LAHORE - Rizwan Khalid Butt, chairman Punjab Industrial Estates Development & Management Company (PIEDMC), has discussed the investment scenario in Punjab, the achievements of PIEDMC and other related in an interview with The Nation.

Q: How do you look at the successful holding of 2nd International Seminar on Business Opportunities (ISBOP)?

A: The ISBOP was Punjab’s largest and most successful event for anyone interested to invest in Punjab. The purpose of ISBOP was to bring together investors, enterprises, business owners, entrepreneurs and experts to come together and discuss how they can capitalize on immense business opportunities offered by Punjab. With thousands of visitors, hundreds of participants, a world-class seminar and useful information sessions, ISBOP was the most successful event of its kind in Punjab, where participants had access to top-of-the-line speakers, business experts, incredible interactive exhibits, world class networking, in-depth knowledge and valuable networking opportunities.

All credit goes to the dynamic leadership of Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif for bringing in the public and private sector together and pursuing them to set up state of the art industrial estates throughout Punjab.

Q: How many MoUs PIEDMC signed at ISBOP?

A: The PIEDMC signed 7 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with the investors attending the ISBOP 2017. Both the domestic and international companies have signed MoUs to secure land for investment purposes at the industrial estates under control of PIEDMC. Those who signed MoUs included Al Ahad Oil & Feed Mills for 8-acre land, M/s MUX Foods for 4-acre land and Naqshbund Foods for 2-acre land at the Multan Industrial Estate-II, M/s Global Steel for 5-acre land at the Chunian Industrial Estate, NSMEC China, Tian He International Holdings Group Limited for 400-acre and M/s Tianhe Tobacco International HK Company Limited, Hong Kong for 10-acre land at Bhalwal industrial Estate.

Q: You also attended a road show of the Punjab government in the port city of China Tianjin recently. How was the experience?

A: It was quite a wonderful experience as the PIEDMC spearhead it where the Punjab government signed two agreements; including cooperation in the field of teachers’ training, and syllabi curricula as well as setting up of an innovation centre. The agreements were signed between the Technical Training and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) Punjab and Tianjin Modern Vocational Technology College and Tianjin University of Technology and Education.

This road show has given birth to lot more expectations with regarding to mutual cooperation between the two countries. Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif also graced the occasion and praised the industrialisation and vocational training facilities in Tianjin. He further expressed the hope that cooperation between the two provinces would lead to promotion of prosperity of Punjab and an improvement in the living standards of the people of Pakistan.

Besides PIEDMC, representatives from FIEDMC, PSDF, TEVTA, PBIT and department of Industries participated in the road show to showcase their products, facilities and inherent potentials to the Chinese investors.

Q: What is the investment scenario in the province of Punjab?

A: The Punjab government, to a large extent, has overcome infrastructure bottlenecks, power crisis, low transport connectivity for efficient trade logistics and low availability of suitable and affordable land for both industrial and commercial investment.

Gone are the days when regulatory barriers, frequent changes in rules governing taxes and tariffs, cumbersome process for availing investment incentives such as access to foreign exchange, complex business registration practices, lack of clear role of government departments as “regulators” and “facilitators” of investment, complex, excessive and intrusive business inspections and absence of an effective one-window facility for investor facilitation were the common barriers of business growth in Pakistan, particularly in the  province of Punjab.

Q: How would you rate the situation in terms of ease of doing business?

A: Pakistan has already made important progress towards the ease of doing business. According to the latest edition of the World Bank Group’s Doing Business report, the country has emerged as one of the global top 10 improvers this year. Pakistan’s position in the doing business global rankings improved to 144 out of 190 economies this year under the latest methodology as a result of the reforms programme announced by the government. The country was ranked 60th in 2006, about a decade ago.

Today, a request for opening of business is processed and finalized within 6-8 weeks time, provided that the company fulfills all requirements and concerned quarters have no objection. You simply have to contact Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, explore relevant MOUs signed in the past and examine bilateral agreements between countries to seek any exclusive facilitations provided to certain countries, select most efficient mode of business operation as either a Greenfield Project, Brownfield Project, Joint Venture Business or a Public Private Partnership under the PPP Infrastructure Ordinance, 2009, determine financial feasibility of a project after shaping a holistic cost component, incorporate the Company based on Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, register of Memorandum and Articles of Association with SECP, fulfill requirement to complete basic compliance forms such as Appointment of Auditors and Legal Advisor and commencement of operations. Being Chairman Punjab Industrial Estate Development and Managemnt Company, I assure you of strict regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights are observed in the province.

Q: What efforts Punjab government has made for attracting investment?

A: The Punjab government has established state of the art industrial estates throughout Punjab following the public-private partnership model in order to bring less developed areas of Punjab into main stream in terms of job creation, poverty alleviation and sustainable GDP growth.

It has set up Punjab Industrial Estates Development and Management Company (PIEDMC) Ltd. to achieve orderly, planned and rapid industrialization of Punjab by developing a chain of industrial estates in a dynamic and innovative manner. This aims at providing turnkey solutions to the problems by prospective entrepreneurs. PIEDMC is led by private sector so that it can be more flexible, able to respond to the changing environment and designed to be financially self sustainable in order to maintain desired impetus or developmental works. The organization consists of a central board of Directors consisting of 16 members from private sector representing different sectors of economy and from most of the regions of Punjab. Further, each Industrial Estate has its own board of management which identifies their requirements for the type of industries and its supporting requirements so that they can be consolidated, value addition increased and over heads reduced.

Q: What is the objective and mission of PIEDMC?

A: The objective of Punjab Industrial Estates Development and Management Company is to provide quality infrastructure, ensure efficient, cost effective and sustainable management of industrial estates, “One Window Operation” and provide utilities and services to industrial estates.

