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Hilal English

SIFC and Pakistan’s Economic Landscape: A Year in Review

June 2024

The Special Investment Facilitation Council drives economic growth in Pakistan through sectors like defense production, agriculture, information technology, energy, tourism, and privatization, fostering investment and development across key industries.

Under the leadership of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), Pakistan has witnessed significant economic growth over the past year. SIFC was established by the Federal Government with the primary goal of stimulating economic development through enhanced investment attraction and fostering a conducive business environment.
SIFC: Establishment, Mandate, and Achievements
The establishment of the SIFC represents a strategic initiative by the Federal Government to bolster Pakistan's economic landscape. SIFC aims to attract investments across various sectors critical to the nation's economic revival, including defense production, agriculture, information technology, and energy. By addressing existing challenges and leveraging emerging opportunities, SIFC aligns its efforts with Pakistan's broader economic development goals.
Legal Framework Supporting SIFC's Operations. SIFC operates within a robust legal framework provided by the Board of Investment (Amendment) Act of 2023. This legislative backing ensures the council's legitimacy and underscores the government's commitment to supporting its initiatives. Decisions within SIFC are deliberated and consensus-driven, involving federal and provincial ministries, departments, and diverse stakeholders. The Apex Committee of SIFC, chaired by the Prime Minister and comprising federal cabinet members and provincial chief ministers, provides oversight and approval, ensuring transparency, accountability, and adherence to established processes.
Mandate of SIFC. SIFC's mandate revolves around expediting decision-making processes concerning business, investment, and privatization matters, while adhering to existing government structures and procedures. It focuses on creating a conducive business environment through targeted policy interventions, fostering investor trust and confidence, and facilitating the effective implementation of investment-related initiatives.
Evolution of SIFC. Since its inception, SIFC has evolved into a unified platform for swift decision-making, employing consensus-based approaches and incorporating diverse stakeholder input. It has transitioned from a conceptual framework to a pivotal entity instrumental in advancing cross-sectoral policy initiatives, enhancing investor confidence, and securing commitments from friendly nations.
Major Achievements by SIFC. SIFC has achieved notable milestones, including the successful resumption of profit repatriation by foreign companies, which has significantly bolstered investor confidence and signaled a favorable investment climate. Through strategic partnerships and agreements with countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait, alongside collaborations with U.S.-based firms, SIFC has laid the groundwork for substantial economic benefits in the near future. Additionally, SIFC's facilitation of various memorandum of understandings (MOUs) and framework agreements underscores its tangible progress towards stimulating economic growth and development across Pakistan.
Agriculture Sector
In the agriculture sector, the Land Information and Management System (LIMS) has implemented several initiatives aimed at modernizing farming practices and enhancing agricultural productivity:
Adoption of Modern Irrigation Methods. LIMS promotes efficient water use through modern techniques like drip, sprinkler, and pivot irrigation, supporting sustainable agriculture.
Launch of Farmer-Centric Website and Mobile Application. A dedicated platform provides real-time climate data, satellite-based crop monitoring, and guidance on water, fertilizer, and pest management, empowering farmers with valuable insights.
Transformation of Barren Land into Fertile Agricultural Land. Significant efforts have converted 4.4 million acres of barren land into productive agricultural areas, particularly in Punjab, and identified potential cultivation zones in Sindh, KP, and Balochistan.
Partnerships with Foreign and Local Investors. Collaborations with international and local investors cover substantial acreage, fostering agricultural development. Projects with the UAE and Kuwait further support initiatives such as wastewater treatment and mangrove rehabilitation.
Canal Rehabilitation and Maintenance. The government's commitment to rehabilitating 5,000 kilometers of canals ensures efficient water distribution for agriculture, with stringent monitoring and desilting efforts across extensive canal networks.
Establishment of Agriculture Malls. Private-public partnerships have established Agriculture Malls, centralized hubs providing farmers with essential resources such as seeds, fertilizers, and modern machinery, improving accessibility and efficiency.
