Investment deals with KSA get Cabinet’s nod

ISLAMABAD  –   The federal cabinet Thursday gave its nod to sign Memorandums of Understanding worth billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia as the nation prepared to accord a historic welcome to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also decided to give an unprecedented hospitality to Prince Salman during his stay in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan will himself receive Saudi Crown Prince at the airport. The visiting dignitary will be given a salute of 21 guns.

The Crown Prince will arrive in Islamabad on a two-day official visit tomorrow (February 16) on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He will be accompanied by a high-powered delegation including members of the Saudi Royal family, key ministers and leading businessmen. This will be the first state-level visit of the dignitary to Pakistan since his elevation to the position of the Crown Prince in April 2017.

During his visit, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will call on President Arif Alvi. He will also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. A delegation of Pakistan’s Senate will also call on the Crown Prince to discuss ways to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.

During his stay, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign a number of agreements and MoUs in diverse sectors, including investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports. The two countries will also discuss ways and means to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of cooperation.

The federal cabinet meeting deliberated over a 20-point agenda. The meeting was briefed about different issues including Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations, forthcoming visit of Saudi crown prince and other issues. The meeting continued for more than five hours.

Earlier, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chaired a cabinet meeting in Riyadh ahead of the Crown Prince’s visit to Pakistan. The King authorised Saudi ministers to ink agreements with Pakistani authorities.

PM’s Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood said he expected a $7 billion Saudi investment in the country in the next two years and that agreements will be signed between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia when the Saudi Crown Prince visits Pakistan. Saudi investors, he said, were interested more in food and agriculture sectors. An overall investment of $20 billion is expected by the Saudis in the future.

A cabinet member who attended the meeting told The Nation that PM Khan asked the ministers to brief their Saudi counterparts efficiently to enhance their interest in Pakistan. “The Crown Prince’s meeting was the main agenda. There were other issues also that were discussed. All eyes are on the visit,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a separate high-level meeting on the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and reviewed the arrangements regarding various engagements of the Crown Prince and his delegation during their two-day stay in Pakistan.

The meeting decided to give a historic welcome to the Saudi Crown Prince and his delegation as they will arrive here on February 16 on an official visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The Prime Minister told the meeting that the present-day Pakistan was providing maximum opportunities to foreign investors. He said all possible facilities would be provided to promotion of investment and business in the country.

He said the government was ensuring provision of all necessary facilities to business and easy visa. He said Pakistan would play its role for durable peace in the region, adding this was the new Pakistan which the whole world was witnessing.

Meanwhile, briefing the journalists after the meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the upcoming visit of Saudi Crown Prince was highly significant as it was a milestone in numerous successes of the government at the foreign policy front.

He said Pakistan had once again become a key player in Middle East politics. Chaudhry said: “our reconciliatory role has been recognized and Pakistan is making sincere efforts to bridge the differences between various Muslim countries.”

He said during the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit, the agreements and MoUs to be signed and the overall investment coming into the country will be more than overall investment during the last decade. He said Saudis will invest $ 8 billion alone in an oil refinery.

The minister said the cabinet had decided to provide gas and electricity to various industrial zones in the country on immediate basis in order to facilitate investors. He said liberalization of visa regime and steps taken to improve ease of doing business will attract more investors to invest in the country.

Chaudhry said Pakistan was making sincere efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan and the upcoming negotiations between Taliban and the United States will bring regional stability which will ultimately promote peace, business and prosperity in the region.

The minister said the meeting also reviewed the progress of previous cabinet meetings. He said so far 26 cabinet meetings had been held with 440 decisions taken. Of these, 243 decisions have been implemented.

The cabinet, he said, gave approval to appointment of Zafar Usmani as new chairman of Pakistan State Oil, along with reconstitution of its Board.

He said an overseas Pakistani Adnan Ghani had been appointed as head of Zarai Tarqqiati Bank Limited. His appointment gives a message that the government appreciated and recognized the positive contributions of overseas Pakistanis in the economy.

The minister said that Naseer Khan Kashani had been appointed Chairman of Gwadar Port.  He said Essential Services Act has been declared at State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan.

The cabinet, he said, was briefed that process on transferring Sheikh Zayed Hospital and other hospitals to the center. The minister said draft proposal for merger of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority and National Disaster Management Authority was approved.

The cabinet also granted approval to Board of Pakistan Institute of Management Sciences. Chaudhry said a committee has been set up for water payment surcharge issue to Azad Kashmir. He said National Anti-Narcotics Policy was also laid before the cabinet.

The anti-drugs policy 2018 was presented during the meeting. The relaxation in Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules 2004 in infrastructure and economic inclusion projects were deliberated.

The approval of appointment of Employees Old-Age Benefits Institutions chairman and Gwadar Port Authority chairman was also included in the agenda.

The cabinet also gave approval in principle of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences ordinance 2019 document. Amendments in National Disaster Management Act 2010 and approval of the appointment of Agricultural Development Bank president were also approved.

National Economic Council’s report for the fiscal year 2017-18 was also being presented in the meeting. The cabinet approved all the agenda items.

 

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