Its mission is to develop a chain of industrial estates in a dynamic and innovative manner by capitalizing on proposed and existing industrial and agricultural strength of Punjab while keeping the cultural strengths and heritage of various districts.

Q: Can you list down the achievements PIEDMC has made since 2009?

A:  The Punjab Industrial Estates Development and Management Company (PIEDMC) has grown by leaps and bounds since 2009 when the fate of the Company was hanging in the balance and its future was in doldrums.

It is the only Section 42 Company constituted by the Punjab government under the Companies Ordinance, 1984 that has won laurels by achieving the goal of industrialization in the province through public-private partnership.

Best audit practices and human resource manual are well in place that has boosted the confidence of business community and bridged the gap between the public and private sector.

The present management is a continuity of the Board of Directors constituted by the Chief Minister Punjab in 2009. As matter of fact, all the previous BoDs have put in best of their potential to make PIEDMC a success story. Independent Boards of Management for all industrial estates in the province are functioning to ensure smooth operations. Transparency in the finances of the Company has been the priority of present management from day one. The external audit of the Company is up to date and hiring of Chief Internal Auditor has enabled the Company to carry out internal audit every year without interruption. The Company has returned billions of rupees loan to the Punjab government. Automation has also been the hallmark of the Company.

Marketing and branding of the PIEDMC projects has been the cornerstone of PIEDMC strategies. The management has organised a number of expos to attract potential investors/industrialists. Extensive meetings with ICBC, World Bank and other foreign delegations is also a permanent feature of the Company. An in-house mechanism has been devised to prepare and print investor guide, newsletters, brochures and other Point of Sale material from time to time.

A very persuasive and target-oriented website attracts impressive traffic from the potential investors/industrialists from within and outside the country.

Besides completing industrial estates in different parts of the province, sale of industrial plots has started at the Bhalwal Industrial Estate where construction of infrastructure development works in the phase-I has already complete. Similarly, construction work at the Vehari Industrial Estate, Rahim Yar Khan Industrial Estate and Chunian Industrial Estate is near completion and sale of plots is underway.

Meanwhile, the industrial estates yet in pipeline included Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Bahawalpur and Punjab China Economic Zone at 5000 Acres in Sheikhupura and development work is underway on a fast pace. Transparency in plot selling is a hallmark of PIEDMC that has earned good repute and credibility for it amongst industrial investors, both within and outside country.

Q: What legal covers are ensured for investors in the province of Punjab?

A: The Punjab Government has undertaken many initiatives to ease down business practices, particularly under the newly defined rules under the 18th Amendment. Reducing the cost of doing business specifically has been devolved to a considerable extent to the provinces. Four out of ten Doing Business Indicators are now the purview of the provincial government. The policy actions pertaining to the Department of Industries are to the extent that the Department can play an advocacy and co-ordination role between the private sector and the Government bodies to which the policy proposals are targeted.

Amendments have been made in the Land Acquisition Act to promote planned industrial development. The land acquisition facility in now used only for prioritized sectors and prioritized locations.

Q: What role PIEDMC has played in industrialization so far?

A: The PIEDMC has set up eight industrial estates on a total area of 5000 acres. On an average, every acre of land produces 100 jobs, which means PIEDMC would ensure 500,000 jobs in next one and a half years. Majority of the industrial sites are near completion and now the actual challenge is to suggest the investors what type of industrial units they should set up on these industrial estates. PIEDMC has decided to set up a facilitation desk at its head office to guide the prospective investors to achieve the target of job creation. We would guide investors to take right decisions on investment. This desk would provide research-based guidance to both local and international investors including the investors for CPEC projects. We will execute our new policy framework through this facilitation desk and graduates from the LUMS would be engaged to development guidelines with the help of bureaucracy.

Q: What is the investment mix at the industrial estates under PIEDMC?

A: So far as the local and foreign investment is concerned, the present investment mix is 95:5, which we have targeted to bring to the level of 80:20. We are working hard to achieve this target, as a large number of expatriate Pakistanis are returning home for good. We are expecting heavy investments from them once they settle down in Pakistan. Similarly, we are also tapping the investment opportunities from Chinese and Turkish investors. Both the Chinese and Turkish governments are also supportive to their investors and the PIEDMC takes it as a big opportunity. We have planned to expand PIEDMC team to meet upcoming challenges.

Q: What arrangements have been made to overcome energy shortage in the industrial estates?

A: Efforts of the government to overcome power shortage in the country are in the right direction. The number of power projects installed by the government is quite encouraging. I think 99 percent of the issue would be resolved in two to three years time. Meanwhile, the government is also working on long term projects to deal with the issue of power shortage. Once the power needs are fulfilled, the factories would be operational on double shift.

At the PIEDMC-run industrial estates, we are facilitating the industrialists in three ways, including hiring the services of rental power generation during the summer, especially during the holy month of Ramadan and such other peak seasons. Secondly, we procure electricity from the power plants situated in and around the industrial estates on the take and pay basis. Thirdly, we are also in touch with the industrialists who have installed captive power plants within our industrial estates. We are confident that the government would overcome the problem and situation would be normal very soon.

Q: What is your message for the investors?

A: I am sure that the ease of doing business ranking would improve impressively next year when a new set of industrial policy would be in place. I invite all the prospective investors to invest in the PIEDMC-run industrial estates and enjoy the state of art facilities in terms of regulations, procedures, time, cost and minimum capital to open a new business, build a warehouse, obtain a permanent electricity connection, and register commercial real estate besides legal rights, credit information, tax facilities and speedy documentation to trade across boarder.