LAHORE: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal has said the country can progress through political stability and continuity of the policies.

He was addressing the participants in a two-day Econ Fest session on “How to turnaround Pakistan?” at Alhamra on Saturday. Dr Adnan was the moderator.

Mr Iqbal said the nation was not facing any lack of mental and administrative capabilities but they would need continuity of policies for minimum 10 years.

He said the country was lucky to get three opportunities to make progress but could not do so. “The nation had got first chance in 1960s to progress by opening ways for investments and the 1965 war ruined the chances, secondly, in 1991 when prime minister Nawaz Sharif had opened the market for investors and his government was sent packing within two years and thirdly, during their last tenure by starting the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).”

He said the CPEC brought about heavy investment of $29 billion in the country but the regime change in 2018 had reversed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the investors were scandalised in corruption cases and those who brought the investment from China were put in death cells.

Mr Iqbal said the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had created a big trust deficit among China and Pakistan and the current government was trying to end it.

He said only collective wisdom would benefit the country to build trust among investors. “We need a unifying force with collaborative strategies for continuity of policies to progress,” he said.

The federal minister said the government had established a forum of investors and economists known as “Champion of reforms network” and asked them to suggest reforms and help to come out of this difficult time.

He said the forum would also ensure and put pressure on any government to continue policies and reforms suggested both by the government and the forum. The members of the forum would include academia, civil society, and commerce and information technology and development experts.

He said the tax collection was not enough to fill the fiscal deficit gaps and the government would have to increase the collection.

Mr Iqbal said the government was following a 5-E framework including focusing on exports - enterprise and employment, E-Pakistan and empowerment - empowering youth, women and others, equity - education, health and population, energy - affordable and efficient, and environment - water and food security.

He said the RLNG plants were shut down because they could not afford costly LNG due to the Ukraine war.

“We are working for renewable energy and starting with 10,000 megawatt solar energy and steps are being taken to instal solar power at every public office.”

He said the government had identified 20 districts of the country lagging behind in development and were conducting surveys to bring them to the mainstream.

Replying to a query about politicians sending their children to foreign countries for education, the federal minister said the government was also starting scholarships for the students to go abroad and learn techniques to uplift the country.

“We do not have a single world-level university in the country. We are establishing a university at district level to give locals access to education and would also invest in 10 to 15 other universities to make them world-class institutes,” he said.

To a question about legal hitches in the system for foreign direct investment, he said the Reko Diq case was an example of hindrance in FDI because the investors had to face several legal problems. “We have not earned a single dollar from Reko Diq but have to pay $9bn to the company as damages,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2023

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