American investors say that their biggest problem in Pakistan is not corruption but the delays that our government creates. They say that it is frustrating because the government is overcautious and unable to make necessary decisions.
Another complaint is that the government in Pakistan does not do its homework. It makes tall claims but when investors want to follow up, see the required studies or paperwork, even permits are not arranged.
The most cautious ministry is the finance ministry, investors say. There is also no direction or long-term plan for Pakistan’s economy which they find frustrating. Another problem they say is that it is difficult to get prospective investors to invest in Pakistan because of the country’s poor image.
For this, they blame the media. They say that the media should do more good news stories out of Pakistan. What is ironic is that Pakistan is one of the most profitable places in the world but many companies are pulling out, investors say. Nobody talks about the success stories - of which there are many. Instead, the government and the media focus on negativity.
American investors say that they are tired of the bureaucratic hurdles. They add that it is difficult to fly in American investment teams because of the averse travel advisories that are written about Pakistan. “Investors like certainty,” said one businessman.
Another issue is the currency depreciation because of which many investors say that their dollar investments are depreciated when made in Rupees and this cancels their profitability.
The Americans say that Chinese investment in Pakistan is of a short-term nature and will not give fair value. They say that the Chinese are only interested in Pakistan’s natural resources. We argue with them that this is not the case. But they insist that this is the Chinese game plan for the entire world.
In all this, what is becoming increasingly clear is that the ROZ industrial zones, much promised by the US for economic uplift of backward areas in Pakistan, is not happening any time soon. Neither are US markets opening for Pakistani exports in the near future.
The whole mantra of “trade not aid” does not suit many in both Washington and Islamabad. Despite the best intentions of those who are pushing for allowing for more trade with Pakistan, it’s not increasing any time soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