Lahore - Despite highly improved security situation, especially in Karachi, better management of the energy supply to industry, improved business confidence and various measures meant to stabilise the economy, direct foreign investment continues to be at a dismally low level.

The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) questioned that considering many positives of Pakistan’s economy like rising GDP growth rate, various incentives offered to local and foreign investors, a middle class of roughly 70 million people, record low-level inflation and interest rates, increasing Forex reserves and slowdown in competing commodity based economies, what is holding back the inflow of large investment into the country?

OICCI President Shahab Rizvi observed that for him and other OICCI members, one of the key bottlenecks was the lack of predictable, transparent and consistent implementation of policies, which sometimes deter promising new investors from making large commitments. “At the same time the OICCI members, who have been working in Pakistan for many years and know the environment and potential of the country, continue to invest large amount of capital, roughly over a billion dollars annually,” Rizvi said. He further said the OICCI members had employed over a million people in their units and contributed about one third of the total tax revenues of the country.

He also referred to OICCI’s recent Business Confidence Index, which stands at record 22+ level, supported by an equally bullish feedback from foreign investors operating in Pakistan.

He recommended to the government to engage best experts from within and outside the country, and even invite international consultants to advise on boosting long-term investment in the export-oriented industries of Pakistan, considering the country’s strategic location and educated working class. To prove his point, OICCI president referred to the Mckinsey & Company consultants previous report, which had given an in-depth analysis and recommendations for diversifying Pakistan’s exports.

“Among other things, the report had suggested investment in pharmaceutical industry, identifying it as a sector, with a tremendous export potential,” Rizvi said, and added, “However, unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry has been over-regulated in the country, and is not giving appropriate returns to its foreign investors who are also concerned about the protection of their patents. He informed that Pakistan had no FDA certified pharmaceutical plant, whereas India had over 160 and Bangladesh had four such plants.