Doing Business with Pakistan
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 15th February, 2011
Given all the recent television footage of bomb outrages and flood damage in Pakistan, this might not seem the best country in the world to invest. But at a seminar at Lancaster House in London, hosted by UK Trade and Industry (UKTI), the myth of a nation rapidly disappearing down the plughole was dispelled. There were strong presentations by Britain’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Lord Green, and his Pakistani equivalent, Saleem Mandiwalla, who both set the ambitious goal of doubling the current annual bilateral trade flow of £1 billion to £2 billion, though being a little vague about the timeframe in which this could be achieved. The British High Commissioner to Islamabad, Adam Thomson, stressed the problem of perception in Britain when thinking about Pakistan; the first two words that come into people’s heads are “terrorism” and “corruption”, he said, whereas as far as he were concerned, they should be “opportunity” and “engagement”. It was clear from subsequent sessions at the seminar that there are vast opportunities for investment in Pakistan — notably in the fields of energy, infrastructure and food storage and processing. The country’s population of 180 million is expected to almost double by the year 2050 and there is a growing middle class with increased purchasing power. Moreover, geographically Pakistan is potentially an important hub for the whole South-West Asian and Arabian Gulf region. Nonetheless, it would be foolish to fail to acknowledge the very real challenges ahead.