Modernization of Seed Certification and Policy Formulation. Ongoing efforts include streamlining seed certification processes, formulating a national policy, and addressing genetically modified organism (GMO) concerns, supported by initiatives like seed traceability systems and a dedicated National Seed Authority.
Enhanced Monitoring of Urea and Fertilizer Sellers. Increased scrutiny by tax authorities ensures transparency and compliance among urea and fertilizer sellers and dealers.
Training and Capacity Building for Farmers. Comprehensive programs offer workshops and educational sessions, equipping farmers with skills to adopt modern agricultural practices effectively, enhancing productivity and livelihoods.
Information Technology and Telecommunication Sector
The Information Technology and Telecommunication sector in Pakistan has witnessed transformative initiatives aimed at advancing digital infrastructure and capabilities:
Special Foreign Currency Accounts for IT Companies. Simplifying global transactions, specialized foreign currency accounts are now available to IT companies, facilitating smoother operational processes on an international scale.
IT Skills Training for University Graduates. Empowering 200,000 university graduates with IT skills training enhances their employability in IT services firms, contributing significantly to industry growth and innovation.
Establishment of E-Rozgar Centers. Nationwide, 10,000 E-Rozgar centers support freelancers by providing accessible spaces equipped with resources and support, fostering a conducive environment for career advancement.
Introduction of Paypal Remittances. Facilitating freelancers, the introduction of Paypal remittances streamlines financial transactions, enhancing operational efficiency within the digital economy.
Availability of 5G Spectrum. Enhanced telecommunication networks with 5G spectrum availability ensure faster and more reliable connectivity nationwide, benefiting individuals and businesses alike.
National Policy for High-Speed Internet Fiber. Implementation of a national policy for high-speed internet fiber ensures widespread access to fast internet connections, empowering communities with enhanced connectivity for education, work, and communication.
National Space Policy. Leveraging space technology across sectors, the National Space Policy improves monitoring, management, and resource utilization, driving productivity and growth.
Establishment of Telecom Tribunal. Efficient resolution of appeals and cases within the IT and Telecom sector by the Telecom Tribunal ensures timely justice and addresses industry concerns effectively.
Telecom Infrastructure Sharing Policy. Promoting fair and competitive sharing of telecom infrastructure among providers, the policy enhances operational efficiency and expands coverage for consumers nationwide.
Pakistan Startup Fund. Supporting the startup ecosystem, the Pakistan Startup Fund nurtures aspiring entrepreneurs by providing resources and opportunities to transform innovative ideas into successful ventures.
International Startup Exchange Program. Connecting student entrepreneurs globally with mentors, investors, and peers through an international startup exchange program fosters collaboration and accelerates startup growth.
Smartphone on Installments. Promoting local smartphone production through installment plans increases accessibility for the public, supporting domestic manufacturing growth.
Export Incentives for Handset Exports. Incentives for handset exports enhance global competitiveness, encouraging the production of high-quality smartphones tailored for international markets.
Energy (Power, Petroleum and Green Energy) Sector
The energy sector in Pakistan is undergoing significant transformation under the stewardship of SIFC, focusing on power generation, petroleum refining, and green energy initiatives:
Vision for Energy Future (SIFC Vision 2031). Redirecting energy dependency from coal and furnace oil to renewable sources like hydel, solar, wind, and Re-gassified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) to address sustainability and energy crisis challenges.
Combatting Electricity Theft. Establishing an anti-theft task force has led to the recovery of approximately eighty-six billion rupees, combating a major issue in the sector.
Addressing Circular Debt. Concrete steps are being taken to manage and reduce circular debt burden with detailed strategies in place.
Tariff Rationalization. Plans for tariff rationalization aim to ensure fair and balanced electricity pricing.
Promoting Renewable Energy Projects. Stakeholder consensus has been achieved to promote competitive bidding for wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, fostering innovation and competition.
Solar Project in Gilgit-Baltistan. A one megawatt solar project operational in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) utilizes local solar energy resources for sustainable electricity supply.
