It is the time the government policymakers should find an answer as to why the foreign investors — other than China — are only interested in the local market and are reluctant to invest in the export-oriented industries. China has made a huge investment in power and infrastructure sectors under China Pakistan Economic Corridor, but trust deficit on the ability and capacity of the government still prevails. There is a huge space for foreign direct investment in the export-oriented industries of Pakistan. The government recently took initiative to improve energy supply and upgrade the infrastructure to create conductive environment for foreign investors, but still there is a long way to go. Chinese containers fill to the brim are continually pouring into Pakistan through road and sea routes, but returning to China empty from the Pakistani ports. This is called the business unusual. The volume of trade is in China’s favour and now the government is trying to revise free trade agreement with Beijing. It is yet to be seen why an agreement was signed which needed an instant revision. But in a country where accountability process is politicized, and anyone involved in dereliction of duty walks scot-free, this kind of follies are hallmark of the working of the officialdom.
Despite a geo-political situation and location of Pakistan, the level and size of investment is utterly meager. On the other hand, the countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam have outperformed Pakistan in business, trade and investment. They have policies and we have rhetoric and policies win all the time when those are implemented with sincerity. The objective of the CPEC is to connect the two countries for mutual benefits and interests. Otherwise, there is no use of burdening the nation with billions of dollars loans. If the CPEC is a game changer, it should be beneficial not only for Pakistan and China, but also for the entire region. The government should now fully concentrate on the development of special economic zones and export processing zones coupled with tax and duty concessions for the international investors. The bureaucracy must be told in clear terms that there will be zero tolerance for red tape and they would have to extend their share in the economic development of the country. So far, hundreds of foreign companies are already working in Pakistan in various sectors and they need encouragement from the government to expand their operations. The government should show its maturity and restore the trust of the investors in its policies. Actions speak louder than words.