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Pakistan taking steps to improve governance, PM Shehbaz assures potential Chinese investors

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BEIJING: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said Pakistan was taking steps to improve governance, increase the tax net and ensure ease of doing business to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

During a meeting with China Exim Bank President Dr Wu Fulin in Beijing today, the premier said the results of reform measures had started appearing as the “inflation in the food sector had been controlled to a great extent”.

He said that the current account deficit had narrowed and public debt had been brought to a more sustainable level, Radio Pakistan said.

On Tuesday, PM Shehbaz and most of the federal cabinet members landed in China’s tech hub of Shenzhen as they embarked on their five-day trip to the neighbouring country to seek more investments.

This is the premier’s first visit to China following the February 8 general elections, and will likely see the inauguration of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The trip has led to a delay in the annual federal budget — usually presented in the first week of June — and is now expected to be presented next week after PM Shehbaz signs it off following his return, according to sources.

A day ago, the premier had empha­sised the need for business-to-business cooperation between the two nations and assured Chinese investors of all-out facilitation and foolproof security.

He had also invited technology giant Huawei to invest in Pakistan’s taxation and e-governance sectors besides enhancing its presence in the various Safe City projects operational across the country. The two nations also signed 32 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to promote trade and investment.

Speaking to the Exim Bank president today, the prime minister said the upgradation project of the cross-country rail line, Main Line-1 (ML-1), was ready for investment, Radio Pakistan stated.

Highlighting Pakistan’s desire for Chinese investment in the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway project, PM Shehbaz said the country wanted to learn from its neighbour’s experiences to uplift the agriculture sector.

The prime minister appreciated Exim Bank’s continued support for the modernisation of Pakistan’s industries, agriculture and IT sectors, the report added.

Shehbaz and Fulin also discussed joint venture projects of the two countries and the possible role of the Chinese Exim Bank in trade financing as part of efforts to promote Pakistan’s exports in international markets, it stated.

According to Radio Pakistan, Fulin stressed that every Pakistani project was a priority for the China EXIM Bank.

He emphasised the importance of economic and financial cooperation under CPEC Phase II and China Exim Bank’s strategic partnership with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz also expressed Pakistan’s desire for Chinese investment in the ML-1 upgradation project in a meeting with China International Development Cooperation Agency (Cidca) Chairman Luo Zhaohui, Radio Pakistan reported.

Emphasising the need for cooperation between Pakistan and China in agriculture, tech, blue economy, communication, minerals and mining, the premier assured Zhaohui that the security of Chinese nationals in Pakistan was the government’s priority.

The prime minister commended Cidca’s pivotal role in supporting Pakistan during the Covid-19 pandemic, the post-2022 flood reconstruction and in the grant of polio vaccines, the report said.

According to Radio Pakistan, Zhaohui offered Cidca’s support to Pakistan in Special Economic Zones and the health sector.

PM Shehbaz also met with the chairman of China Northern Industry Corporation, asserting that the Pakistani government was facilitating FDI and inviting him to invest in the KCR project, Radio Pakistan reported.

Cabinet committee on SIFC formed

Separately, the government has constituted a cabinet committee on the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to ensure the implementation of recommendations within the contours of the body, Radio Pakistan reported.

The committee will submit decisions to the federal cabinet for approval, it stated.

PM Shehbaz will chair the committee while Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir, chief ministers and the national coordinator will attend its meetings on special invitation, Radio Pakistan said.