Is Pakistan Garment Industry Becoming More Cost Competitive With Bangladesh's?

Low wages and trade deals with Western nations have helped Bangladesh build a $30 billion ready-made garments (RMG) industry that accounts for 80% of country's exports. Bangladesh is the world's second largest RMG exporter after China. Rising monthly wages of Bangladesh garment worker in terms of US dollars are now catching up with the minimum wage in Pakistan, especially after recent Pakistani rupee devaluation. Minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has declined from $136 last year to $107 now while Bangladesh has seen it increase from $64 last year to $95 today.  Western garment buyers, known for their relentless pursuit of the lowest labor costs, will likely diversify their sources by directing new investments to Pakistan and other nations. Competing on low cost alone may prove to be a poor long term exports strategy for both countries.  Greater value addition with diverse products and services will be necessary to remain competitive as wages rise in both countries.


Minimum Monthly Wages in US$ Market Exchange Rate


Wage Hike in Bangladesh:

The government in Dhaka announced in September that the minimum wage for garment workers would increase by up to 51% this year to 8,000 taka ($95) a month, up from $64 a year ago, according to Renaissance Capital. But garment workers union leaders say that increase will benefit only a small percentage of workers in the sector, which employs 4 million in the country of 165 million people, according to Reuters.  Bangladesh government promised this week it would consider demands for an increase in the minimum wage, after clashes between police and protesters killed one worker and wounded dozens.

Monthly Minimum Wages in US$. Source: Renaissance Capital

Pakistan Wage Decline:

Pakistani currency has seen about 25% decline in value against the US dollar since January 2018. As a result of this devaluation, the minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has dropped from $136 last year to $107 now while Bangladesh has seen it increase from $64 last year to $95 today. Renaissance Capital projects a further 10% depreciation in Pakistani rupee this year.

Race to the Bottom? 

Competing on cost alone is like engaging in the race to the bottom. Neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh can count on being lowest cost producers in the long run. What must they do to grow their exports in the future? The only viable option for both is to diversify their products and services and add greater value to justify higher prices.

Pakistan's Export Performance:

The bulk of Pakistan's exports consist of low value commodities like chadar, chawal and chamra (textiles, rice and leather). These exports have declined from about 15% to about 8% of GDP since 2003. Pakistan's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable.  What must Pakistan do to improve it? What can Pakistan do to avoid recurring balance of payments crises?  How can Pakistan diversify and grow its exports to reduce the gaping trade gap? How can Pakistan's closest ally China help? Can China invest in export oriented industries and open up its huge market for exports from Pakistan? Let's explore answers to these question. 

Exports as Percentage of GDP. Source: World Bank
East Asia's Experience:

East Asian nations have greatly benefited from major investments made by the United States and Europe in export-oriented industries and increased access to western markets over the last several decades. Asian Tigers started with textiles and then switched to manufacturing higher value added consumer electronics and high tech products. Access to North American and European markets boosted their export earnings and helped them accumulate large foreign exchange reserves that freed them from dependence on the IMF and other international financial institutions. China, too, has been a major beneficiary of these western policies. All have significantly enhanced their living standards.

Top 10 Textile Exporters. Source: WTO


Chinese Investment and Trade:

Pakistan needs similar investments in export-oriented industries and greater access to major markets. Given the end of the Cold War and changing US alliances, it seems unlikely that the United States would help Pakistan deal with the difficulties it faces today.

China sees Pakistan as a close strategic ally. It is investing heavily in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). A recent opinion piece by Yao Jing, the Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan, published  in the state-owned China Daily, appears to suggest that China is prepared to offer such help. Here are two key excerpts from the opinion piece titled "A community of shared future with Pakistan":

1. China will actively promote investment in Pakistan. The Chinese government will firmly promote industrial cooperation, expand China's direct investment in Pakistan, and encourage Chinese enterprises to actively participate in the construction of special economic zones. Its focus of cooperation will be upgrading Pakistan's manufacturing capacity and expanding export-oriented industries.

