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Hilal English

SIFC, From Vision to Reality (Part V) : Driving Growth in Industry, Tourism, and Privatization

June 2024

With its commitment to inclusive governance, collaborative decision-making, and strategic facilitation, SIFC embodies the aspirations of a nation poised for greatness. The time is ripe to accelerate investments across sectors, and SIFC stands ready to pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous Pakistan.



In the labyrinth of Pakistan's economic challenges, a beacon of hope emerges in the form of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC). With a mandate to catalyze investment, foster economic growth, and enhance socioeconomic well-being, SIFC stands as a testament to the nation's resolve to overcome hurdles and embark on a path of prosperity. Recognizing the untapped potential of natural resources and agriculture, coupled with the imperative to bolster the tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, combat smuggling and power theft, and streamline State-Owned Entities (SOEs), the vision underscores a holistic approach toward economic revival. Established through legislative enactment, SIFC embodies the essence of collaborative governance. With a 'whole of the government' ethos, SIFC fosters consensus-driven decision-making that incorporates inputs from federal and provincial ministries, departments, and stakeholders.
Central to SIFC's mission is its role as a single-window platform for domestic and international investors. SIFC aims to attract much-needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), vital for macroeconomic stability and socioeconomic progress, by simplifying procedures and expediting processes. The participation of the Pakistan Army underscores a commitment to national development, instilling confidence in investors and facilitating the implementation of initiatives. In its brief existence, SIFC has achieved remarkable milestones. Policy interventions and cross-sectoral initiatives have cultivated a favorable business environment, enhancing investor confidence and stimulating economic activity.
Moreover, SIFC's outreach extends beyond borders, forging strategic alliances with friendly nations and international corporations. These partnerships cemented through Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) and Framework Agreements are poised to yield substantial economic dividends in the foreseeable future. Crucially, SIFC operates within the framework of existing structures, respecting institutional mandates while expediting due processes. 
As Pakistan stands at the precipice of economic resurgence, SIFC emerges as a cornerstone of this transformative journey. With its commitment to inclusive governance, collaborative decision-making, and strategic facilitation, SIFC embodies the aspirations of a nation poised for greatness. The time is ripe to accelerate investments across sectors, and SIFC stands ready to pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous Pakistan.


The launch of the Reefer Service represents a paradigm shift in the transportation of perishable goods from Pakistan to Russia and beyond. By leveraging refrigerated containers, NLC aims to enhance the shelf life of citrus fruits, ensuring their freshness and quality throughout the journey.


Steps Taken for Improving Pakistan's Industries. The textile industry has long been a cornerstone of Pakistan's economy, but in recent years, it has faced many challenges, including systemic inefficiencies, low-value additions, and energy price hikes. Recognizing the situation's urgency, the government has embarked on several initiatives to rejuvenate the industry and enhance its global competitiveness. One significant measure undertaken by the government is the reduction of power cross-subsidies, which has been identified as a major burden on the textile industry. Despite these challenges, there are signs of progress in Pakistan's industrial landscape. The Large-Scale Manufacturing (LSM) Index, a key indicator of industrial activity, has shown promising growth in recent months. With the LSM Index for January 2024 registering at 132.43 percent, up from 132.39 percent in December 2023, this trend signals steady progress in the manufacturing sector. 
Paving the Way for Fresh Opportunities. In a groundbreaking move, the National Logistics Cell (NLC) has launched its Reefer Service, marking a significant milestone in Pakistan's logistics landscape. This innovative initiative is poised to revolutionize the cold supply chain, particularly for perishable products like citrus, and unlock new avenues for trade and commerce. The launch of the Reefer Service represents a paradigm shift in the transportation of perishable goods from Pakistan to Russia and beyond. By leveraging refrigerated containers, NLC aims to enhance the shelf life of citrus fruits, ensuring their freshness and quality throughout the journey. One of the key benefits of the Reefer Service is its ability to tap into the vast market potential of Central Asian Republics (CARs), Russia, and beyond. 