Megawatt Project in Sukkur. A significant project with a capacity of one hundred and fifty megawatts in Sukkur is set to enhance regional power supply capabilities.
Petroleum Sector
Upgrade of Refineries by Cynergico Private Limited. Plans to upgrade refineries to Euro V standards reflect a commitment to enhance local oil refining capacity.
Policy Breakthrough by SIFC. Resolution of deadlocks through the 'Brownfield Oil Refinery Policy' paves the way for significant sector investments, fostering economic growth.
Upgradation Agreements with OGRA. Agreements with Pakistani oil refineries for upgradation align with the Brownfield Refineries Policy, modernizing refining capabilities.
Priority on Refinery Upgradation by SIFC. Focus on enhancing Brownfield Oil Refineries underscores government efforts to modernize the sector.
Prime Minister's Directive on Exploration. Directives promote investments in tight gas and undersea oil and gas reserves for enhanced energy security.
Milestone Achievement by Mari Petroleum Company Limited (MPCL). Successful drilling and testing of the third Appraisal Well in the Mari Development and Production Lease showcase efforts to tap into Pakistan's oil and gas potential.
Clean and Green Energy
Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Support for Hydropower Projects. Pledges for hydropower projects in Azad Jammu & Kashmir aim to enhance hydroelectric power generation capacity.
Solar Panel Manufacturing Plant by Sinotec Solar Private Limited. Establishment of a 3GW solar panel manufacturing plant in Karachi promotes local solar energy production and supports sustainable initiatives like electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing.
World Bank Funding for Critical Projects. Funding for Digital Economy Enhancement Project (DEEP) and Sindh Barrages Improvement Project focuses on digital transformation and infrastructure resilience.
Investment by Shanghai Electric Group in Thar Coal Block-1. Investment in Thar Coal Block-1 supports coal-based power projects to reduce reliance on imported coal.
MoU between NPGCL GENCO-III and Ningbo Green Light Energy (NGLE) Private Limited. Transformation of a thermal power plant into a 300 MW solar power facility emphasizes renewable energy innovation and cost-effective electricity generation.
Mines and Minerals Sector
The Mines and Minerals sector in Pakistan is undergoing substantial reforms and initiatives under the oversight of SIFC, focusing on regulatory reforms, strategic partnerships, and sustainable resource management:
Reko Diq Project Partnership. Saudi Arabia, represented by its Foreign Minister, signals a significant partnership interest in the Reko Diq project, involving Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) and Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Regulatory Reforms in Pakistan. Over two decades of reforms emphasize privatization and regulatory autonomy, with notable achievements in financial markets and the State Bank, though utility regulatory bodies remain a priority.
Mines and Minerals Division Establishment. The establishment of a dedicated Mines and Minerals Division aims to accelerate mining activities, building on previous efforts to intensify mineral exploitation nationwide.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiative by RDMC. Reko Diq Mining Company (RDMC), a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation, initiates CSR programs with The Hunar Foundation to support vocational training and capacity building in Chagai, demonstrating commitment to local development.
Establishment of Mining Fund. Collaboration between Pakistan and Kuwait establishes a USD 1 billion mining fund, a pivotal step toward sustainable economic growth.
Joint Venture for Pink Salt Project. Miracle Salt Collective Incorporation (MSCI) and Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) sign a joint venture with an initial USD 200 million investment, leveraging Pakistan's pink salt resources.
Termination of Individual Profit Policy. Pakistan's decision to terminate individual profit policies in the pink rock salt sector unlocks USD 13 billion in opportunities, bolstering Pakistan's position in the global salt market.
Ban on Local Export of Pink Rock Salt. Senate's ban on raw pink rock salt exports aims to maximize economic potential and protect natural resources, supported by proposed Geographical Indication (GI) and industry relocation efforts.
Utilization of GIS Technology. The Minerals Development Department employs GIS technology for geo-tracking of mines and registration of mining workers, enhancing monitoring and inspection capabilities.
