Prime Minister Imran Khan's upcoming visit to Washington DC is being awaited with much anticipation, particularly by the Pakistani-American community. Of course, his primary goal is to meet with...
Prime Minister Imran Khan's upcoming visit to Washington DC is being awaited with much anticipation, particularly by the Pakistani-American community. Of course, his primary goal is to meet with President Trump and discuss matters of mutual interest. One can assume the president will focus on US goals regarding exit from Afghanistan and the subsequent aftermath in that country. The prime minister will likely look for American support for Pakistan's financial needs.
The Pakistan embassy in Washington DC has been busy preparing for the PM's visit. In addition to the official meetings, a large event with the Pakistani-American community has been planned. An arena that can seat up to 20,000 has been booked and expectation is it will get filled up.
Pakistan's financial challenges seem to surface every few years causing the government to knock on the doors of the IMF. This has become a once-a-decade occurrence. I recently attended a presentation at a Washington think tank where issues facing South Asia were being discussed. I had a chance to sit next to a recently retired senior State Department official who is known to be an avid Pakistan watcher. She said "Pakistan will need to understand it will not get out of these financial crises until it figures out a way to raise enough revenue through taxation to meet the country's expenses".
Indeed this much is clear to anyone who has paid attention to happenings in Pakistan over the last two to three decades. There is no alternative to the Pakistan government finding a way to raise enough tax revenues to pay for itself. Unfortunately, successive governments keep trying to add further tax burden on those that are already heavily taxed while many sectors of the economy continue to avoid the tax net entirely.
Another crucial way the country can mobilize resources is to stimulate the economy. Pakistan has a large consumer sector that can be very attractive for foreign investors. In fact companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, and Procter & Gamble are doing thriving business in Pakistan and at the same time generating significant tax revenue for the country. I hope a portion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s time here will be spent showcasing for the American private sector the potential Pakistan's market represents. While Pakistan is often portrayed negatively in the US media, American success stories from Pakistan can help draw much deserved attention to the potential of this market.
I spent 10 years working for an American consumer goods company in Pakistan. The country not only represents tremendous business potential, but is also a great source of top talent for its employers. Many young managers recruited in Pakistan have grown in the organization and are contributing to business across the world. Pakistani managers have developed a great reputation for their talent and leadership.
A country with a large consumer market and a vast supply of top talent should be a foreign investor's dream. It is up to the government of Pakistan to propagate this story and continue to make Pakistan an attractive place to do business with and in. The resulting economic activity will go a long way in alleviating the country's financial challenges.
Both the government and the private sector in the US pay attention to Pakistan only when an incident of geopolitical significance takes place in that part of the world. And under such circumstances the news is often negative. Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the US provides a unique opportunity to showcase the potential Pakistan represents for large American multinational companies that may be hesitant. I hope the prime minister and his team will take full advantage of this.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC.
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