2. China will also actively expand its imports from Pakistan. In November, China will hold the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where, as one of the "Chief Guest" countries, Pakistan has been invited to send a large delegation of exporters and set up exhibitions at both the national and export levels. It is hoped that Pakistan will make full use of this opportunity to promote its superior products to China. The Chinese side will also promote cooperation between the customs and quarantine authorities of both countries to facilitate the further opening-up of China's agricultural product market to Pakistan. China will, under the framework of free trade cooperation between the two countries, provide a larger market share for Pakistani goods, and strengthen cooperation and facilitate local trade between Gilgit-Baltistan and China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. And China will take further visa facilitation measures to encourage more Pakistani businesspeople to visit China.

Top 10 Garment Exporters. Source: WTO

Pakistan's Role:

Pakistan needs to take the Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing's offer to increase Chinese investments and open up China's market for imports from Pakistan.  Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take immediate steps to pursue the Chinese offer. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen to develop a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow exports to China and other countries. Pakistan must make full use of its vast network of overseas diplomatic missions to promote investment and trade. 

Summary:

Pakistani currency has seen about 25% decline in value against the US dollar since January 2018. As a result of this devaluation, the minimum monthly wage in Pakistan has dropped from $136 last year to $107 now while in Bangladesh has seen it increased from $64 last year to $95 today. Renaissance Capital projects a further 10% depreciation this year.  While this can help Pakistan's RMG exports in the short term, it is not good long term strategy. Competing on cost alone  is a race to the bottom. Pakistan's manufactured exports per capita have declined in the last decade. Pakistan's exports have declined from about 15% of GDP to about 8% since 2003. The nation's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable. Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing has offered a helping hand to increase Chinese investment and trade in Pakistan.   Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take the Chinese Ambassador's plan seriously. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen on a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow high-value exports to China and other countries.


Comments

Umar said…
I am confused either it is a good indicator or bad.
Riaz Haq said…
Umar: "I am confused either it is a good indicator or bad."

It depends. It could be good news for #Pakistan #exports short term but not a good long term strategy to engage in this race to the bottom.
Riaz Haq said…
The Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association has expressed high hopes for the government and is confident that PM Imran and his economic team will bail the country out of the economic crisis by paying special attention to the export-oriented industry.

https://nation.com.pk/11-Jan-2019/garment-industry-shows-confidence-on-govt-policies

PRGMEA Chairman Mubashar Naseer Butt said that PM Advisor on Commerce, Textiles, Industries and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood deserves appreciation for his focus on addressing key economic issues on an urgent basis and special attention to the problems of value-added textile industry. He vowed that garment exporters feel happy to work closely with the government with a view to enhance exports and reviving growth momentum.

Sharing his optimism, the PRGMEA leader pointed out that the incumbent government has fulfilled all its commitments made to the exporters within very short span, particularly lowering gas tariff to $6.5/MMBTU and reducing electricity rates to Rs7.50 cents/kWh for the exporting industry. He said that Sales Tax refund payment has been cleared against RPOs while payment processing of Deferred Sales Tax refunds, which were pending for the last 15 years, has also been started.

“PRGMEA also appreciates the government to allow advance payments for imports of basic industrial raw material.” He said that the decision would enable industrial units to import items for export purposes up to $10,000. Appreciating the government on taking serious notice of the severe issue, he said the move has raised the business community's confidence and such business friendly policies will definitely result in boosting the trade and industry. He said that such facility’s withdrawal had severely affected the export-oriented industries of the country. The move also delayed export shipments besides scaling up the cost of production.

“This step will help revival and growth of the value-added textile industry and the industry is committed to achieve targets of increasing exports, create millions of direct jobs. We appreciate the special efforts of PM Advisor who has pleaded the case of exporters in an excellent way as the issue of Rebates has also been resolved and payment in this regard is being started in a couple of weeks”, Mubashar Butt added.
Riaz Haq said…
Bangladesh workers' wages rise in 6 grades
RMG workers' pay structure revised after PM's directive amid unrest for eight days

https://www.thedailystar.net/business/bangladesh-garment-workers-salary-structure-be-revised-1686979

After eight days of labour unrest, the government yesterday announced a revised pay structure, with a slight increase in both basic and gross wages in six of the seven grades in the RMG sector.

