafeez Shaikh, Pakistan received a total of $ one billion in assistance from the United States last year. It included half a billion dollars in aid under the Kerry Lugar Act.The finance minister was accompanied during the visit by top economic managers including Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Acting Governor State Bank Anwar Yasin, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Nadeem ul Haq, Chairman Federal Board of Revenue Salman Siddique, Secretary Economic Affairs Abdul Wajid Rana and Minister Economic aat the embassy Zahid Hafeez. – Brecorder