Punjab is developing a comprehensive strategy to utilise the livestock industry in such a way that it helps increase and grab a sizeable share in the global halal food market, says Chairman of the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT), Abdul Basit.
“Pakistan itself is a brand when it comes to producing halal food among 57 Islamic countries; we are focusing on this to boost the export revenue, especially from Punjab,” Basit said while talking to The Express Tribune.
Pakistan’s share in the $3-trillion halal food market is negligible despite having the capacity, ability and space to produce these products for export markets.
There are other choices as well for Punjab to boost export earnings and investment flows, especially after huge investments promised by China under the economic corridor programme.
The economic corridor, according to Basit, has provided an enormous opportunity as this strategic investment has pushed many European and other countries to make plans for pouring capital into Pakistan.
“The country is on the radar screen of many investors on the back of rapidly improving conditions and Punjab being the largest province is due to attract maximum foreign and local investments for which the PBIT is working hard.”
The Punjab government in the budget for 2015-16 has drawn up a plan to take growth in the province to 8% by 2018 and create one million jobs annually, which will be aided primarily by a 100% increase in foreign investment.
Economic experts, however, have come up with divergent views.
“There is no doubt that infrastructure in Punjab provides support for meeting the targets compared to other provinces, but energy is a key hurdle,” said Dr Qais Aslam, an economist.
“How can you expect a province to grow when it is in the shackles of energy crisis and why foreign investors will come when the industry is in a state of misery and is lacking value addition and skilled manpower,” he asked.
Aslam pointed out that both Pakistan and Punjab were counting too much on China and they were happy with the money being injected by Beijing, but they should have calculated the opportunity cost, which the province would have to bear in the future.
“It’s a good sign that the provincial management is making some aggressive plans to give a boost to economic activities, but we expect the initiatives to increase trading activities instead of helping industrial advancement,” said Ijaz Ahmad Mumtaz, President of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
However, PBIT’s Basit insisted that work on energy projects was going on at a fast pace and to reduce the demand-supply gap, the Punjab government had started importing liquefied natural gas.
“Pakistan is situated at an ideal geographical location and whatever will be produced here could be exported to China and central Asian states, which is a huge market and provides enormous opportunities to the industrialists,” he said.
“Punjab is expected to take a lead role due to its high population. We expect the economy to take a U-turn once the energy crisis ends.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2015.