In the new pay scale, which comes after years, the yearly increment has been fixed at 5 percent.

Workers had been demanding pay raise in three grades in particular -- grade 3, 4 and 5.

The decision came following directives of the prime minister after an event-packed day, on which workers continued their protests, factory owners threatened to shut down their units and a tripartite committee held almost a daylong meeting to reach a consensus on the hike.

The meeting of the 20-member committee, which has representation of the workers, owners and the government, approved wage increase in grade 1-6. The hike ranges from a token Tk 15 to a modest Tk 747.

The raise is effective from December last year and will be adjusted from February.

The gross pay in grade 7 remains unchanged at Tk 8,000, which was Tk 5,300 in the previous pay structure announced in 2013.

The government will publish a new gazette of the revised wage in the next three to four days, said Labour and Employment Secretary Afroza Khan, who heads the tripartite committee.

The committee was considering pay hikes in the three “most problematic” grades -- 3, 4 and 5.

But at a meeting at Gono Bhaban on Saturday night, Sheikh Hasina instructed officials to revise the latest pay structure, originally announced in September last year, for all grades, sources said.

The workers will receive the arrear with their pay for February, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told reporters after the meeting.

“We were mainly concerned about the pay in grade 3, 4 and 5. But we eventually revised the wages six grades so workers get a little more,” he said, announcing the decision at a press conference at the ministry.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, said, “We welcome the revision and the new wage structure.”


He was speaking on behalf of the trade union leaders who are on the tripartite committee.

Reaction among the workers were mixed.

Alamgir Kabir, who works at a Ha-Meem Group factory, said he was happy and that he would join work today.

Another worker, however, said he was not satisfied. But still he would go back to work, if his colleagues did so.

Incidents of labour unrest over the pay structure made headlines in early December, just two months after the pay package was announced.

That protest died down ahead of the general election.
Riaz Haq said…
Rise of #Bangladesh. CLSA's Chris Wood believes Bangladesh's reliance on #garments sector is obstacle to future growth as it faces the risk of lower #wage alternatives in #Africa, #automation & loss of duty-free #market access when it loses #LDC status. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Cover-Story/The-rise-and-rise-of-Bangladesh

"Exiting LDC status gives us some kind of strength and confidence, which is very important, not only for political leaders but also for the people," she (Shaikh Hasina) told the Nikkei Asian Review in an exclusive interview in December. "When you are in a low category, naturally when you discuss terms of projects and programs, you must depend on others' mercy. But once you have graduated, you don't have to depend on anyone because you have your own rights."

Hasina says Bangladesh's strong economic growth will not just continue, but accelerate. "In the next five years, we expect annual growth to exceed 9% and, we hope, get us to 10% by 2021," she said.

"I always shoot for a higher rate," she laughs. "Why should I predict lower?"

On many fronts, Bangladesh's economic performance has indeed exceeded even government targets. With a national strategy focused on manufacturing -- dominated by the garment industry -- the country has seen exports soar by an average annual rate of 15-17% in recent years to reach a record $36.7 billion in the year through June. They are on track to meet the government's goal of $39 billion in 2019, and Hasina has urged industry to hit $50 billion worth by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of what Bangladeshis call their Liberation War.

A vast community of about 2.5 million Bangladeshi overseas workers further buoys the economy with remittances that jumped an annual 18% to top $15 billion in 2018. But Hasina also knows the country needs to move up the industrial value chain. Political and business leaders echo her ambitions to shift from the old model of operating as a low-cost manufacturing hub partly dependent on remittances and international aid.

To that end, Hasina launched a "Digital Bangladesh" strategy in 2009 backed by generous incentives. Now Dhaka, the nation's capital, is home to a small but growing technology sector led by CEOs who talk boldly about "leapfrogging" neighboring India in IT. Pharmaceutical manufacturing -- another Indian staple -- is also on the rise.

