Says he wishes he could follow President’s Xi’s example; invites Chinese investment in agriculture, textile, tourism and other sectors; discusses socioeconomic ties with Premier Li
BEIJING: Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his desire to put 500 corrupt people in Pakistan behind bars, just as Chinese President Xi Jinping has done, to rid the country of corruption that he said was “one of the biggest impediments to investment”.
Speaking at the China Council for Promotion of International Trade after his arrival in Beijing on Tuesday, Prime Minister Khan said one thing he had learned from China was how the country’s leadership tackled corruption. “One of President Xi Jinping’s biggest crusades has been against corruption,” he said, adding that he had heard that some 400 “ministerial-level people” had been convicted on charges of corruption and put behind bars in the past five years.
“I wish I could follow President Xi’s example and put 500 corrupt people in Pakistan in jail,” Mr Khan said, “but unfortunately we have very cumbersome process and with time we’ll improve it.”
Recently the National Accountability Bureau announced that it would not probe tax evasion and bank default cases in an attempt to satisfy the country’s top businessmen who had shared serious concerns about the ongoing accountability process with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Khan in separate meetings last week.
The prime minister, who is on a two-day tour to China, said his top priority was to end red-tapism that was another form of corruption. “Since my government [party] has come to power, we have taken a decision that we will make it easier for investors to come into Pakistan and we will want them to make profits and encourage profitability.
“We had a mindset that when businesses started making profit, there was some sort of envy in our system, in bureaucracy and among politicians. They would somehow pull them down. This government is the first one after 1960 which is encouraging ease-of-doing business, as the concept is being driven by the Prime Minister’s Office itself,” he added.
He told the Chinese businessmen and investors that his government had just formed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority to resolve all problems of CPEC.
In CPEC’s Phase-I, he said, Gwadar Free Zone had been completed, work on Gwadar airport was under way and it would soon be completed. “Gwadar Smart Port City master plan has been approved,” he said, adding that issues of tariff and pending payment on energy projects were being resolved.
In the second phase, the PM said, the cooperation would focus on agriculture as Pakistan had one of the best fertile lands with one of the lowest productivity. “We would like to learn from Chinese expertise in high productivity, seed development, as well as fisheries,” he added.
The prime minister said prominent reasons to invest in Pakistan included strategic location, 220 billion population with 60 per cent nder 30, economic revival reforms and industrial clusters through special economic zones.
For Chinese investment, he said, the areas of attraction included textile, manufacturing, information technology and financial services, physical and technological logistics, food processing and agriculture, and tourism and hospitality. On scope in tourism sector, he mentioned Pakistan’s diverse terrain ranging from high peaks to sandy beaches and deserts as natural beauty. Whereas the area of religious tourism is another attraction as the country was a cradle of ancient civilizations including Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism etc.”
The government decided to build five million houses in five years. There’s a demand of 10 million houses in Pakistan. We want Chinese investment in the housing sector. Also, the oil and gas sector and the cooper and gold reserves as well as coal reserves offered tremendous opportunity, he said.
“The security situation has improved in Pakistan, which is now one of the safest places in the world, thanks to the intelligence agencies and security forces.”
“Now Pakistan is exactly where China was in 1978. It’s a great time to come and invest in the country. Our labour cost is just 20 per cent of the labour cost in China.
“The Prime Minister’s Office will dealing with the major investors in our country and CPEC will be dealt from the Prime Minister’s Office,” he assured the council.
Guard of honour
Later, the premier arrived at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang received him. He was presented a guard of honour, accompanied by a 19-gun salute.
PM Khan and Premier Li exchanged views on bilateral trade and economic partnership, and explored ways of increasing Pakistan’s exports to China. Both the leaders agreed that the implementation of the second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would lead to more trade, economic and investment opportunities between the two countries. Other areas of potential collaboration discussed in the meeting included railways, steel, oil and gas, industry and science and technology, according to a PM Office press release.
Extending felicitations on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China, Mr Khan underscored that the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China contributed to peace, development and stability in the region. He emphasized that expeditious completion of CPEC projects was the foremost priority of his government as the transformational project was pivotal to accelerating Pakistan’s economic development and regional prosperity.
Premier Li was apprised of the actions being undertaken to fast-track CPEC projects and to push the development momentum in Gwadar.
Premier Li underlined the salience of the abiding Pakistan-China relationship and reiterated China’s support for Pakistan’s issues of core national interest. He thanked PM Khan for the measures to advance the CPEC projects and maintained that the second phase of CPEC would be instrumental in reinforcing and consolidating Pakistan’s economic development and pave the way for enhanced Chinese investments in Pakistan.
The two sides also discussed regional security situation, including serious human rights violations in the India-held Jammu and Kashmir, as Mr Khan highlighted the need for of urgent action by the international community to alleviate the sufferings of the Kashmiri people.
The two leaders also witnessed signing of various agreements and memorandums of understanding aimed at deepening socioeconomic ties.
Prime Minister Khan reiterated his invitation to Premier Li to visit Pakistan at the earliest opportunity.
Foreign Minister, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Minister of Railways, Adviser on Commerce, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Energy, and Chairman of the Board of Investment, Chief of the Army Staff, Inter-Services Intelligence Director General, and other senior officials were present.
The bilateral talks were followed by a banquet hosted by Premier Li.
Meetings with corporate heads
The prime minister also held a series of meetings with the heads of major groups of companies in China dealing in oil and gas, mining, iron and steel, textile, power and energy sectors and invited them to invest in Pakistan. They included China Gezhouba Group Chairman Lyu Zexiang, Long March Tyre Company CEO Li Qingwen, Chairman of Board Orient Holdings Group Ltd Jiang Xueming, China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) Chairman Guo Wenqing.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, Commerce Adviser Razak Dawood, Special Assistant Nadeem Babar and Chairman Board of Investment Zubair Gillani and others also attended the meetings, says a press release issued here by the PM Office.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019