Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday invited foreign investors to Pakistan’s lucrative energy sector. Addressing an Energy Roundtable Conference here the Prime Minister hoped that deliberations will enable the government make necessary corrections in its policy framework to align it with best international practices and creating an enabling environment for investment. The Prime Minister appreciated the government of United Kingdom for organising the Energy Roundtable.
The event has been jointly organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the High Commissions of both countries and Pakistan’s Board of Investment. The Prime Minister said the primary object of discussions and deliberations was to share ideas and international best practices between policy makers and investors, for formulating an optimal energy policy for Pakistan. “Not only will we discuss electricity generation and distribution, we will also explore how to promote public private partnership in the energy sector.” He said the government would also like to know the incentives and policy framework that can spur private investment in the oil and gas sector of Pakistan. The Prime Minister said he remains committed to transforming the role of the government from a manager to a regulator.
“We would like to explore how to build the public sector’s ‘capacity to regulate’ in a short time. The experts’ review of their experiences in privatisation and regulation will enable us to identify an ideal policy mix for a transparent and enabling process.” Sharif said in the past decades, a revolution in technology and communications had transformed Pakistan’s traditional concepts of time and space. He said changes in the price of North Sea oil had affected the stock markets in Pakistan with a rapidity that was witnessed following an outbreak of a lethal virus.
“In an integrated world, we need to find shared solutions for shared problems,” the Prime Minister said. He said inclusive economic development required substantial investment in an efficient public infrastructure. Energy and communication infrastructures formed the backbone of industrial and social progress of any society, and it was mostly the private-sector led investments that had resulted in sustainable economic progress. “We have much to gain by learning lessons and best practices from the developed economies,” he said. The Prime Minister said at the time of taking office, his government inherited a challenging macroeconomic situation.
“We used our political capital to take tough decisions, which have resulted in significant improvement in all major economic indicators.” The Prime Minister said the government had reduced its budget deficit from over 8% in the fiscal year to less than 6% in its first year, and said the government was poised to end 2014-15 at around 5% fiscal deficit. “Our GDP growth, though insufficient, also increased to 4.1% last year, is expected to be around 5% this year, and over 7% before our term ends. We have also successfully controlled inflation by reducing wasteful spending, and our stock market has been one of the best performing international stock markets in the world.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he had no doubt that Pakistan was on the verge of rapid economic and social progress, despite being confronted by massive energy shortages. “This is a challenge that cannot be resolved with a patchwork of temporary measures, but requires a fundamental change in both policy and governance structures.”
“My successful experience of promoting public-private partnerships in banking and telecommunication sectors encourages me to pursue the same approach for the energy sector,” Sharif said. He said his vision was to develop a competitive energy market in Pakistan that on the one hand provided a fair return on investment, but on the other hand, it adequately protects the rights of consumers through a robust regulatory regime.
He said this would require significant capacity building of Pakistan planning and regulatory agencies in a challenging timeframe. The Prime Minister said he had tasked his team to attract investment from all over the world in generation, exploration, distribution and transmission of both power and gas sub-sectors.
“We are prepared to transfer management control for improving service delivery, while retaining majority shares in these companies. I fully realise that this turnaround will require our complete commitment and support.” The Prime Minister said he had always advocated the importance of regional connectivity for accelerated economic growth and prosperity of the people across national boundaries. He expressed confidence in the recently finalised initiative of CASA-1000 project, which links Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in a mutually beneficial relationship through an electricity transmission initiative.
“We are also trying to construct the TAPI gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Similarly, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will not only link the two countries, but also usher in an era of development, progress and prosperity for the people of the entire region.” He said his government aimed to develop one of the largest coal deposits in the world, at Thar in Sindh, as the future energy capital of Pakistan. He said the vast resources of Thar were enough to meet the energy needs of many countries in the region for tens of decades to come.
“My government is committed to providing a complete support to successful and early exploitation of these reserves,” he said. “I am confident that these initiatives will not only provide for commercially viable economic solutions but also strengthen peace and stability in the region,” he said. He said Pakistan and the United Kingdom shared strong and deep historical ties. “The mutual admiration and friendship between our two peoples has reinforced our understanding and co-operation.”
He said the British government, over the years, had been most supportive of Pakistan in all its endeavours. “It was therefore a matter of great satisfaction to me to receive Prime Minister David Cameron in Pakistan, as the first foreign leader, after I took oath of my office,” Sharif remarked.