Saudi to make biggest foreign investment in Pakistan's history: finance minister

Updated December 13, 2018

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Finance Minister Asad Umar says an incoming foreign investment package from Saudi Arabia will be the biggest in Pakistan's history. ─ AFP/File
Finance Minister Asad Umar says an incoming foreign investment package from Saudi Arabia will be the biggest in Pakistan's history. ─ AFP/File

Finance Minister Asad Umar on Thursday said that an incoming investment package from Saudi Arabia, which promises to be "the biggest foreign investment in Pakistan history", will be announced soon.

"The ball is in our court. We have to get cabinet approval next week, after which an announcement will be made," he said, addressing an event in Islamabad.

He added that he keeps getting messages from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman "through other people to hurry up".

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been in talks recently over a bailout package for Islamabad. At a time when various foreign countries and business delegations were pulling out of an investment conference in Saudi after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Prime Minister Imran Khan attended the event, inviting foreign investors to put their money into projects in Pakistan.

It was the prime minister's second visit to Saudi Arabia since assuming office, and came as Pakistan was on the lookout for "friendly" nations to court in search of billions of dollar to shore up its deteriorating finances in the face of a balance of payments crisis and talks with the International Monetary Fund over a possible bailout.

'People keep asking when we will jail thieves'

The finance minister, responding to a question, said that he keeps being asked "When will you jail the thieves? This is the demand of the people of Pakistan," he added.

Umar said that he had attended a dinner in Karachi on Sunday with members of Pakistan's business, corporate and executive elite, who had advised him to school Imran Khan "to look forward now and stop harping on about corruption".

"But wherever I come across a Pakistani citizen, they ask me, 'When will you jail the thieves?'," he said. "This class divide has always existed."

"It's a challenge, it's a double-edged sword. You've made a commitment for bringing accountability into society, which demands that if a pickpocket goes to jail for stealing, so does the person who loots the public. It is the leadership's responsibility to ensure that such a situation is not created, that a negative outlook does not prevail."

The minister said that the government is committed to the welfare of the people, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said that the government is focusing on economic revival in order to deliver, and that citizens would soon see "visible improvement".