Behind the impressive numbers and bold ambitions, however, are daunting hurdles ranging from structural problems to deep political divisions, which have come to the fore ahead of national elections on Dec. 30.

Bangladeshi politics have been dominated for years by the bitter rivalry between Hasina and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, whose family histories go back to opposing sides of the liberation struggle, when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan. Both women have been in and out of power -- and prison -- over the past three decades. Khaleda Zia, who chairs the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is in jail on corruption charges that she says are false.

Since 1981, Hasina has led the ruling Awami League, founded by her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country's first president, who was killed by army personnel along with most of his family in 1975. The party enjoyed strong support in some past elections. But opposition activists and human rights groups have voiced concern about potential polling fraud and intimidation tactics. After two consecutive five-year terms for the ruling party, analysts point to a palpable "anti-incumbency" sentiment among some voters. Yet from an economic standpoint, many agree that a ruling party victory would support further development.

"If the polling passes without too much strife and the status quo is maintained, then [Bangladesh] would seem an attractive long-term story," said Christopher Wood, managing director and chief strategist at Hong Kong-based brokerage CLSA.
Riaz Haq said…
World Bank's Poverty and Shared Poverty Report 2018 compares the annual income growth rate of the bottom 40% of the population with the average income growth of the entire population for 91 countries for years 2010-2015. Here's the data for a few selected countries:

Country Bottom 40% income growth vs Average Income Growth

Pakistan 2.7% vs 4.3%

Bangladesh 1.4% vs 1.5%

Iran 1.3% vs -1.3%

Indonesia 4.8% vs 4.8%

Sri Lanka 4.8% vs 5.3%

Vietnam 5.2% vs 3.8%

Thailand 5.0% vs 3.0%

Malaysia 8.3% vs 6.0%

China 9.1% vs 7.4%


http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/poverty-and-shared-prosperity


People experience poverty differently even within the same household. Traditional measures haven’t been able to capture variations because the surveys stop at the household level. Measuring poverty as experienced by individuals requires considering how resources are shared among family members. While data are limited, there is evidence that women and children are disproportionately affected by poverty in many — but not all — countries. Sex differences in poverty are largest during the reproductive years, when, because of social norms, women face strong trade-offs between reproductive care and domestic responsibilities on the one hand and income-earning activities on the other hand. Worldwide, 104 women live in poor households for every 100 men. However, in South Asia, 109 women live in poor households for every 100 men. Children are twice as likely as adults to live in poor households. This primarily reflects the fact that the poor tend to live in large households with more children.

There is evidence from studies in several countries that resources are not shared equally within poor households, especially when it comes to more prized consumption items. There is also evidence of complex dynamics at work within households that go beyond gender and age divides. More surveys are needed to capture consumption patterns of individuals so that governments can implement policies to bridge the inequalities within households.
Riaz Haq said…
1000s of #Bangladesh #garment workers clash with police. Min #wages rose by a little over 50% this month to 8,000 taka ($95) a month. But mid-level tailors said their rise was paltry and failed to reflect the rising costs of living, especially in housing. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/14/bangladesh-strikes-thousands-of-garment-workers-clash-with-police-over-poor-pay?CMP=share_btn_tw

Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh who make clothes for top global brands have clashed with police as strike action over low wages entered a second week.

Police said water cannon and tear gas were fired on Sunday to disperse huge crowds of striking factory workers in Savar, a garment hub just outside the capital, Dhaka.

“The workers barricaded the highway. We had to drive them away to ease traffic conditions,” said police director Sana Shaminur Rahman. “So far 52 factories, including some big ones, have shut down operations due to the protests.”

On Tuesday, one worker was killed when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at 5,000 protesting workers.

Bangladesh is dependent on garments stitched by millions of low-paid tailors on factory floors across the emerging south Asia economy of 165 million people.

Roughly 80% of its export earnings come from clothing sales abroad, with global retailers H&M, Primark, Walmart, Tesco and Aldi among the main buyers.

