By Shams Rehman Abbasi

ISLAMABAD – With economic stability as its major goal, Pakistan is pursuing the policy of promoting stronger trade links with regional countries to increase its exports and slash the trade deficit.

“Trade with neighbouring countries is our priority, particularly with the energy-rich Central Asian Republics,” Chairman Board of Investment Zubair Gilani told APP in an exclusive interview.

The new Chairman, who took charge of his office last week, is determined to steer the Board towards promoting regional trade and export-led growth besides discouraging red-tapism to encourage investment culture in the country.

Gilani is confident that the nine Special economic Zones (SEZs), being established along the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would offer huge opportunity for the foreign and local investors.

“The opportunity is immense in terms of low-cost business facilities including cheaper energy, decade-long tax free zones and provision of land on lease,” he added.

He said BOI was committed to ensure facilities for starting new business, property registration and resolving insolvency for ease of doing business, especially for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) in Lahore and Karachi.

He said the government was working to improve all the nine indicators of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ including starting business, paying taxes, credit, resolving insolvency,  construction permits, trading across borders, property registrations, electricity and enforcing contracts to be implemented to attract foreign investment.

Through integrated approach and the coordination between all the concerned institutions, including Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), a mechanism would be developed for improving ease of doing indicators, he said.

On World Bank’s report on ease of doing business, the Chairman BOI said the government at its own was making efforts to implement these indicators in small cities and towns to promote SMEs sector.

The Chairman BOI said that the Board was fully concentrating to complete all the nine SEZS in stipulated time.

The SEZs have been established in all four provinces including Rashakai Economic Zone (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Dhabeji  (Sindh), Allama Iqbal industrial city Faisalabad (Punjab) and Bostan Indusrial Zone (Balochistan), he added.

He said the Rashakai had a strategic significance as it was closer to Afghanistan and central Asian countries.

On the SEZs of Hattar and Information Technology Zone in Capital city Islamabad, he said these two zones were on the priority list of the government and all the issues including the land and electricity had been resolved in this regard.

He mentioned that the BoI was strengthening its capacity to have specific desks and teams to deal with investors from different countries, as well as to work on important assignments, including all SEZs.

Gilani termed red-tapism a big issue, which was hindering foreign investments and stressed reforms to bring the BOI at par with international standards.

He said that utilization of local fuel was the best choice for decreasing the Current Account Deficit (CAD), suggesting that Thar Coal energy should be utilized for this purpose.

Chairman BOI said that public private partnership in industries would prove to be the best option to grow the local industry and attract foreign investor for joint ventures.