Standard Chartered to help Pakistan forge better trade ties with India

Bank also willing to finance vital energy projects in Pakistan.

Our Correspondent July 04, 2013
Bank also willing to finance vital energy projects in Pakistan. CREATIVE COMMONS

ISLAMABAD: While blaming slower credit offtake by the private sector for stimulating the bank’s interest in government securities, Standard Chartered Group UK Chief Executive Officer Peter Sands has expressed interest in facilitating Pak-India trade and extending loans for energy projects.

The visiting executive, who was speaking to the media after meeting Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday, stressed that his group was well positioned to provide financing for trade and investment besides helping Pakistan in developing energy projects.

A press note issued by the Finance Minister’s office revealed that Standard Chartered Bank’s offers including financing for Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project and oil financing through Pakistan State Oil came up for discussion in the meeting.

The bank has offered over $500 million for bridging the financing gap of Rs321 billion for the Neelum Jhelum project.

To a question, Standard Chartered Pakistan Chief Executive Mohsin Nathani clarified that the bank had already offered loan for Neelum Jhelum and now Pakistan had to decide.

Nathani blamed weaker economic conditions for the bank’s increasing interest in government papers and declared that the bank was willing to lend money to companies, particularly small and medium enterprises.

Standard Chartered was keen to lend to the private sector, but the problem was weak credit demand in the country because of prevailing economic conditions, said Nathani. There was a lack of market opportunities, he added.

Sands announced that Standard Chartered was celebrating its 150th anniversary and was uniquely placed in the region to assist Pakistan due to its experience and expertise in financial markets. He assured the finance minister that the bank was keen to assist Pakistan and would work with it closely to evolve a new financial mechanism.

Standard Chartered could help Pakistan foster trade and investment relations with neighbouring countries and the bank had expertise in financing energy projects and was also willing to help Pakistan, he added.

According to Sands, the bank is well positioned to support Indian and Pakistani companies as it is the largest international bank in the two countries. He described SMEs as the strategic priority of the bank in Pakistan and around the world.

Discussions have been held between central banks of Pakistan and India to facilitate the financial sectors. Currently, transactions are taking place through the central banks.

Talking about his meeting with Finance Minister Dar, Sands said it helped him understand economic policies of the new government and remove misunderstandings. He told the minister that Standard Chartered had expertise and standing in the market and was ready to work with Pakistan for removing misunderstandings about the country in the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2013.

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