Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday said as economic challenges could not be tackled through “business as usual” approach, a total coordinated and team-work effort by various ministries and departments was required to ensure ease of doing business, attract foreign investment and boost exports in the country. Addressing the concluding session of a two-day Envoys Conference on Economic Diplomacy at the Foreign Office, he said he wanted the ministries of foreign affairs, finance, commerce, interior, Board of Investment and Pakistani ambassadors abroad to work as a team to achieve the targets.
The prime minister urged the country’s top diplomats posted abroad and present in the conference to enhance their dealing and interaction with the Pakistani expatriates, entrepreneurs and workers.
He described the Pakistanis expatriate as “an unutilized asset” for the country and told the envoy, “Be compassionate with them and help them. They go abroad to earn their livelihoods while leaving their families behind. They are very special people. This country is moving ahead due to their hard work.”
He recalled that once he met a Pakistani at Istanbul airport who had went there to receive the dead-body of his brother who died of freezing temperature while trying to enter Europe from Turkey through sea route.
“Our Pakistani expatriates go abroad by facing many hardships. They are learning various skills there and you (envoys) should help them,” he remarked.
The prime minister advised the envoys to focus on export augmentation through regular contact with the Board of Investment and explore new trade avenues and markets particularly in Africa and Latin America which were competitive and provided ample opportunities of trade for Pakistan.
He also called upon the ambassadors and high commissioners to help check money laundering from Pakistan. He cited a recent JIT report on fake bank accounts and said how money was stolen and laundered abroad.
He, in this respect, also referred to a US State Department report which estimated an annual US$10 billion of money laundering from Pakistan, adding, the government was taking steps to check this menace, but they (envoys) would also have to help the government.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said since the investors only took interest in the countries which provided opportunities of wealth creation and profitability, there was a need to change the mind-set and also understand the difference between profiteering and profitability, which came after due process of taxation.
He said Pakistan with a population of 210 million, out of which 120 million were youth below the age of 35 years, was an attractive destination for investors, adding the government was working to create a skilled young work force and promoting the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to boost exports.
The Prime Minister recalling his 21 years’ experience in cricket said that Pakistan despite having talented players in the decade of ’70s did not achieve successes only due to individual effort and gains. Secondly Pakistani players also had some inferiority complex and colonial influence when playing with Western players, he added.
In contrast, he said, despite having weak players in ’80s as compared to ’70s, but overcoming its complexes, Pakistani team made major strides in the field of international cricket.
“Inferiority complex is a mind-set, when it ends, there comes self-esteem. The nations who crate belief in themselves, they succeed,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister described the current account deficit and trade imbalance, which they inherited, as an opportunity for the country to make correction through effective policies and bold steps with a changed mind-mindset.
He said Pakistan had suffered a lot due to flawed mindset and structural economic defects, adding, “Shortcuts of aids and loans were taken to address the issues, which not only compromised the sovereignty but self-esteem as well.”
The Prime Minister said the loans and aids only created rich and poor classes in the country, adding, “We have to correct the situation through strong decisions as the mind-set of short-term measures only benefit the elite.”
Elaborating his view as to how Pakistan had a bad image abroad, he said after the Iranian revolution and the 9/11 incident, the country’s leaders used to tell the Western world that if they were not supported by them fundamentalists would come and take over the country. “It is us who have created our bad image abroad,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister said with a majority of people being liberal there was some thin minority of people, who had extremist views across the world and Pakistan was no exception.
He said whenever his friends came to Pakistan they found the country good and its people very friendly. The Prime Minister said he had expectations from envoys and foreign office people who had all the capabilities to achieve the targets.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaking on the occasion said with the country having a negligible 0.12% share in the global trade a coordinated effort by the ministries of foreign affairs, commerce, finance and Board of Investment was a must to attract enhanced foreign investment, improve the balance of trade and exploit the true potential of tourism.
“We have to come out of silos and have to adopt a new approach and strategy for a new Pakistan,” he said and added that efforts were required to correct image of the country, and to revive the confidence of investors as well as nine million Pakistani diaspora.
Giving an overview of the country’s trade investment indicators, the foreign minister said Pakistan also had a very negligible share in the world’s annual flow of Foreign Direct Investment of US $ 476 billion and ranked at 136th in terms of ease of doing business.
He said Pakistani envoys from China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE, Turkey, UK and USA attended the two-day conferences and shared their experiences as well as the challenges and opportunities in the respective countries of their posting through detailed presentations.
Besides, the foreign minister said two former governors of State Bank Dr Ishrat Hussain and Dr Shamshad Akhtar as well as some renowned personalities and experts from private sector including Ahsan Malik, Syed Mazhar, Bashir Ali, Hassan Askari, Irfan Wahab, Ali Naqvi, Farooq Naseem, and Raheem Awans also attended the conference and gave their valuable input.