Union leader Aminul Islam blamed factory owners for resorting to violence to control striking workers. “But they are more united than ever,” he told AFP. “It doesn’t seem like they will leave the streets, until their demands are met.”

The protests are the first major test for prime minister Sheikh Hasina since winning a fourth term in last month’s elections, which were marred by violence, thousands of arrests and allegations of vote rigging and intimidation.

Late on Sunday, the government announced a pay rise for mid-level factory workers after meeting manufacturers and unions. Not all unions have signalled they will uphold the agreement.

Babul Akhter, a union leader present at the meeting, said the deal should appease striking workers. “They should not reject it, and peacefully return to work,” he said.

Minimum wages for the lowest-paid garment workers rose by a little over 50% this month to 8,000 taka ($95) a month. But mid-level tailors said their rise was paltry and failed to reflect the rising costs of living, especially in housing.

Bangladesh’s 4,500 textile and clothing factories shipped more than $30bn worth of apparel last year.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, which wields huge political influence, warned all factories might shut if tailors did not return to work immediately. “We may follow the ‘no work, no pay’ theory, according to the labour law,” association president Siddikur Rahman told reporters.

Last year Bangladesh was the second-largest global apparel exporter after China. It has plans to expand the sector into a $50bn-a-year industry by 2023.

But despite their role in transforming the impoverished nation into a major manufacturing hub, garment workers remain some of the lowest paid in the world.

Riaz Haq said…
Access to #electricity: #Pakistan 99%, #India 84%, #Bangladesh 76%. Source: World Bank 2016

https://twitter.com/theworldindex/status/1085029776556023808

Access to electricity (% of population)

🇪🇺EU: 100%
🇧🇷BRA: 100%
🇨🇦CAN: 100%
🇨🇳CHN: 100%
🇺🇸USA: 100%
🇨🇴COL: 99%
🇵🇰PAK: 99%
🇵🇭PHI: 91%
🇮🇳IND: 84%
🇿🇦RSA: 84%
🇲🇳MGL: 82%
🇧🇩BAN: 76%
🇳🇬NGR: 59%
🇰🇪KEN: 56%
🇪🇹ETH: 42%
🇹🇿TAN: 33%
🇺🇬UGA: 27%
🇳🇪NIG: 16%
🇸🇸SSD: 9%
Riaz Haq said…
According to the newly released World Trade Statistical Review 2018 by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the current dollar value of world textiles (SITC 65) and apparel (SITC 84) exports totaled $296.1bn and $454.5bn respectively in 2017, increased by 4.2% and 2.8% from a year earlier. This is the first time since 2015 that the value of world textile and apparel exports enjoyed a growth.

Textiles and apparel are not alone. Driven by rising demand for imports globally, the current dollar value of world merchandise exports also grew by 4.7% in 2017–its most robust growth in six years, to reach $17.43 trillion. Particularly, the ratio of trade growth to GDP growth finally returned to its historic average of 1.5, compared to the much lower 1.0 ratio recorded in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.

China, European Union (EU28), and India remained the world’s top three exporters of textiles in 2017. Altogether, these top three accounted for 66.3% of world textile exports in 2017, up from 65.9% in 2016. All the top three also enjoyed a faster-than-average export growth in 2017, including 5.0% of China, 5.8% of EU(28) and 5.9% of India. The United States remained the world’s fourth top textile exporter in 2017, accounting for 4.6 percent of the shares, the same as a year earlier.

Regarding apparel, China, the European Union (EU28), Bangladesh and Vietnam unshakably remained the world’s top four largest exporters in 2017. Altogether, these top four accounted for as much as 75.8% of world market shares in 2017, which was higher than 74.3% a year earlier and a substantial increase from 68.3% back in 2007.

