MFN-status to India paradigmatic shift in policy

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari today said that granting Most Favoured Nation-status to India was a "paradigmatic shift in policy driven by the business sectors on both sides of the border".

Zardari made the remarks at a dinner hosted by the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry at the presidency in Islamabad.

"The decision would reconstruct the region`s economies and increase its stability," he said.

The dinner was attended by envoys, diplomats, members of the LCCI executive committee, several Governors, federal ministers and parliamentarians.

Pakistan recently switched over to a negative list regime for trade, paving the way for MFN-status to be granted to India by the beginning of new year. Under the new regime, the import of only 1,209 Indian items has been barred by the government.

Zardari said Pakistan is committed to promoting an investor-friendly environment and is offering the most liberal investment policy regime in the region. The incentives include full repatriation of capital, capital gains, dividends and profits, he said.

He listed poor infrastructure, power cuts and an inadequate gas supply among the major challenges to Pakistan`s economy. Another major issue was the lack of access to international markets, which would allow Pakistan to focus on trade and not aid, he said.

Zardari called on the international community to invest in Pakistan and said his government will provide the "best possible enabling environment for foreign investments".

"Pakistan is committed to promote an investor-friendly environment and it has much more to offer than bad news only," he said.

The most pressing economic problem is the energy crisis, which is at the root of all economic problems, he said.

Efforts are underway to increase electricity production and the government wants to diversify sources of power generation and is working on coal, thermal and wind power plants, he added.

The government is also seeking to import gas and electricity from other countries and progress has been made in this regard, Zardari said.

Zardari also highlighted the impact of the war on terror on Pakistan`s economy and development and said the country has lost over USD 100 billion in foreign investment and progress in many social programmes had to be frozen.

This year, real growth in gross domestic product is likely to reach four per cent, which will be nearly double last year`s rate.

During the first nine months of the current year, tax collection increased by 24 per cent while exports increased by 5.5 per cent over last year`s base of USD 25 billion.