Feasibility Study of New Minerals Reserves. Exploration in Koh-Suleman aims to unlock diverse mineral resources through private-public partnerships and regulatory frameworks, facilitated by topo-geological mapping.
Employee Performance Evaluation. Implementation of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by SIFC evaluates employee effectiveness and ensures adherence to standards, with strict actions against illegal activities.
Facilities for Mining Workers. Various facilities including healthcare, incentives, and educational opportunities are provided to mining workers and their families, improving their well-being and safety.
Revenue Generation Plan. A comprehensive PKR 150 billion Revenue Generation Plan over three years aims to diversify revenue streams and drive socioeconomic progress.
Boost in Revenue Collection. Proactive measures by the Ministry of Mines and Minerals result in a significant PKR 15 billion boost in revenue collection, surpassing expectations and projecting doubled revenue for the current fiscal year.
International Partnerships in Mining. MoUs with the UAE and Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) enhance international partnerships and expertise exchange, bolstering Pakistan's mining capabilities and promoting knowledge sharing.
Adoption of Open Bidding for Mining Projects. Adoption of open bidding resolves pending applications based on meritocracy, promoting fair competition and efficient resource allocation.
Establishment of Mines and Minerals Committees. Provisional committees combat illegal activities and ensure timely payments, promoting transparency and combating malpractice.
Zero-tolerance Policy against Corruption. Enforced zero-tolerance against corruption and bureaucratic hurdles underscores commitment to transparency and clean governance.
Awareness Campaigns for Foreign Investments. Awareness campaigns highlight Pakistan's mining sector potential, aiming to attract foreign investments and stimulate economic growth.
Introduction of E-Auction Facility. The introduction of an E-Auction facility enhances transparency and efficiency in resource allocation, streamlining the auction process.
Resolution of Pending Cases and SOP Implementation. Resolution of old pending cases and new SOP implementations address legacy issues and improve regulatory frameworks, fostering sustainable growth in the mining sector.
Industry, Tourism and Privatization Sector
The Industry, Tourism and Privatization sector in Pakistan is seeing transformative initiatives aimed at boosting industrial growth, promoting tourism, and advancing privatization efforts:
Industrial Sector
NLC's Reefer Service Launch. The National Logistics Cell (NLC) introduces its Reefer Service, revolutionizing Pakistan's logistics sector with refrigerated containers for transporting perishable goods to destinations like Russia and Central Asian Republics (CARs).
SIFC's Semiconductor Industry Development Plan. SIFC initiates plans to develop Pakistan as a global semiconductor industry player, starting from design to manufacturing, leveraging local skilled labor and aiming for global competitiveness.
BYD's Collaboration for New Energy Vehicles. BYD partners with Mega Conglomerate Private Limited to introduce new energy vehicle solutions in Pakistan, supporting sustainable mobility and cleaner energy initiatives.
Government Initiatives to Revitalize Textile Industry. Measures to rejuvenate Pakistan's textile sector include addressing systemic inefficiencies and energy price hikes, with efforts to reduce power subsidies and steady growth shown in the Large-Scale Manufacturing (LSM) Index.
Tourism Sector
Introduction of Integrated Tourism Zones (ITZs) in Thandiyani and Ganol. ITZs in Thandiyani and Ganol, developed under PPP models, aim to transform scenic areas into prime tourist destinations with facilities like retail villages, cultural centers, and service apartments.
Expansion of Pakistani Startup Bookme into the Saudi Market. Bookme expands into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, securing agreements with Mrsool and becoming the official Online Travel Agency (OTA) partner for Pakistan designated by the Saudi Tourism Ministry, enhancing travel and entertainment options.
Leasing of PTDC Motels by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Caretaker Government. The KP government leases 17 Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) motels to a military entity for 30 years to revitalize tourism infrastructure in scenic locations like Naran, Swat, Chitral, and Kalam.
