ISLAMABAD: Representatives from the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) began vetting several development projects on Saturday in an effort to assess the country’s needs and consider its demands. At the same time, Pakistani officials made an impassioned appeal to the group for budgetary support for poverty alleviation in their country and for carrying out more development work.
The latest round of discussions were attended by representatives from 19 countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States, and officials of multilateral lending agencies, the European Union and the United Nations. The meeting was also attended by US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is chairing the FoDP meeting, lost no time in appealing for budgetary support for poverty alleviation in his country and for carrying out more development projects within the counter- terrorism framework.
With a little push from FoDP governments, the minister said, Pakistan can quickly be put on the path to significant economic growth with benefits trickling down to Pakistanis across the board.
On the one hand, he said, the FoDP process is focusing on Pakistan’s energy deficit, as well as helping in the implementation of the Malakand development strategy, and on the other hand it is expected to promote foreign investment in Pakistan through the mechanism of public-private partnership. “If [the report on the energy sector is] implemented in full, it will help Pakistan fix most of its energy problems”.
Qureshi said Pakistan continues to suffer enormously from terrorism and since 9/11 there have been 247 suicide attacks in Pakistan, killing over 3,000 civilians and injuring over 7,000.
He said the evil forces of terrorism have not even spared mosques, other religious places and the shrine of a Sufi saint in Lahore. “We have lost over 2,550 security personnel in our ongoing law-enforcement operations,” said the foreign minister. “Our cumulative economic losses are also substantial and according to conservative estimates, Pakistan has lost $43 billion in the last nine years and our exports and foreign investments have been badly hurt.”
Islamabad expects its FoDP partners to encourage their respective corporate sectors to invest in projects that were presented at the Dubai conference. The minister said that Pakistan is planning to hold the second public-private partnership conference in Islamabad sometime this year or early next year.
He said the experience of over 600 foreign companies from across the world working successfully in Pakistan is a testament to the country’s economic potential. But the minister noted that Pakistan “needs more jobs and ever more economic opportunities” to prevent impressionable young minds from falling prey to misguided and pernicious ideologies.
He acknowledged that the FoDP had helped generate significant international diplomatic support for his country’s counterterrorism efforts. In response, senior FoDP officials lauded Pakistan’s successes in containing and reversing militancy and terrorism and reiterated their commitments to the country’s socio-economic development both through the FoDP process and bilaterally.
Delegates considered the FoDP integrated energy sector recovery report and agreed on the implementation of its recommendations. The report will be submitted at the next FoDP ministerial meeting in Brussels scheduled in the middle of October. The report was jointly prepared by the government and the Asian Development Bank.
In addition, it noted a requirement of $ 7.7 billion to finance identified investments between now and the next three years which will add an additional 6,700MW capacity. The report also identifies a requirement of $ 14.88 billion in private sector investments for priority projects in the energy sector. The FoDP members confirmed their commitment to building on the government’s efforts by generating greater interest in investment in the energy sector by international business and through economic assistance.
A presentation was given on the Malakand development strategy and the post-crisis needs assessment (PCNA). It was emphasised that the PCNA should be completed as soon as possible. The meeting underlined that implementation of the PCNA should help address the root causes of extremism and terrorism. It was noted that the World Bank multi-donor trust fund for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Fata and Balochistan was now operational. The trust fund will facilitate funding for projects in areas affected by terrorism and militancy.
Delegates were briefed about the preparations for the FoDP third ministerial meeting to be held in Brussels on October 15. They agreed to propose a draft agenda for the ministerial meeting on the integrated energy sector recovery report, Malakand development strategy and post-crisis needs assessment, institution-capacity building and public-private partnership.
The meeting welcomed the intention of Islamabad and FoDP members to hold events with the Pakistani and international corporate sector, focusing on energy and other priority areas. Delegates noted that one such event focusing on energy is being planned on the margins of the Brussels ministerial meeting.
The meeting reaffirmed the solidarity of the international community with the people of Pakistan for realising the vision of a democratic welfare state. It decided to further deepen and broaden their investments and provide tangible support to Pakistan with a view to establishing a robust partnership for peace and development.
Concluding the meeting, the foreign minister underscored that Pakistan attached importance to the FoDP and valued its multi-faceted activities. He expressed the hope that Pakistan’s partnership with the FoDP would continue to diversify.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.
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