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Tuesday April 16, 2024

SIFC a vibrant economic initiative against status quo

By Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar
September 06, 2023

The establishment and strengthening of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) is of utmost importance for our nation’s economic and national security interests. This is the only way now we can build the confidence of investors and attract international foreign direct investment.

The establishment of the SIFC is seen as a crucial effort to address our country’s economic problems and to strengthen our national security. The incorporation of both civilian and military skills will provide a thorough strategy to lure investments and revive the economy through better coordination of different govt organizations of different tears.

The SIFC is created under the Board of Investment Ordinance 2001 by inserting a new chapter with a clear line of action and placing it under the leadership of the prime minister. Its purpose is to act as a single point of contact for investment facilitation and creation of an enabling policy environment in order to draw both domestic and foreign investment to Pakistan. Within a short period of time, this effort not only drew national investors but also those from abroad. It may be claimed that this is a wonderful and much anticipated initiative to change the status quo that hinders Pakistan’s economic progress and to turn Pakistan into a country that welcomes foreign investment.

There is no getting around the fact that despite Pakistan’s great potential and advantageous location, there has been very little foreign direct investment there during the past many decades. This is due to a variety of factors, such as political unpredictability and security worries, inadequate infrastructure, onerous administrative procedures, lack of transparency, ineffective government operations and frequent changes in economic policies, tax laws, and investment laws. However, despite being aware of everything, neither the federal nor provincial administrations made any concerted efforts to eliminate these roadblocks to Pakistan’s economic progress, despite the fact that their neighbors have done so and are seeing results.

With legal support for SIFC and the composition, one can reasonably assume and envision that the previous political government has demonstrated serious efforts with coordination of the establishment to remove these recognized obstacles under one roof by inspiring confidence in both local and foreign investors and to increase investment (FDI) in Pakistan, which can ultimately free us from the vicious cycle of a lack of dollars and a trade deficit.

With legal backing behind SIFC and composition, one can realistically think and visualize that now serious efforts have been shown by political government with coordination of establishment to remove these known obstacles under one umbrella by giving the confidence to local and international investors and to increase investment (FDI) in Pakistan, which ultimately can save us from vicious circle of dollar shortage and trade deficit. With the ambitious goal of attracting $100 billion in FDI within three years and a further goal of achieving a nominal GDP of $1 trillion by fiscal year 2035, the SIFC has further demonstrated the potential in areas of defense production, agriculture, mines and minerals, energy, and the IT industry.

The construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam and mining activities at Reko Diq in Balochistan’s Chagai area are two of the 28 projects worth billions of dollars that will be offered to Gulf countries for investment. The Apex Committee of the SIFC has already held three sessions and approved these projects within a short span of time, which shows the commitment to bring investment in Pakistan.

The success of the SIFC would all depend on its ability to collaborate efficiently by removing all obstacles with groups in the public, private sectors and with international investors by giving them the projects offer and to help them during their feasibility and execution.

The following recommendations are made as a way forward to make SIFC a more effective, credible and result oriented organization and to achieve its goals set in law.

i. In order to guarantee predictability, continuity, and efficient policy execution; the SIFC’s activities need to be streamlined. This is required to guarantee the SIFC’s effectiveness. This requires ongoing cooperation between the civilian and military professionals, utilising their combined knowledge and experience. ii. A permanent secretariat for the SIFC in Islamabad and later in the provincial capitals is crucial to ensuring stability and consistent management. This will enable effective coordination and communication among the several parties engaged in intelligence fusion and investment facilitation.

iii. The success of the SIFC depends on the participation of highly skilled and experienced experts in the disciplines of law, information technology, corporate farming, energy, mining, investment facilitation, intelligence analysis, and strategic planning. The nomination of qualified experts with international expertise may be sought on a sector-by-sector basis to ensure the efficiency of the SIFC.

iv. The SIFC’s Future In order for the council to achieve its objectives, a detailed road map outlining its duties, resource allocation, and deadlines must be created. A specialised task force should be constituted to develop and implement this plan, ensuring a coordinated and successful strategy. We can help you with these professional responsibilities, and boosting economic growth and development through long-term investments.

v. Encouraging information sharing among relevant players and the early resolution of open business and investment issues, and providing modules and supporting regional and global cooperative projects.

vi. Removing barriers to government collaboration and decision-making, and increasing knowledge of Pakistan’s favourable reputation both internally and outside for the goal of enhancing the business and investment climate.

vii. Making suggestions for modifications to the laws and rules that restrict investment in Pakistan, and proposing and creating a commercial dispute resolution mechanism in Pakistan for quick resolution of commercial and investment-related disputes and timely contract compliance.

viii. Making recommendations for ways to improve procedures and foster openness and transparency when it comes to matters pertaining to business and investments, and to improve Pakistan’s soft image and shining image, which are essential for attracting foreign investment.

So, it is important to take simultaneously all steps, as mentioned above, for the SIFC but it is as important to improve the justice and governance system, and also to make efficient our regulatory framework for ease of doing business and remove the multitier bureaucratic system both at federal and provincial levels in Pakistan, because without having the successful reforms and time limit implementation in these areas and to make them credible and efficient for the citizens and international investors, it would be very difficult to sustain the long term economic development in Pakistan.

Thus, the working in these areas through reforms be initiated immediately in the larger interest of the country.

The author is a practicing Advocate Supreme Court His email address is hafizahsaan47@gmail.com