PM Shehbaz Sharif emphasises governance reforms to attract foreign investment during China visit

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced on Thursday that Pakistan is implementing measures to enhance governance, broaden the tax base, and streamline business operations to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). These steps were discussed during a meeting with China Exim Bank President Dr. Wu Fulin in Beijing, as reported by state-run Radio Pakistan.

Prime Minister Sharif highlighted that the reforms are yielding positive outcomes, notably in controlling inflation within the food sector. He also noted significant improvements in the country’s economic indicators, including a narrowed current account deficit and a more sustainable public debt level.

Strategic economic discussions in China

During his visit to China’s tech hub of Shenzhen, accompanied by most of the federal cabinet members, Prime Minister Sharif aimed to secure further investments. This marks his first visit to China since the general elections held on February 8, and it includes the anticipated inauguration of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The premier’s trip has led to a delay in the presentation of the annual federal budget, which is now expected next week following his return. Sources indicate that PM Shehbaz will review and sign off on the budget upon his return.

Promoting business-to-business cooperation

In a series of meetings, Prime Minister Sharif underscored the importance of business-to-business collaboration between Pakistan and China. He reassured Chinese investors of comprehensive facilitation and security, inviting technology giant Huawei to invest in Pakistan’s taxation and e-governance sectors. Additionally, he encouraged Huawei to enhance its role in the various Safe City projects across the country.

The two nations also signed 32 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) aimed at boosting trade and investment. In his discussions with the Exim Bank president, the prime minister mentioned that the Main Line-1 (ML-1) rail upgradation project is ready for investment. He also expressed a keen interest in Chinese investment for the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway project and learning from China’s agricultural advancements.

Support for industrial and economic modernisation

Prime Minister Sharif commended the ongoing support from Exim Bank in modernising Pakistan’s industries, agriculture, and IT sectors. The dialogue also touched on potential joint venture projects and the role of China Exim Bank in trade financing to promote Pakistan’s exports in global markets.

Dr. Wu Fulin of China Exim Bank affirmed that Pakistani projects are a priority, emphasising the strategic partnership between the two countries and the significance of economic and financial cooperation under CPEC Phase II.

Collaborative efforts with Cidca

In another meeting with China International Development Cooperation Agency (Cidca) Chairman Luo Zhaohui, Prime Minister Sharif reiterated the need for bilateral cooperation in agriculture, technology, the blue economy, communications, and mineral and mining sectors. He assured Zhaohui that the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan is a top government priority.

The prime minister lauded Cidca’s support during the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2022 flood recovery efforts, and in providing polio vaccines. Zhaohui expressed Cidca’s willingness to assist Pakistan in developing Special Economic Zones and improving the health sector.

Invitation for further investment

Prime Minister Sharif also met with the chairman of China Northern Industry Corporation, inviting investment in the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project and emphasising Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating foreign direct investment (FDI).

Formation of cabinet committee on SIFC

Separately, the Pakistani government has established a cabinet committee on the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to ensure the implementation of its recommendations. The committee will submit its decisions to the federal cabinet for approval, with Prime Minister Sharif as the chair. The meetings will include Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, chief ministers, and the national coordinator as special invitees.

These discussions and initiatives highlight Pakistan’s efforts to foster economic growth and stability by attracting substantial foreign investments and enhancing bilateral relations with China.

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