Special Investment Facilitation Council: A Beacon Of Hope For Pakistan – OpEd


Pakistan’s economic trajectory has been a rollercoaster ride, marked by various attempts and entities striving to leverage the country’s assets and natural resources to foster prosperity. Among these, the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) emerges as a beacon of hope. However, lingering caution persists, a residue of previous initiatives that occasionally failed to meet expectations. The onus rests on SIFC’s promise to attract both local and foreign investments, though this pledge is met with scrutiny. To realize this goal, a robust policy framework and concessions system are imperative, serving as linchpins for Pakistan’s economic revival.

The participation of the private sector in this trajectory is pivotal. Recognizing the value of expert advice, the private sector wields the financial resources necessary to engage seasoned consultants and advisors. Their investment decisions are calculated, grounded in rigorous due diligence to ensure a guaranteed minimum return on investment. The 28 identified SIFC projects, particularly those involving mining, energy, and privatization, demand meticulous review and structuring. These strategic endeavors necessitate a nuanced balance between State and investor interests, a challenge that mandates expertise in handling these competing dynamics.

The need for cash, beyond foreign direct investment, is glaring. The utilization of foreign investments, notably in sectors like oil, gas, and power since the 1990s, often led to a substantial portion of funds being directed to procure goods and services outside Pakistan. Despite substantial investments, minimal retention in the State Bank’s forex reserve raises concerns about the economy’s impact.

SIFC’s focus on the privatization of assets like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), distribution companies, and Pak Steel Mills is paramount. The challenge here lies in orchestrating transparent transactions that boost foreign exchange reserves without exposing these assets to exploitation by investors. Meanwhile, the fate of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), once a major topic, has tapered in discussions. Nevertheless, these zones hold the key to capitalizing on CPEC investments and fostering export-oriented industries, akin to India’s success in IT exports.

Leading economists caution against borrowing loans and equity investments without a plan to generate sufficient dollars through exports, a viewpoint espoused by experts such as Atif Mian. The surplus power generation capacity could be leveraged for 24/7 energy-consuming export-oriented industries. However, this shift requires long-term planning and expert guidance. Hastily made decisions lacking due diligence and expertise often lead to inconsistencies and altered priorities. The alignment of CPEC phase 2 investments with SIFC’s objectives remains a lingering concern.

In this challenging economic landscape, expert insights are crucial. Their collective wisdom and experience can influence policy and concessions framework development. Collaborating with prominent scholars, economists, and professionals is instrumental in shaping a consensus-driven roadmap for Pakistan’s progress. The revival of Pakistan’s agricultural sector, a vital component of the national economy, necessitates focused rejuvenation. Prior to offering national assets or resources to foreign investors, extensive research and expert advice are imperative. Past missed opportunities serve as poignant reminders, underscoring the need for meticulous consultation and research before crucial decisions are made.

Thus, Pakistan’s economic resurgence through SIFC demands strategic, expert-driven planning and meticulous execution. Collaborating with experts, considering their insights, and long-term planning can pave the path for sustained growth. The challenge lies not only in attracting investments but retaining the wealth earned within the nation. An economy nurtured through wisdom and experience promises resilience and prosperity, securing a brighter future for Pakistan. 

Muhammad Imran

Muhammad Imran is a Karachi based columnist and has a MPhil in international relations from the University of Karachi, Pakistan.

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