A Promising Future

Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif,Prime Minister,Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif,Prime Minister,Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Sun 14 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

The Government is prioritising green energy initiatives creation of investment opportunities trade and regional connectivity to put the country on road to progress and prosperity

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Prime Minister of Pakistan Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has said the UAE and Pakistan are committed to strengthen their bilateral relations on all fronts as both the nations have been enjoying close brotherly relations since the inception of the UAE.

In an exclusive interview ahead of 75th Anniversary of the Independence Day of the country, Sharif said the government is in talks with the UAE government to boost bilateral trade and investment in the coming years.

“Over the years, our bilateral economic and trade relations have grown steadily with average trade volume of around $8.5 billion annually. The UAE has invested in different sectors of Pakistan’s economy. We are in discussion with the UAE government for more investment from the UAE in different fields including energy. I am very confident that coming years will see more robust economic, trade and investment cooperation between Pakistan and the UAE,” the Prime Minister said.

“The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE, had great love for Pakistan. He is still revered by Pakistani people. This brotherly relationship has evolved into a multifaceted relationship encompassing cooperation in all spheres of life,” Sharif told Khaleej Times during the interview.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

How do you see future of Pakistan as a progressive Islamic state that will a play key role in the region’s stability?

I believe Pakistan has a very promising future and has a key role to play in the geo-politics of the region. Over the years, Pakistan has emerged as a democratic and peaceful country. We believe in the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. With an advanced media landscape, we are working very hard in protecting rights of freedom of speech.

As far as regional peace is concerned, we are focusing on peaceful co-existence with all our neighbours. We are prioritising green energy initiatives, creation of investment opportunities, trade and regional connectivity. Pakistan is a very responsible member of the international community and is playing its constructive role in many of the international originations like United Nations, OIC, SCO and SAARC, etc.

What is your plan to put Pakistan on the road to progress in the wake of a challenging environment globally?

At the moment, we are trying to put Pakistan back on the road to economic progress. We are reviving the CPEC projects and emphasising on creating a facilitating environment for international investors and providing them with the best incentives for ease of doing business in Pakistan. Women empowerment and social uplift are the top priority. We are working very hard to eliminate polio virus from Pakistan and this is a top priority agenda for my government as far as health sector is concerned.

Pakistani armed forces and citizens very bravely dealt with the menace of terrorism over the past two decades; we are trying to work more meticulously with the international community to uproot the menace of terrorism and extremism, not only from the ‘Land of the pure’, but from the region as well.

Pakistan is going to celebrate 76th Independence Day on August 14. Do you have special plans to celebrate the occasion?

Certainly, it is a very jubilant occasion for the whole nation and yes, we have planned a series of activities in this regard. We are organising a National Award Ceremony to cherish the work of our artists in the fields of television dramas, films, music and sports.

Further, we are launching an over the top (OTT) platform with the name of ‘Pakflix’; ‘Salaam Pakistan’ will be an event we are organising at the Pakistan Monument in Islamabad.

Moreover, a re-recorded version of the National Anthem will be officially launched at the flag hoisting ceremony in Islamabad. Our government is launching a ‘Digital Scrapbook’, which will feature Pakistan’s history, arts and culture.

How do you see the outlook for Pakistan economy as the shrinking rupee puts pressure on the common man?

As you know, the global economy is currently reeling through a commodity super-cycle, not seen since the 1970s. In particular, this commodity super-cycle is straining commodity importers and raising inflation to multi-decade highs around the world.

We have introduced several regulatory measures to ease demand pressures. Together, these measures and expected support from the IMF and other friendly countries would help arrest the external and inflationary pressures, while helping calm financial markets about the health of the economy. Indeed, a recent strong recovery in rupee is a manifestation of our bold policy actions.

Rising inflation has become a serious concern. What is your plan to facilitate the poor segment of society?

The inflationary pressure is primarily attributed to rapid increase in global fuel and commodity prices, adjustment in prices of POL, electricity and gas, exchange rate depreciation and increase in perishable food items due to seasonal factors.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused major disruptions to the supply of food and energy items as both countries are major exporters of energy and agricultural products. As a result, commodity price volatility has intensified, with food prices reaching unprecedented levels not seen since the 2007-08 price spikes, Pakistan being net importer of food items and crude oil, is being affected.

The government is taking policy, administrative and relief measures to control rising inflation.

Policy measures:

Cabinet Committee has identified the gap of 1.6MMT of wheat. Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has arranged 0.986MMT of wheat through international tendering process. The remaining quantity is planned to be arrange through G2G basis.

Government is maintaining strategic reserves of wheat, sugar and pulses, Ministry of NFS&R and Ministry of Industries and Production are working to ensure the sufficient supply.

State Bank of Pakistan has increased the policy rate by 125 basis points from 13.75 to 15 per cent to anchor inflationary expectations.

Agriculture Transformation and National Agriculture Emergency Program are being implemented to up¬lift agriculture on modern lines and to enhance production level of major and minor crops.

Relief measures:

We have announced Rs28 billion relief package where Rs2,000 per month as cash assistance would be provided to families having monthly income less than Rs40,000 per month with effect of June 2022.

An amount of Rs12 billion is allocated against subsidies for Utility Store Corporations (USC) in financial year 2022-23. Provision of essential commodities i.e. wheat flour, sugar, ghee/oil and pulses on subsidised rates in all USCs.

For fiscal year 2022-23, budgetary allocation of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has been increased to Rs364 billion. Benazir Nashonuma (Nutrition) Programme will be extended to all districts at an expenditure of around Rs21.5 billion.

Government has announced the 10 per cent discount on the fares of both the economy class of Pakistan Railways and domestic flights of PIA.

Administrative measures:

Government is expanding the network of Sasta Bazaars and Utility Store outlets for provision of smooth supply of daily use items.

Competition Commission of Pakistan is taking measures to control cartelisation and undue Profiteering.

Profit margin between wholesale and retail price of essential items is being reduced by analysing the value chain of these items in consultation with provincial governments.

District Price Control Committees are monitoring the prices of essential items to ensure their availability at reasonable prices.

How do you see the role of overseas Pakistanis in the country’s development?

Overseas Pakistanis are the ambassadors of Pakistan worldwide. They are filling the global human resource gap to the credit of Pakistani nation on the one hand and the world communities on the other hand. They are acquiring skills which add to the human capital of Pakistan. They are the source of development of future trained human resources of Pakistan as they are investing in higher education of their kids and wards. They are making significant contributions towards social sector reforms by investing in education, health and other social infrastructures.

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