Privatization and Outsourcing. Pakistan is embracing bold initiatives to reform and restructure its SOEs in the quest for economic revitalization. Central to this effort is the privatization of struggling Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), alongside outsourcing key services to enhance efficiency and service delivery. Privatizing DISCOs emerges as a viable and sustainable solution to address their financial woes. Recognizing this, SIFC has endorsed a consensus-based decision to privatize its operations and management. Supported by international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), this initiative has garnered interest from a friendly country to take over one of the most financially strained DISCOs under a Government-to-Government (G2G) framework.
Similarly, the privatization of PIA represents a significant step towards reducing the government's fiscal burden. Endorsed by the PIA Board of Directors, this move is expected to fetch substantial revenues, with seven international buyers expressing interest in the privatization process. Completing this endeavour will pave the way for privatizing other loss-making entities, fostering fiscal sustainability and efficiency. The ongoing outsourcing drive for three international airports in Pakistan (Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore) exemplifies the government's commitment to leveraging global expertise for enhanced service delivery.
Upgrading Refineries and Diversifying Exploration. In a transformative stride towards bolstering Pakistan's energy landscape, Cynergico Private Limited has announced plans to upgrade its refineries to manufacture Euro V standards compliant gasoline and diesel. With an estimated investment exceeding USD 1 billion, this initiative underscores the commitment towards enhancing indigenous oil refining capacity, a pivotal goal under the recently approved 'Brownfield Oil Refinery Policy'. Spearheaded by the SIFC, this policy breakthrough has resolved longstanding deadlocks between the government and oil refineries, paving the way for an influx of investments totaling approximately USD 5-6 billion in the refining sector. In parallel, three Pakistani oil refineries (Attock Oil Refinery, National Oil Refinery, and Pakistan Oil Refinery) are poised to sign agreements with the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) for their upgradation in line with Pakistan's Oil Refineries Policy for Brownfield Refineries Upgradation 2023. 
Aligned with these efforts, the Prime Minister has directed the Petroleum Division to promote investments in tight gas and undersea oil and gas reserves. This strategic directive acknowledges the imperative of diversifying exploration activities to counter dwindling local reserves in a parallel narrative. Mari Petroleum Company Limited (MPCL) has also achieved a significant milestone by drilling and testing the third appraisal well in the Ghazi formation within the Mari Development and Production Lease. This achievement underscores the relentless efforts to tap into Pakistan's onshore and offshore oil and gas potential, driven by SIFC's initiatives to propel exploration and mining (E&P) activities. 



Empowering Green Energy. In a significant stride towards bolstering Pakistan's renewable energy infrastructure, the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) has pledged its support for two hydropower projects in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). CEO Mr. Sultan Bin Abdul Rehman Al Marshad led the SFD delegation's visit, culminating in signing agreements totaling USD 101 million to fund these crucial initiatives. The first project, the Shounter Hydropower Project, with a capacity of 48 MW, will receive funding worth USD 66 million. The second project, the Jagran-IV Hydropower Project, boasting a capacity of 22 MW, will receive funding worth USD 41 million. Together, these projects are poised to add a cumulative capacity of 70 MW to the national grid, significantly enhancing Pakistan's hydroelectric power generation capacity.
Empowering Clean Energy. In a landmark development for Pakistan's renewable energy sector, Sinotec Solar Private Limited, a USA-based company, has committed to establishing a 3GW solar panel manufacturing plant in Karachi. Facilitated through the platform of the SIFC, this ambitious project has reached an advanced stage, heralding a new era of solar energy production in the country. Sinotec Solar's initiative promises to revolutionize Pakistan's renewable energy landscape by enabling local solar panel production. Moreover, the project's scope extends to supporting the production of industrial dry batteries and Electric Vehicles (EV) trucks, aligning with Pakistan's broader goals of promoting clean energy and sustainable transportation. As Pakistan strives to mitigate the impacts of climate change and reduce its carbon footprint, investments in solar manufacturing are essential steps towards achieving these objectives.



Privatizing DISCOs emerges as a viable and sustainable solution to address their financial woes. Recognizing this, SIFC has endorsed a consensus-based decision to privatize its operations and management.


World Bank's Support for Key Projects in Pakistan. In a significant boost to Pakistan's development agenda, the Board of Directors of the World Bank has approved USD 149.7 million in funding for two pivotal projects aimed at addressing critical needs in the country. The Digital Economy Enhancement Project (DEEP) and the Sindh Barrages Improvement Project represent strategic investments to bolster key sectors of Pakistan's economy and enhance resilience against pressing challenges. The Digital Economy Enhancement Project (DEEP) has been allocated USD 78 million to spearhead the digital transformation of public service delivery in Pakistan. This transformative initiative seeks to enhance digitally-enabled public service delivery, promote digital literacy, and establish secure digital platforms for banking services. Simultaneously, the Sindh Barrages Improvement Project has been allocated USD 71.7 million to fortify infrastructure resilience against floods and enhance the safety and management of Sindh's barrages. By strengthening water structures and bolstering flood management mechanisms, the project aims to ensure the uninterrupted supply of irrigation water to agricultural activities in the province of Sindh. Furthermore, these projects align seamlessly with Pakistan's broader development priorities, including the Green Pakistan Initiative (GPI) of the SIFC.
Pioneering Pakistan's Semiconductor Chip Industry. In a bold step towards economic diversification and technological advancement, Pakistan's SIFC is poised to embark on a transformative journey to develop a semiconductor industry. The plan leverages Pakistan's abundant, skilled, cost-effective human resources to position the country as a significant player in the trillion-dollar global semiconductor industry value chain. By initially focusing on the design aspect and expanding into manufacturing and testing, Pakistan aims to carve out its niche as the next best destination for semiconductor production.