Privatization Sector
Privatization of Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and PIA. Bold reforms target DISCOs and PIA to improve service delivery and financial health, supported by international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank.
Government-to-Government (G2G) Framework for DISCO Privatization. A friendly country expresses interest in taking over a DISCO under a G2G framework to enhance operational efficiency and alleviate financial burdens.
Interest from International Buyers for PIA Privatization. Seven international buyers show interest in privatizing PIA, aimed at reducing fiscal burdens and boosting revenues through improved management.
Outsourcing Drive for International Airports. Key services at Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore international airports are being outsourced to enhance infrastructure and service quality, benefiting travelers and the aviation sector.
Education Sector
Recognizing the critical importance of reforming Pakistan's education system, the government has declared an 'Education Emergency' and is implementing strategic measures to address various challenges:
Recognizing the Urgent Need. With Pakistan's population burgeoning, there is an urgent need to modernize the education system to align with global job market demands. The SIFC has initiated collaborations with federal and provincial stakeholders to revamp Pakistan's education policy.
Addressing Shortcomings in Technical Education. Despite potential, technical and vocational training in Pakistan is hindered by declining standards of basic education. SIFC aims to improve basic education standards as a foundation for effective technical and vocational training.
Tackling the Education Crisis. Pakistan faces significant challenges including the highest number of out-of-school children globally (over 26.2 million) and high rates of stunting among young children. SIFC has taken proactive measures to mitigate these issues and improve access to quality education.
Laying the Groundwork for Improvement. Enhancing basic education standards is pivotal for laying the groundwork to implement effective technical and vocational training programs. SIFC aims to equip students with essential skills and knowledge to thrive in a competitive global environment.
Adopting a Collaborative Approach. SIFC embraces a whole of government approach by collaborating with all relevant stakeholders at federal and provincial levels. Collective efforts are geared towards uplifting education quality nationwide, ensuring equitable access and opportunities for all students.
'Zero Tolerance Policy' against Smuggling and Tax Evasion
In response to challenges faced by Pakistan's economy, particularly smuggling and tax evasion, the government has implemented a stringent zero tolerance policy. Here are the key aspects:
Challenges Faced by Pakistan's Economy. Smuggling and tax evasion drain valuable resources, costing the economy billions annually and distorting market dynamics. These practices undermine investor confidence and hinder economic progress.
Government and SIFC Collaboration. The government, in collaboration with SIFC, has launched strategic measures to combat smuggling and tax evasion. Deployment of track and trace systems in industries like cement, tobacco, fertilizer, and sugar is a critical initiative.
Impact and Effectiveness of Measures. Recent achievements by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) include surpassing revenue collection targets, contributing positively to fiscal objectives. For instance, FBR surpassed revenue collection targets for the first nine months of FY24 by Rs 3 billion. There has been a notable increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), indicating improved investor confidence due to effective policy implementation.
Outcomes of 'Zero Tolerance Policy'
▪   Anti-Smuggling Measures. Significant quantities of seized items including:
▪   Fertilizer: 3,036.3 metric tons
▪   Wheat/Flour: 262.8 metric tons
▪   Sugar: 34,060.961 metric tons
▪   Cigarettes: 232,420 stakes
▪   Cloth: 245,811 rolls
▪   Iranian Oil: 5.857 million liters
▪   Anti-Hoarding Measures. Substantial amounts of seized items including:
▪   Fertilizer: 27,514.839 metric tons
▪   Wheat/Flour: 2,428.037 metric tons
▪   Ghee: 55,745.3 metric tons
▪   Sugar: 10,180.246 metric tons
▪   Anti-Power Theft Measures. Significant enforcement actions taken:
▪   FIRs Registered: 140,631
▪   Arrests Made: 69,537
▪   Recovered Amount: Rs. 91.231 billion
These measures reflect Pakistan's commitment to combating economic challenges through robust policies, fostering transparency, and improving economic resilience. The collaboration between government entities and international partners remains crucial for sustainable economic development and achieving long-term economic goals.