Minister for Investment, Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan Monday said Pakistan had not given land to Saudi Arabia or any other country, however, the Gulf states were keen to acquire land in the sub-continent for agriculture purposes due to growing fear of food scarcity as underground water level in these countries had significantly declined.
Giving a detailed briefing to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly about new investment policy here, the minister dispelled the impression that the government was giving over five hundred thousand acres of land to Saudi Arabia for agriculture purposes.
“We have not yet given land to any country, including Saudi Arabia. However, legal work is being carried out by the Punjab government for such a project in Cholistan,” he said, adding the land was a provincial subject and intending countries would be referred to the respective provinces.The minister said Gulf countries were keen to acquire land in Pakistan for agriculture but nothing concrete had surfaced so far in this regard. He said the federal government’s proposal was based on crop sharing with locals on 50-50 basis, and land would not be transferred to foreign investors but to be given on lease for a specific period in the light of investment made by them.Earlier, in his briefing to the committee, the Secretary Investment said the policy was framed to create industrial clusters and the Economic Co-ordination Committee approved the establishment of SEZs by the private sector.He said, “The policy provides tax holidays and duty-free import of plant and machinery with one widow facility to investors.” He said the zones would be of various type including export processing zones, free trade zones, hybrid export processing zones, multilateral economic zones, reconstruction opportunity zones, regional development zones, and sector development zones.
The Secretary said each province would have a SEZs authority, and alternate dispute resolution through arbitration was also suggested in the policy to satisfy the foreign investors, particularly those from the USA, who were worried over tedious dispute resolution process in Pakistan.
The minister said the policy would be placed before parliament by next month provided it was cleared by all stakeholders and parliamentary committees. Waqar said foreign investors were more concerned about issues like transparency and continuity of policies instead of security. “The first question they ask is whether the policies and political stability would continue with the arrival of a new government.”Keeping this in mind it was decided to place the policy before parliament to involve all the political parties and get unanimous approval. The investors would be provided all kinds of protection in the policy for which the legislation was in process. The minister said foreign investors were ready to invest in agriculture, IT, oil, gas and infrastructure, but their precondition was assurance about continuity of policies for the next 10 to 15 years.To a question, he said the government planned to set up an LNG plant in Karachi to address the issue of energy. For this plan, he said, the government would have dialogue with energy providing countries to devise a mechanism to have this facility within two years.
Gas would be pumped into SSGCL infrastructure that would help in at least two million metric tons load management. The minister said Pakistan had huge reserves of 220 billion tons of coal in Thar, and the government’s plan was to set up a plant for generating over 5,000 mega watts electricity. He said Thar coal reserves could sustain for over 150 to 200 years.
Courtesy: Business Recorder