Shehbaz to visit UAE amid push for investment

PM would focus on persuading the Gulf country to invest in Pakistan, say sources

Kamran Yousaf May 21, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif giving interview to Al Arabiya English. PHOTO: FILE


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is expected to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this week as part of efforts to lure investment from the Gulf countries.

Ahead of his visit to the Gulf country, the prime minister will visit Tehran on Wednesday (tomorrow) to offer condolences on the sad demise of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian and other high ranking officials in a helicopter crash.

Prime Minister Shehbaz will hold meetings with UAE leadership, which according to sources, would focus on persuading the Gulf country to invest in Pakistan.

The government is eyeing billions of dollars investment from Gulf countries particularly from Saudi Arabia and UAE to shore up the country’s foreign reserves and spur industrial growth.

The civil-military led Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) was established during the first term of Shehbaz government. The council is meant to offer one window operation to foreign investors.

The SIFC has since then identified several potential areas for Saudi and UAE investors. The government is offering lucrative returns to Arab investors in the fields of agriculture, mines and minerals, energy and other sectors.

In one of the interactions with business community in Lahore last year, the army chief hoped that under the SIFC, Saudi Arabia and UAE would invest a whopping $70 billion in the next 3 to 5 years.

Also read: PM Shehbaz to attend funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran

As part of those efforts, Prime Minister Shehbaz visited Saudi Arabia last month and the two countries agreed to expedite the process of the first phase of $5 billion investment.

On the instructions of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, a high-powered Saudi delegation led by the Saudi foreign minister travelled to Islamabad soon after Shehbaz’s trip. The delegation included senior Saudi ministers and close aides of the Saudi de facto ruler.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan was impressed with the presentation given to the Saudi delegation by the SIFC. Recently, another Saudi delegation comprising top executives of Saudi companies visited Islamabad in order to explore opportunities for investment.

The Saudi crown prince was expected to travel to Pakistan this month to announce the investment plans. However, the visit is now being rescheduled.

Last week, Deputy Prime minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar spoke to his Saudi counterpart and both discussed the visit of the Saudi crown prince to Pakistan.

Sources said besides Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is trying to convince the UAE to take advantage of incentives being offered to foreign investors.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have emerged major financial life lines for Pakistan in recent years. Both countries have bailed out Pakistan on crucial occasions.

But both countries want Pakistan to shift their focus from bailouts to leveraging the investment potential the country possesses. UAE and Saudi Arabia have billions of dollars investment funds and they intend to use those funds to diversify their economies.


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