• SBP’s Naya Pakistan Certificates launched
• Imran hints at special incentives for setting up STZs
• Admits existence of wheat and sugar crises
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said except food inflation, the country’s economy is heading in the right direction and it is for the first time in recent history that the current account has become surplus.
Addressing the launching ceremony of Naya Pakistan Certificates introduced by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), he admitted that people had been facing the wheat and sugar crises in the country but vowed that such situation would not happen in future.
“Except food inflation, which is also on the rise in India due to pressure on supply chain, the country’s major economic indicators are moving in the positive direction,” the prime minister claimed.
He said the wheat crisis had occurred due to unexpected rains during the harvesting season while sugar shortage and price hike were caused by cartelisation by sugar mill owners. “But I assure you that we have taken effective steps to ensure that this will not happen in future,” he added.
“The government inherited a $20 billion current account deficit and after 17 years the current account has become surplus and there has been no increase in foreign loans during the last four months,” Mr Khan said.
He explained that the increase in the current account deficit and higher imports had caused pressure on the rupee and in turn led to price hike of imported commodities like gas, edible oil and pulses.
The prime minister said besides the major achievement of bringing the current account in surplus, the government had also succeeded in securing 24 per cent increase in exports receipt of (overseas) workers’ remittances had been enhanced.
He expressed pleasure that with the achievement of stability in primary balance – difference in revenue and expenditure — there was no increase in the country’s loans during the last four months.
The prime minister said with the country’s major economic indicators showing positive trends, there was a need to take special initiatives and offer incentives to attract investment from expatriates who, according to some estimates, owned dollars equal to Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We have to strive and find out ways to attract overseas Pakistanis, who are progressing well in every sector abroad, and, I know and according to some estimates, own the amount of dollars equivalent to our GDP.”
The Naya Pakistan Certificates issued for overseas and resident Pakistanis with declared assets abroad offer “very attractive expected rates of 5.5 to 7 per cent” on dollar investment and “9.5 to 11 per cent” on rupee investment.
The prime minister said with rising Islamophobia and varying interest rates in the West, the certificates, which offered attractive rates of return, provided an opportunity to overseas Pakistanis to invest their hard-earned money in their homeland for their own and the country’s benefit.
He said a well-performing stock market – best in Asia –, booming construction industry, record sales of cement and other construction materials, boost in textile industry and higher sales of motorcycles and cars were reflective of the fact that the economy was on the right path.
The prime minister praised the SBP, the finance ministry and his economic team for their contribution to the boost to the economy.
Special Technology Zones
In a meeting on establishment of Special Technology Zones (STZs), Prime Minister Khan directed the authorities concerned to finalise special incentives for setting up STZs in the country to attract precious foreign investments, saying many talented overseas Pakistanis were interested in investing in the sector.
He emphasised that Pakistan had immense potential in information technology sector, which needed to be optimally tapped, both for fulfilling the country’s domestic requirements and exporting IT-related products.
The prime minister said young Pakistani population would get maximum advantages from promoting the neglected IT sector of the country.
The meeting was attended by Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, adviser to the PM on finance; Dr Waqar Masood Khan, special assistant to the PM on revenue; Dr Reza Baqir, governor of the SBP; and senior government officials.
Meeting on housing
Presiding over a meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Housing, Construction and Development, the prime minister said the government had prescribed the method of provision of gas and electricity to new housing projects in the country.
He said no delay should be made in issuances of No Objection Certificate to the investors in housing and construction sector and all facilities should be given to them.
The meeting was told that the process of mapping had started in major cities – including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Nowshera — to get state land vacated from encroachers.