WASHINGTON - Pakistan will facilitate investments into the energy sector in a bid to address the energy challenges facing the country, Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar said here on Friday.

Speaking at a discussion hosted by the Business Council of International Understanding, he said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif-led government had taken the lingering issue of energy shortages head on, and was working to overcome energy shortfall through a focused approach.

The council includes members from more than 150 world-leading companies and is dedicated to promoting dialogue and action between the business and government communities.

In his remarks, he referred to efforts to utilise a variety of available resources including water as well as regional connectivity and encourage investment into the sector to bridge the 4,000MW gap between production and supply for domestic users as well as the industry. He also mentioned the financial institutions’ support for energy priorities of the country. Dar underlined the importance of using low-cost fuels for power generation and renewed Islamabad’s pledge to facilitate investors in setting up production units.

Agencies add: Ishaq Dar met with Philippe Le Houerou, Vice President SAR World Bank, who assured him of the Bank’s cooperation in realizing Pakistan’s economic and energy priorities. Houerou praised the resolve of the government towards solving the economic issues faced by the country and appreciated deft handling of tough issues.

He said the World Bank looks forward to working with the Government of Pakistan according to its priorities especially those on energy and economy, the Pakistani embassy said.

Finance Minister Dar thanked the World Bank team for its support and cooperation, acknowledging that the joint efforts made the progress possible. He informed the World Bank team that Pakistan was ready for the third review of the IMF and that the progress on various requirements by the IMF was on track.

Philippe expressed satisfaction regarding narrowing down of tariff issues amongst CASA-1000 participants and asked Finance Minister Dar to keep the momentum going. The two sides also discussed the World Bank flagship program of Income Support Program.

Dar also stated that with the recent build up of reserves Pakistan expected to become eligible for IBRD loans, which would enable it to undertake major projects. Philippe Le Houerou appreciated that Pakistan was likely to become eligible for IBRD loans and directed his team to work closely with the Government of Pakistan in selecting major projects that could be financed under IBRD.

Meanwhile, Ishaq Dar met Deputy Secretary Treasury Sarah Bloom Raskin at the margins of IMF and World Bank Spring meetings in Washington DC and briefed her about the economic recovery plan of the government. He said that all macro economic indicators were pointing towards a strong resurgence of Pakistan economy.

He apprised the Deputy Secretary Treasury about bold reforms undertaken by the government in the energy sector and the government’s roadmap of overcoming energy shortage in the medium and long term. The Deputy Secretary congratulated the Finance Minister on a very successful launch of the Eurobond and appreciated strong economic recovery. She expressed interest in learning about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) compliance.

In response, the Finance Minister informed that legislation towards that end was well on track. 

Ishaq Dar also held a very cordial and productive meeting with the Executive Vice President (EVP) of International Finance Corporation (IFC), Jin Yong Cai at Washington DC. The IFC EVP said that the Corporation was planning to set up a company in South Asia for infrastructure projects, which will specially benefit the energy sector of Pakistan.

The head of IFC expressed keen interest in issuance of the Pakistani rupee bond and setting up currency swap line. He said the IFC wanted to establish an international Pak Rupee program, which will protect local businesses from exchange volatility. The IFC was envisioning interest from investors from other countries in Pakistan including China. Cai expressed his keen desire to assist Pakistan towards initiation of the ILO/IFC “Better Works Program.” The finance minister, in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ali Tayyeb Nia, discussed the time frame of the Joint Economic Commission that is scheduled in the next quarter.

The two sides will discuss about 50 agenda items at the upcoming JEC meeting and implementation of the outstanding agenda items by both sides will result in strengthening of economic ties between the two countries and bilateral trade.