13 June 2017
Promoting Pakistan Development
After attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, a top-level Pakistan delegation, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, visited Hong Kong to boost Pakistan’s position as an investment and development destination under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Traveling with the delegation to promote Pakistan’s growth potential, Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan offered his thoughts on the future of the country’s development under the Initiative and Hong Kong’s role as a business and investment partner.
“We want Hong Kong investors to look at Pakistan as a major growth centre and profit opportunity, where they can invest and get very handsome returns.”
What brought your delegation to Hong Kong?
We are here to follow-up on our visit to Beijing last weekend to the Belt and Road Forum. Pakistan holds one part of the Belt and Road, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is essentially connecting the western Chinese city of Kashgar to Pakistan’s southwestern port of Gwadar – which is right at the edge of the Persian Gulf. It is a major infrastructure undertaking; it includes building roads, railways, airports and ports. The reason we are here in Hong Kong, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is to hold an investor forum in order to attract investment from Hong Kong, principally on infrastructure in Pakistan, and for professional services, including infrastructure design. We want Hong Kong investors to look at Pakistan as a major growth centre and profit opportunity, where they can invest and get very handsome returns because Pakistan is poised for growth.
What is the potential of infrastructure projects such as the Gwadar Port?
Gwadar Port has tremendous significance. It is the first-ever connection from western parts of China to the sea. Until now, all of China had to go to the east coast, to Hong Kong or Shanghai, to do international trade. Now, from western China at least, there is a much shorter route available to the Arabian Sea and onwards to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Goods that have been produced in the western half of China can be trucked to Gwadar and sent anywhere across the world.
What are the advantages of partnering with Hong Kong and what professional services can Hong Kong offer Pakistan?
It’s principally financial and legal services. Hong Kong is a natural trade centre for us because it’s an opening to mainland China. There is a lot of investment that we are currently receiving from China and those investors are more comfortable having Hong Kong as a centre where the financial deals are structured. We are also exploring the possibility of using the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to list some of our energy projects as companies as soon as they are finished. We are also exploring the possibility of raising capital through the stock exchange. The Prime Minister’s purpose in coming here is to tell Hong Kong investors that Pakistan is now peaceful and growing. So it is time to look at Pakistan seriously and to begin investing in Pakistan as China has done.
What advice do you have for Hong Kong traders interested in doing business with or investing in Pakistan?
First of all, they should visit the Consulate General of Pakistan here. The Consul General of Pakistan is actually a commercial officer; he’s there to assist trade. Begin using the services of the Consulate and through them, reach us in the Ministry of Commerce. We will also be partnering very closely with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) through the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. Very soon, we would like them to have an institutional arrangement through which they could cooperate as partnering organisations that investors can go to and find partners in Pakistan to mobilise their investment as soon as possible.
How can Hong Kong facilitate Pakistan’s participation in Belt and Road projects?
Because of its history, Hong Kong has tremendous international linkages in finance. So I think many companies would be much more comfortable going through Hong Kong, than dealing directly with mainland China, for investment. Pakistan has had repressed growth in the last two decades because of very serious internal issues, but I’m delighted to say those issues are behind us and Pakistan is ready to grow. I hope that investment from Hong Kong and partnerships with Hong Kong will be part of Pakistan’s growth story that is to come very soon.
Belt and Road