Speaking at the Business Civic Leadership Conference in Washington, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States emphasized the need for the foreign investments to be made into the nation’s economy, but he also pointed out where the immediate needs are for aid in the nation.
Most urgent needs include schools, hospitals, shelter and water in the Asian country, which continues to struggle after last month’s historic floods, said Husain Haqqani.
“Reconstruction of damaged houses and schools is a top priority. Housing is connected with livelihood and education,” Haqqani said. “Schools and hospitals are equally important; we are in a race against time that we cannot afford to lose.”
Ironically, in the weeks before the record floods devastated much of the nation, Haqqani says a widespread lack of water had become a major issue. “Three weeks before the flood situation, those in Pakistan were quarreling about how to share scarce water. Before and after the flood, providing clean drinking water is a huge issue.”
Pakistan seeks long-term investments
While Haqqani and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi outlined the immediate needs for aid, both men spent much of their time emphasizing the need for investors to look at the nation as an opportunity in the future. Both men said they were confident that the Pakistan would recover from the flooding, but said the long-term recovery will be based on economic factors.
“I am not here to ask you to write checks to Pakistan. Aid is not what we need. I am looking for you to facilitate trades to Pakistan, encourage private and public-sector to investments in Pakistan,” Qureshi said. He then asked, “Can you trade? Turn profits? Create partnerships and joint agreements? Yes you can!”
Both leaders explained that the reason for their emphasis on the economy is because the nation took many steps to turn its economy around in recent years. Haqqani pointed out that before the recent floods, Pakistan was about to have a predicted economic growth rate of 4.5 percent, which he said was a huge change from years of negative growth. Now, he said the nation stands to lose “$43 billion in losses.”
Qureshi was direct in outlining where the best investment opportunities are in Pakistan. “How can you help?” he asked, and then listed some answers:
“Our economy is agrarian,” he said. “We need to create jobs through agriculture. Investments there will be how we create jobs.”
Qureshi noted that Pakistan was the “5th largest producer of milk in the world” before talking about the energy sector.
“Our energy sector has a huge potential,” he said. “We have some of the largest untapped coal and copper deposits. Look at the potential for investments!”
He didn’t stop there. “Look at the potential investment in water projects as well as wind power and solar power. The engine of growth will be the private sector. We have put in place the mechanisms, now we need one thing: Give me market access!”
Haqqani noted that investing in development would satisfy both humanitarian and economic interests.
“Even the most cynical in the business world can look at this as a humanitarian opportunity,” he said, “but also one that will benefit bottom lines.”