Highlighting the importance of energy for a developing economy like Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday sought Norwegian cooperation in the energy sector, particularly in the area of hydropower to cope with the country’s growing energy needs.
“We also discussed the possibility of seeking cooperation from Norway in hydroelectric power, because we are in the process of building more hydropower projects in Pakistan,” Premier Nawaz said on Tuesday while addressing a joint news conference with his Norwegian counterpart, Erna Solberg, after a formal round of talks.
Nawaz Sharif is on a three-day visit to Norway to represent Pakistan at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. He said Pakistan was facing an acute shortage of power and it was very important for it to address this issue as quickly as possible. He hoped his country would be able to overcome the problem in the next two to three years.
Premier Nawaz said the two sides discussed a host of subjects in their bilateral meeting.
“Prior to the bilateral meeting, we witnessed the signing of an agreement for a solar power project which will be built in Pakistan with the cooperation of Norway,” he added. “It is a private sector project between the two companies of Norway and Pakistan.”
The premier said that during the meeting they also discussed the issues of security, Afghanistan and Pakistan-India relations.
Referring to the meeting taking place between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban, he hoped that there would be a positive outcome, “which will be very helpful for peace and security in Afghanistan”.
PM meets Norway’s crown prince
Premier Nawaz also held a one-on-one meeting with Norway’s Crown Prince Prince Haakon, who thanked him for attending the Oslo Summit. The prime minister said relations between Pakistan and Norway were based on commonality of views as the two countries shared values of democratic pluralism and economic liberalism.
Nawaz stressed the need to enhance contacts between the two countries at political and economic levels. He also appreciated Norway’s development cooperation with Pakistan, especially in health and education sectors, which, he said, had assisted towards social and economic uplift of the underprivileged.
Pakistan’s efforts for education
Separately addressing a panel discussion at the education summit, the prime minister said despite numerous challenges, Pakistan was giving high priority to education and was aiming at increasing public expenditure on education to 4% of its GDP by 2018.
He said education was now a provincial subject in Pakistan. “However, the federal government is acting as an influential catalyst to promote education in all parts of the country while the provincial governments in Pakistan are now also spending more on education,” he added.
The prime minister said Pakistan in its quest for universal education had braved numerous challenges, including devastating earthquakes, floods, terrorism and displacement of refugees. “But it is able in a short time to establish schools for displaced people after floods and a massive earthquake,” he added.
The prime minister said thousands of schools were wiped out during 2005 earthquake, whereas during the 2010 floods, about 9,088 schools were destroyed and 5,790 school buildings were used as shelters.
“Pakistan has spent millions of rupees on the reconstruction of schools and many more billions of rupees are required for the rehabilitation and repatriation of displaced persons,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.