Continuing with the emerging trend in recent years, China is exporting less apparel and more textiles to the world. Notably, China’s market shares in world apparel exports fell from its peak—38.8% in 2014 to a record low of 34.9% in 2017. Meanwhile, China accounted for 37.1% of world textile exports in 2017, which was a new record high. It is important to recognize that China is playing an increasingly critical role as a textile supplier for many apparel-exporting countries in Asia. Measured by value, 47% of Bangladesh’s textile imports came from China in 2017, up from 39% in 2005. We observe similar trends in Cambodia (up from 30% to 65 %), Vietnam (up from 23 % to 50 %), Pakistan (up from 32 % to 71 %), Malaysia (up from 25 % to 54 %), Indonesia (up from 28 % to 46 %), Philippines (up from 19 % to 41 %) and Sri Lanka (up from 15 % to 39 %) over the same period.

https://shenglufashion.com/2018/08/16/wto-reports-world-textile-and-apparel-trade-in-2017/

https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/wts2018_e/wts18_toc_e.htm
Riaz Haq said…
#Foreign direct #investment (FDI) in #Pakistan hits six-month high. #FDI increased 17% to $319.2 million in Dec 2018 compared to $272.8 million in Dec, 2017. It's the second consecutive month that the FDI inflow rose in FY2018-19 https://tribune.com.pk/story/1889903/2-foreign-direct-investment-pakistan-hits-six-month-high/

Pakistan achieved a six-month high foreign investment in different productive sectors of the economy in December 2018 after the country finished a year-long exercise of letting the rupee depreciate against the US dollar to create an equilibrium.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) increased 17% to $319.2 million in December 2018 compared to $272.8 million in the same month last year, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported on Wednesday.

This is also for the second consecutive month that the FDI has continued to surge on a month-on-month basis.
“The pending rupee devaluation was one of the biggest concerns of foreign direct investors. Now when Pakistan has addressed the concern, it has regained foreign investors’ trust on the country,” Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) Secretary General M Abdul Aleem told The Express Tribune.

Despite heavy inflow from China, FDI fails to pick up in FY18

The SBP has devalued the rupee by a whopping 32% in the last 13 months to Rs138.90 to the US dollar on Wednesday.

Besides, the political uncertainty linked to the July 2018 general elections has come to an end and investors have gradually built trust on the recently installed government in the country as well, he added.

In the recent months, the foreigners squeezed investment in wait for clarity on economic policies of the new government. “The government has taken tough decisions over rupee devaluation and (key) interest rate hike. The initiatives have apparently won the investors’ confidence,” he said.

Unlink the previous five months when China remained the only healthy foreign investor in Pakistan, Netherlands and Norway also appeared as significant foreign direct investors in December 2018, according to SBP.

China alone has invested net FDI worth $120.6 million in December, while Norway and Netherlands have appeared as the second and third largest investor with $65.2 million and $47.6 million, respectively.

Sector-wise, it was financial business which attracted the single highest investment worth $137.3 million in the month. This was followed by chemicals with $50.9 million and construction $45.1 million.

Cumulatively in the first six months (July-December) of the current fiscal year, FDIs have dropped 19% to $1.31 billion compared to $1.63 billion in the same period last year.

“The investment attracted in the six months is not bad keeping in view the then political uncertainty and investors waited for clarity on the government economic policies,” Aleem said.

“However, the much-awaited jump in FDIs is yet to come,” he said.

Clarity and confidence on the new government are gradually increasing. “The full-year FDIs should be much higher than $2.8 billion achieved in the previous fiscal year (ended June 30, 2018),” he said.

“The country may attract more foreign investment in oil and gas exploration, telecom, consumer goods, and CPEC-related new investment,” said the official, adding that CPEC-related investments had slowed down over the last seven-eight months.

The total foreign investment, including portfolio investment and public and private external debt, has dropped by a whopping 77% to $899.5 million in the six months compared to $3.95 billion in the same period last year.

