LAHORE - Federal Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan Thursday said that sufficient electricity and gas would not only be available to all sorts of consumers but also at a comparative rate within next two years.

The federal commerce minister said despite shortage of electricity this winter, there was zero loadshedding on all industrial feeders, asserting that Pakistan’s economic development hinged at industrial sector that was again a major source of jobs creation. He expressed these views in a meeting with office-bearers of the FPCCI and UBG and later in a brief media talk at the Leather Show held at Lahore Expo Centre.

During the meeting, FPCCI President Abdur Rauf Alam, SAARC CCI Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik, TDAP Chairman S.M. Muneer and others highlighted the business community’s problems.

The minister said all the apprehensions about LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) import had now died down and Pakistan managed to strike an agreement with Qatar for LNG import at a very comparative rate of just over 13 percent of the imported oil price. While, most of the ongoing power projects from all resources would start generation within next two years, he added.

He said that financial close of USD 2.4 billion Thar Coal Extraction Project had been done and Prime Minister would soon perform ground-breaking of the project to be completed by 2018.

He said soon after waiver of sanctions from Iran, he had held a meeting with newly appointed Iranian Ambassador in Islamabad and discussed in detailed the possibility of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Iran as well as matters regarding Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline. He mentioned, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had also visited Iran and central Asian states for improving Pakistan’s connectivity with them.

“Now, we are at an advanced stage of improving of our trade relations with Iran,” he said and added that now Pakistan’s exports to Iran would increase and in addition to rice, other commodities would also be sent to Iran. Khurram Dastgir said current financial year would prove to be very challenging for Pakistan’s exports due to global recession and economic slowdown of China. He elaborated that Pakistan exports increased by 15 percent under the GSP-Plus regime but it could not make an eminent impact due to decline in value of Euro against US dollar, while Pakistani cotton yarns demand reduced substantially by respective Chinese companies due to their economic slowdown.

Saarc CCI vice president Iftikhar Malik appreciated the present regime, saying that political stability and revival of peace were turning Pakistan into a preferred destination for foreign investors, asserting that trade relation with China was also getting stronger. For the first time, he said, government would hold an exhibition at Peshawar, besides organizing textile focused expo in Karachi.

These trade exhibitions and conferences help to present Pakistan’s real and soft image to the comity of nations, he viewed.

Pakistan Tanners Association Chairman Gulzar Firoz said that some of the best brands of shoes are buying leather from Pakistan, being shipped to China, Vietnam etc. where the shoes are produced and re-exported to USA and European markets. “Our global share in leather exports is negligible therefore we have to consider measures to increase our leather exports as well as to take steps to add to value added products.”