Empowering Pakistan's Energy Sector. The Shanghai Electric Group, a renowned and one of China's largest diversified equipment manufacturing groups has emerged as a key player in Pakistan's energy landscape through its significant investment in Thar Coal Block-1. During his recent visit to Pakistan, Shanghai Electric Group Chairman, Mr. Wu Lei, engaged with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and SIFC officials to explore further investment opportunities there. One of the key areas of interest for Shanghai Electric Group is enhancing its coal-based power project in Pakistan. Furthermore, Shanghai Electric Group has expressed a keen interest in supporting Pakistan's transition towards utilizing local coal resources for power generation. By converting foreign coal-based power plants into local coal plants, the Group seeks to minimize Pakistan's reliance on imported coal, reduce the energy import bill, and provide affordable energy solutions to the populace.


In a transformative stride towards bolstering Pakistan's energy landscape, Cynergico Private Limited has announced plans to upgrade its refineries to manufacture Euro V standards compliant gasoline and diesel. With an estimated investment exceeding USD 1 billion, this initiative underscores the commitment towards enhancing indigenous oil refining capacity, a pivotal goal under the recently approved 'Brownfield Oil Refinery Policy'.


Elevating Tourism. In a significant move to unlock the potential of Pakistan's tourism sector, Integrated Tourism Zones (ITZs) have been unveiled in Thandiyani (Abbottabad) and Ganol (Mansehra). Spanning over 58 and 60 acres of land, ITZs herald a new era of investment and development, promising to transform these picturesque locales into prime tourist destinations. Developed under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, the ITZs in Thandiyani and Ganol represent a collaborative effort between government and private stakeholders. Strategically positioned to cater to diverse segments of tourists, Thandiyani and Ganol offer unique experiences tailored to different preferences. Thandiyani envisioned a family-friendly retreat featuring retail villages, service apartments, and outdoor dining options, providing visitors with a perfect blend of relaxation and recreational activities. Meanwhile, Ganol is set to captivate tourists seeking cultural immersion and exploration. With offerings such as cultural and skill development centres, food villages, and hillside resorts, Ganol promises to showcase the rich heritage and traditions of the region. 
Revolutionizing Education. As Pakistan's population burgeons, it becomes imperative to overhaul the education system to meet the demands of the global market. Recognizing this critical need, the SIFC has embarked on a mission to revamp Pakistan's education policy in collaboration with stakeholders at both federal and provincial levels. The current state of technical and vocational training in Pakistan falls short of its potential, hindered by declining basic education standards. With over 26.2 million out-of-school children (the highest in the world) and alarming rates of stunting among young children, it is evident that urgent measures are needed to address the education crisis. In response, SIFC has spearheaded efforts to enhance basic education standards, laying the groundwork for effective technical and vocational training. By adopting a 'whole of the government approach', SIFC aims to leverage collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to uplift the quality of education across the nation.


By initially focusing on the design aspect and expanding into manufacturing and testing, Pakistan aims to carve out its niche as the next best destination for semiconductor production.


Barite Lead Zinc Project Offers Investment Opportunities. The Barite Lead Zinc project, a pioneering mining endeavour led by Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) and Balochistan Mineral Exploration Company (BMEC), presents a compelling investment opportunity poised to transform the mining landscape of Pakistan. With an initial investment of USD 150 million, the Barite Lead Zinc project is set to revolutionize the sector, backed by the strategic involvement of the SIFC. The financial prospects of the Barite Lead Zinc project are highly promising, with an estimated Net Present Value (NPV) of USD 360 million, an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) exceeding 56 percent, and a rapid payback period of just 5 years. Projected annual revenues of USD 144 million and a lifespan of 34 years underscore its significance as a key contributor to the national economy. The project is supported by a Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) compliant feasibility study and offers a solid foundation for sustainable growth and profitability. 