The massive drop is seen due to adjustment of the debt Pakistan raised through sale of Sukuk and Eurobond worth $2.5 billion November 2017. The government has not raised debt during July-December 2018 period.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan wriggles out of #IMF clutches. As a result, in geopolitical terms, #Washington’s capacity to leverage Pakistani policies is significantly diminishing. #Saudi-Pak ties are moving on to new level of dynamism.

https://indianpunchline.com/pakistan-wriggles-out-of-imf-clutches/


The visit by Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid A Al-Falih on Saturday to Gwadar to inspect the site allocated for a multibillion oil refinery in the port city suggest that Riyadh and Islamabad are giving the final touch to reaching agreement for a Saudi Aramco Oil Refinery in Pakistan. Reports say that Saudi Arabia will be investing $10 billion in the proposed project.


Without doubt, this is a major development in the region. The Saudi-Pakistan relationship, which has been traditionally close and fraternal, is moving on to a new level of dynamism. The Saudi investment decision can be taken as signifying a vote of confidence in the Pakistani economy as well as in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership. It comes on top of the $6 billion package that Saudi Arabia had pledged last year (which included help to finance crude imports) to help Pakistan tide over the current economic difficulties.

The visiting Saudi minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters in Gwadar, “Saudi Arabia wants to make Pakistan’s economic development stable through establishing an oil refinery and partnership with Pakistan in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.” This remark highlights that Saudi Arabia is openly linking up with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China has welcomed this development, but countries that oppose the CPEC such as the US and India will feel disappointed.

From the Indian perspective, the Saudi investment in Gwadar becomes a game changer for the port city, which was struggling to gain habitation and a name. Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn with Chabahar. India has an added reason to feel worried that its Ratnagiri Refinery project, which has been described as the “world’s largest refinery-cum-petrochemical project” is spluttering due to the agitation by farmers against land acquisition. The Saudi Aramco was considering an investment in the project on the same scale as in Gwadar. Will Gwadar get precedence over Ratnagiri in the Saudi priorities? That should be the question worrying India.

The Saudi energy minister disclosed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be visiting Pakistan in February and the agreement on the Gwadar project is expected to be signed at that time. Of course, it signifies that Saudi Arabia is prioritizing the relations with Pakistan. The fact remains that Saudi Arabia has come under immense pressure of isolation following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

There is much uncertainty about the dependability of the US as an ally and security provider. Riyadh is diversifying its external relations and a pivot to Asia is under way. Suffice to say, under the circumstances, a China-Pakistan-Saudi axis should not look too far-fetched. There is also some history behind it.

To be sure, Iran will be watching the surge in Saudi-Pakistani alliance with growing trepidation. The Saudi presence in Pakistan’s border region with Iran (such as Gwadar) has security implications for Tehran. Iran has been facing cross-border terrorism.
Riaz Haq said…
#American #agribusiness giant Cargill to grow #Pakistan business with US$200 million investment for expansion across its #agriculture trading and supply chain, edible #oils, #dairy, #meat and animal feed businesses while ensuring safety, food traceability. https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/420270-cargill-to-grow-pakistan-business-with-us200-million-investment

Cargill renewed its long standing commitment to Pakistan by announcing plans to invest more than US$200 million in the next three-to-five years.

The announcement was made soon after Cargill’s global executive team, led by Marcel Smits, head of Global Strategy and Chairman, Cargill Asia Pacific region, and Gert-Jan van den Akker, president, Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain, met with the Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior government officials to discuss the company’s future investment plans.

Being a global food and agriculture producer with a strong focus on Asia, Cargill aims to partner on Pakistan’s growth by bringing its global expertise and investment into the country.


The company’s strategy includes expansion across its agricultural trading and supply chain, edible oils, dairy, meat and animal feed businesses while ensuring safety and food traceability.

Cargill will bring world class innovations to support the flourishing dairy industry in Pakistan, which is already moving toward modernization, as well as the rising demand for edible oils backed by evolving consumption patterns and a growing market for animal feed driven by sustained progress made by the poultry industry in Pakistan.

Cargill’s proposed investments will support Pakistan’s overall economic development and contribute to local employment.

The visiting delegation informed the Prime Minister that M/s Cargill intended to invest in Pakistan as back as 2012 but were discouraged by mismanagement, corruption and non-availability of level playing field during the previous governments. However, investor’s confidence has restored after the incumbent Government and the policies being pursued by it.

