PM’s vision hope for SAARC countries: Iftikhar

Salim Ahmed

Lahore

SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Senior Vice President (SVP) and United Business Group (UBG) Central Chairman Iftikhar Ali Malik, terming Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden heart touching address to the nation on television an infusion of new hopes said PTI government will play constructive role to strengthen SAARC by bringing India and Pakistan close together which would be harbinger of prosperity and peace in the region.
In his statement issued here Tuesday, he said the dream of progress and prosperity of region and development coupled with peace in the region could not be achieved till relations of Pakistan and India were free of mutual animosity and distrust. “The region accounts for only three percent of global output and two percent of world exports,” he rued. He said he believed that more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) can be secured for SAARC if we collaborate, rather than unhealthy and non productive competition. Even trade within the SAARC countries is less than 6 percent, which is a big question mark, he deplored. He said an investment-friendly environment to promote trade in the region if appropriate steps are taken timely to remove trade barriers and streamline custom procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current USD 28 billion to over USD 100 billion.
He also urged the PTI leadership to work for removing distrust between US and Pakistan relationship.
For this purpose, he suggested the United States and Pakistan should expand cooperation on the 2013 Joint Action Plan on Trade and Investment as the United States remains Pakistan’s largest bilateral export market and a significant source of foreign direct investment.
He said the United States was Pakistan’s largest bilateral trading partner adding it would be in the interest of both the countries to enhance their trade volume which had been hovering around $5 billion for the last five years.
Iftikhar Malik also said Imran Khan would take steps to bring political stability by bringing all political opponent parties on the same platform of his agenda. He said that stability is a key to making the country an economic giant and this is only possible when all political parties sit together setting aside their political differences to chalk out a comprehensive economic plan for the betterment of the people of Pakistan. He said Pakistan had all resources to become an economic giant but only need is to set directions with zeal, courage and sincerity. He said Pakistan’s huge mineral resources could help get rid of the economic ills. Reiterating his earlier stance, he said Imran will utilize his best leadership flair and available resources for the promotion of trade and industry in South Asian region.
Welcoming Imran Khan’s commitment to build Diamer-Basha dam said Pakistan should reduce its dependence on India and Afghanistan for water by constructing dams and water reservoirs. “Dams will not only ensure water security but also reduce dependence on fossil fuels, balancing the energy mix which is heavily tilted towards oil,” he added.
He said that the citizens are contributing for the construction of two dams which is laudable but the cost cannot be covered through charity. It requires resources which can only be met through loans worth billions of dollars. He said that dams will also reduce dependence on furnace oil, saving billions of dollars in energy imports. It will reduce the cost of power generation which will boost economic activity, create jobs, and boost exports.

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