ISLAMABAD          -       Pakistan needs to streamline its business environment to overcome certain economic shortfalls in the wake of COVID-19 and to achieve future developments targets, particularly those relating to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).   

Streamlining the regulatory environment for business is also imperative for both Pakistan and China, said Chinese scholar Prof. Zhou Rong in an article published by China Economic Net (CEN) on Sunday. 

He noted that the foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan was 10 percent lower than the $133.2 million recorded in April 2020 and 53% lesser than the $254 million registered in May 2019, as Covid-19 forced global investors to put their new investment plans on hold.

The global lock-down imposed to contain the virus badly impacted economic activities, businesses, people’s income and their purchasing power. 

As a result, the demand in international markets for many Pakistani products, except for food and pharmaceuticals, dropped sharply.  

According to Prof. Zhou Rong who is special commentator of CEN and senior Fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Study of Renmin University, most of the foreign investment during the Covid-19 pandemic went to the ongoing projects in Pakistan rather than new projects.

The overall 91% growth in FDI got major support from an increase in Chinese investment, mainly in power projects under the frame of CPEC. In the first 11 months of FY20, China was the largest investor with net investment of $855.6 million.

He noted that the flow of foreign investment in future depends on the unfolding Covid-19-related events like the second and third waves of infections, controlling the crisis and introducing the much-awaited vaccine. 

The return of stability to the financial health of global firms is a must to attract new foreign investment in Pakistan and also Pakistan’s ability to absorb FDI.

Now, to attract FDI more effectively, the Pakistani government is all set to comply with the WTO provisions to implement Pakistan Single Window (PSW) to streamline cross-border movement of goods and regulatory bottlenecks, and the government has set a deadline of 2022 to put in place the whole system which will be implemented at a cost of $67 million.  

He hoped this will not only improve the ease of doing business, but also enhance controls through integrated risk management.