The financial prospects of the Barite Lead Zinc project are highly promising, with an estimated Net Present Value (NPV) of USD 360 million, an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) exceeding 56 percent, and a rapid payback period of just 5 years.


New Era of Green Mobility in Pakistan. In a landmark development, the world's leading new energy vehicle manufacturer, BYD (Build Your Dreams), has announced its collaboration with local partner Mega Conglomerate Private Limited to introduce innovative new energy vehicle solutions in Pakistan. This significant investment underscores the growing momentum towards sustainable mobility and cleaner energy alternatives in the country. BYD's reputation as a trailblazer in the electric vehicles (EV) industry is well-established, surpassing Tesla to become the top producer of EV worldwide in 2023. Against the backdrop of increasing global awareness about climate change and environmental sustainability, BYD's entry into the Pakistani market is timely. It aligns with the nation's aspirations to reduce its carbon footprint.



Transformation of Thermal Plants into Solar Facilities. In a groundbreaking development, the Northern Power Generation Company Limited (NPGCL) GENCO-III, Muzafargarh, and Ningbo Green Light Energy (NGLE) Private Limited, China have inked a MoU facilitated by the SIFC to convert an existing thermal power plant into a state-of-the-art 300 MW solar power facility. This transformative project, backed by a USD 200 million FDI, heralds a new era of renewable energy innovation in Pakistan. The initiative aims to leverage the land, assets, and infrastructure of GENCO-III to harness solar energy and generate 400 million units of affordable electricity annually. By transitioning from traditional thermal power generation to solar energy, the project is poised to significantly reduce the production cost of electricity from PKR 45 to just PKR 14 per unit. Furthermore, the project is expected to yield substantial economic benefits, including an estimated annual saving of USD 44 million through eliminating Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) imports. 
Combatting Smuggling and Tax Evasion. Smuggling and tax evasion pose significant challenges to Pakistan's economy, draining valuable resources and undermining investor confidence. Reports from Action and Counter Illicit Trade (ACT) reveal staggering losses, with tax evasion costing the nation approximately PKR 5.8 trillion annually and illegal trading exacerbating the damage by an additional PKR 1 trillion. These illicit practices distort market dynamics and impede the country's economic progress. To address these pressing concerns, the Government of Pakistan, in collaboration with the SIFC, has implemented a series of strategic measures aimed at curbing smuggling and tax evasion. One such initiative is deploying track and trace systems in key industries such as cement, tobacco, fertilizer, and sugar. These systems are a bulwark against illicit trade activities, enhancing revenue generation, promoting transparency, and facilitating better planning and forecasting at industry and national levels.



By adopting a 'Whole of the Government Approach', SIFC aims to leverage collaboration with all relevant stakeholders to uplift the quality of education across the nation.


The efficacy of these measures is reflected in the recent achievements of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), which surpassed its revenue collection target for the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) by PKR 3 billion. This success bodes well for the government's fiscal objectives, paving the way for sustained revenue growth and enhanced tax-to-GDP ratio. Moreover, the positive trajectory of FDI in Pakistan, with a significant surge recorded in March 2024, attests to the improving investment landscape facilitated by SIFC's initiatives. In conclusion, SIFC's proactive measures to combat smuggling and tax evasion yield tangible results, drive revenue growth, enhance investor confidence, and position Pakistan for sustainable economic development. As the nation continues its journey towards fiscal resilience and prosperity, sustained collaboration between government entities, private stakeholders, and international partners will be crucial in overcoming existing challenges and realizing Pakistan's economic aspirations.
In the wake of Pakistan's multifaceted economic challenges, the emergence of the SIFC stands as a beacon of hope and a testament to the nation's unwavering commitment to progress. Through collaborative governance, strategic initiatives, and steadfast dedication, SIFC has propelled Pakistan onto a trajectory of economic revitalization. From pioneering investments in key sectors like energy, mining, and tourism to combating smuggling and tax evasion, SIFC has demonstrated a resolute determination to address longstanding obstacles. 
As Pakistan stands poised at the threshold of transformative growth, SIFC's holistic approach, inclusive governance, and unwavering resolve position it as a cornerstone of the nation's journey towards prosperity. With its proactive measures and strategic partnerships, SIFC paves the way for a brighter, more prosperous future for Pakistan, embodying the aspirations of a nation ready to seize its full potential on the global stage.