LONDON - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asking foreign investors to invest in Pakistan’s lucrative energy sector, has said it holds great promise for an attractive rate of return on all investments.

Addressing the Energy Roundtable Conference here on Thursday, the prime minister hoped deliberations would enable the government to make necessary corrections in its policy framework to align it with international best practices and create an enabling environment for investment. He appreciated the government of the United Kingdom for organising the energy roundtable.

“We will not only discuss electricity generation and distribution, but also explore how to promote public-private partnership in the energy sector,” he said.

The PM said the government would also like to know the incentives and policy framework that could spur private investment in oil and gas sectors of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was committed to transforming the role of the government from a manager to a regulator. “We would like to explore how to build the public sector’s capacity to regulate in a short time. The experts’ review of their experiences in privatisation and regulation will enable us to identify the ideal policy mix for a transparent and enabling process,” the PM observed.

He said inclusive economic development required substantial investment in an efficient public infrastructure. Energy and communication infrastructures formed the backbone of industrial and social progress of any society, and it was mostly the private sector-led investments that had resulted in sustainable economic progress, he viewed. “We have much to gain by learning lessons and best practices from the developed economies,” he said.

The prime minister said his government inherited a challenging macroeconomic situation. “We used our political capital to take tough decisions, which have resulted in significant improvement on all major economic indicators.” He added the government had reduced its budget deficit from over 8% in the fiscal year to less than 6% in the first year and it was poised to end the current fiscal year at around 5% deficit.

Prime Minister Sharif said he had no doubt that Pakistan was at the stage of rapid economic and social progress, despite being confronted by massive energy shortages. “This is a challenge that cannot be faced with a patchwork of temporary measures, but requires a fundamental change in both policy and governance structures,” he held.

“My successful experience of promoting public-private partnerships in banking and telecommunication sectors encourages me to pursue the same approach for the energy sector,” Sharif said.

He said his vision was to develop a competitive energy market in Pakistan that offered a fair return on investment besides adequately protecting the rights of consumers through a robust regulatory regime.

Sharif said he had tasked his team to attract investment from all over the world in generation, exploration, distribution and transmission of both power and gas sectors. “We are prepared to transfer management control for improving service delivery, while retaining majority shares in these companies. I fully realise that this turnaround will require our complete commitment and support.”

He expressed confidence over the recently finalised initiative of CASA-1000 Project which links Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in a mutually beneficial relationship through an electricity transmission initiative.

He asserted the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would not only link the two countries, but also usher in an era of development, progress and prosperity for the people of the entire region.

He said his government wanted to develop one of the largest coal deposits in the world at Thar in Sindh province as the future energy capital of Pakistan.

He said the vast resources of Thar were enough to meet the energy needs of many countries in the region for tens of decades to come. “My government is committed to providing complete support for successful and early exploitation of these reserves,” Sharif said.

Talking to media persons after addressing the Energy Roundtable Conference here, the prime minister said the attempts by protesting parties to stop Pakistan’s development process had failed. Such attempts were, in fact, not against the government, but to derail the country. He said a stable and developed Pakistan was in the interest of all political parties and next governments.

He observed that energy was a major challenge for the country and sought cooperation of all political parties to help the government to meet it.

He expressed the hope that the government would overcome the energy crisis and mentioned the unprecedented support extended by China in several power projects. He said Germany had also shown interest in investment in relevant sectors in Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif said the Pak-UK energy conference in London would be helpful in finding ways to meet the electricity shortage. He said Pakistan was blessed with infinite resources and that population of 180 million could bring a revolution of prosperity in the country.

Sharif hoped the German companies would also invest in Pakistan’s energy sector to help overcome the energy crisis.

He said he had held positive discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Germany in this regard.

Sharif termed the Chinese pledge of over 40 billion dollars of investment in Pakistan a milestone in the history of Pak-China relations. He said it would help address the energy crisis. The prime minister set aside the impression that the investment from China was a loan.

The prime minister expressed the confidence that the energy crisis would be resolved during the current tenure of the PML-N government. He said the protesting elements would be left behind and the country would move forward.