Pakistan FDI grows despite fears of growing Chinese influence

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The Arabian sea port Gwadar in Pakistan is one of many infrastructure projects in the region to have been built by China. (Reuters)
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A container is loaded on to the first Chinese container ship to depart after the inauguration of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor port in Gwadar. Foreign investment is on the rise in Pakistan but some investors are wary over increasing Chinese influence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Pakistan FDI grows despite fears of growing Chinese influence

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects net foreign direct investment (FDI) to jump about 60 percent in 2017/2018, the chairman of Pakistan’s Board of Investment said. However, some Western investors appear to be put off by China’s growing influence in the South Asian nation.
Chinese companies are building roads, power stations and a deep-water port in Pakistan after Beijing offered more than $50 billion for Pakistani infrastructure as part of China’s vast Belt and Road initiative.
Chinese investment has helped spur Pakistan’s economic growth to more than 5 percent, its highest in a decade, while also increasing Beijing’s clout in Pakistan. It comes at a time when Islamabad’s relations with the US, a historic ally, are strained over Pakistan’s handling of militants and the conflict in Afghanistan.
Naeem Zamindar, a state minister responsible for promoting foreign investment in Pakistan, said some Western investors appeared reticent because of a misconception that Chinese companies would get “exclusive advantages” and concessions that would not allow for an even playing field.
“A perception was created that the Chinese are taking over. The fact of the matter is that this is not true,” Zamindar told Reuters in his office in Islamabad.
“Pakistan’s government is very clear: we want investors of all hues to come in and participate in building this economy — whether American, English or Japanese.”
Zamindar said that some Chinese companies building power stations had obtained soft loans, with money that had been provided by Beijing, which made such terms a condition of its financing for projects that were part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key leg of the Belt and Road infrastructure network.
But for the second phase of CPEC, in which a series of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will be set up to boost Pakistan’s industries, Chinese companies will not receive preferential treatment, Zamindar added.
“That is completely non-discriminatory,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s Special Economic Zones Act stipulates no country or company will get preferential treatment within the SEZs.
“The (SEZ) concessions are published and are on the website, open to all.”
Zamindar said net FDI for the financial year 2017/2018 (July-June) is expect to reach about $3.7 billion, with Chinese companies providing up to 70 percent of the new investment.
Net FDI has been gradually rising since 2014/2015, when it plummeted to less than $1 billion. It rose to $2.3 billion last year, according to central bank data.
Foreign direct investment is separate from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor investments. More than 20 CPEC projects worth nearly $27 billion are currently being implemented, a senior government official told Reuters, meaning either work has begun on the projects or financing deals have been completed.
Zamindar said militant attacks were sharply down in recent years and security was much improved, but some investors are unaware of this and had an outdated “negative image” of Pakistan.
Yet overall interest in Pakistan had jumped, Zaminder said, and he would tour Britain, the US, France and Saudi Arabia in coming weeks to promote the opportunities available in the country of 208 million people and a fast-expanding middle class.
“We are open for business.”


Industry-specific ban on expats in Oman likely to remain, despite reaching recruitment target

Updated 19 min 46 sec ago
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Industry-specific ban on expats in Oman likely to remain, despite reaching recruitment target

  • The Oman government imposed a recruitment ban on expats for 87 different lines of work in January
  • The initial target of recruiting 25,000 Omanis by May is almost reached, not the government is likely to double that number

DUBAI: Oman’s Ministry of Manpower has pledged to continue in its push to recruit locals over expats even after its target was reached, the Times of Oman has reported.

The government set itself a deadline of May, but it was already just 55 jobs shy of the 25,000 target, the report added, predicting that the remaining people would be appointed before the week was over.

Now the government is looking to double the target to 50,000 Omanis.

More than half of those recruited are men, according to government data, with male appointments accounting for 16,884, while 8,061 women were recruited during the same period. 

A ban on hiring expats in 87 professions was implemented in January as the Gulf country continued in its Omanization project, aimed at tackling high levels of unemployment among locals. 

And now the ministry has said Omanis should always be given priority over expats, when it came to hiring – adding that the ban would stay in force as long as there were Omanis suited to the positions.

Those people employed so far were appointed to private sector positions between December 2017 and April 2018, the report added.

 

 

The construction industry accounts for 32.4 percent of those recruited, with 14.5 percent going into the retail sector, 13.5 percent in manufacturing and 7.1 percent working in transportation.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower said: “Most Omanis were hired in the construction sector as it has lots of job vacancies especially in the engineering, technical and administration fields.”

The push in Oman to recruit more locals is in line with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries which are following similar projects, not least in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

 

 

Decoder

An extension to the expat recruitment ban?

Not only is Oman’s Ministry of Manpower considering extending the current recruitment ban on expats for 87 professions, but also adding other lines of work to the list.

FACTOID

In numbers

The most recent census in 2016 put the Oman population at: 4,550,538. But expats account for nearly half at 2.082 million. There are 2.463 million Omanis