The prime minister welcomed investment plans of M/s Cargill in the area of agriculture development, import substitution and enhancement of agricultural products.

He highlighted the efforts of the government towards ensuring transparency, providing the business community with level playing field and improving ease of doing business in the country.

The PM assured the delegation full support from the government.
Riaz Haq said…
#Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offers to build 100,000 housing units in #Pakistan as part of #PMImranKhan’s Naya Pakistan #housing initiative. http://www.arabnews.pk/node/1437706/pakistan


Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan to help realize Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dream of an ‘ambitious’ housing project, officials said on Friday.
“Naguib Sawiris has expressed his will to invest in 100,000 units of affordable housing to help prime minister (Imran Khan) in his vision toward Pakistan,” Tarek Hamdy, Chief Executive officer of Elite Estates — a partnership between Ora Developer and Saif Holding — told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
Owned by Sawiris, Ora Developers is already engaged in the construction of a multibillion-dollar housing scheme named ‘Eighteen’ which was launched in 2017 in Islamabad with local partners, Saif Group and Kohistan Builders.
Sawiris’ first investment in Pakistan was in Mobilink, a cellular operator.
PM Khan in October 2018 had launched ‘Naya’ (New) Pakistan Housing Project in line with his party’s election manifesto, which promised fivr million houses for the poor.
Hamdy says they have “set rules or guidelines of the way of doing things” that apply to every real estate projects — whether they are affordable or high value units.
“We will use our experience and knowhow to deliver this properly to the people of Pakistan,” he added.
Since the announcement of the low-cost housing project for the poor, the scheme has been at the heart of all political and economic discourses with several calling it too ambitious.
“This scheme is very ambitious yet very promising for the people of Pakistan. I think all the developers should help in this scheme. You cannot solely rely on the government to build five million houses,” Hamdy said.
Recently, the governor of Pakistan’s central bank had said that the massive housing project would require financing of upto Rs 17 trillion.
Hamdy believes that the promise of building five million affordable housing units cannot be realized in a short span of time. “I think the plan is right but it has to be in stages, has to be in steps. It could be achievable obviously that is not the project (to be achieved) in one or two years... may take few good years, may be couple of decades to be achieved,” he said.
In the Islamabad project the Ora Developers own a 60 percent stake in the project comprising a five-star hotel, 1,068 housing units, 921 residential apartments, business parks, hospitals, schools and other educational facilities and 13 office buildings, and a golf course. The networth of the project is $2 billion.
The next cities on the radar for real estate projects are Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad. “We intend to do more, we intend to invest more. I think that our portfolio of real estate could come to $10 billion worth of investments in the next five to 10 years including all the projects that we intent to do,” Hamdy said.
Pakistan’s housing sector is marred by frauds, scams and unfinished schemes which has been discouraging many potential investors from venturing into the sector. However, Hamdy says he is confident of delivering the promise by 2021.
Analysts say that Pakistan’s housing sector offers great opportunities for investment due to increasing demand. “According to estimates, the current real estate market value is around Rs900 billion which is three times that of the GDP,” Saad Hashmey, an analyst at Topline Securities, told Arab News, adding that the PM’s housing project is the need of the hour.
Pakistan faces a shortage of nearly 12 million housing units that may require a massive investment of around $180 billion, according to the former Chairman of the Association of Builders and Developers, Arif Yousuf Jeewa.
Riaz Haq said…
#Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offers to build 100,000 housing units in #Pakistan as part of #PMImranKhan’s Naya Pakistan #housing initiative. http://www.arabnews.pk/node/1437706/pakistan


Pakistan expects to attract more than $40 billion foreign direct investment in the next five years in oil refining, petrochemical, mining, renewable energy, and real estate sectors. “We estimate that roughly around $40 billion investment will be made by three countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and China) during the next three to five years,” Pakistan Board of Investment BoI chief, Haroon Sharif had told Arab News earlier, adding that “the investment would start materializing within the next two years”.

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