ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Monday confirmed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would invest $25 billion each in cash-strapped Pakistan within the next five years as part of projects under a new investment council set up in June.
Pakistan constituted the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a hybrid civil-military forum, to fast-track decision-making and promote investment from foreign nations, particularly Gulf states.
A notification dated June 17 from then Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Office said SIFC would seek investments in the energy, IT, minerals, defense, and agriculture sectors from GCC countries. The body, which has the army chief and other military leaders in key roles, aims to take a “unified approach” to steer the country out of economic crisis.
On Sunday, Pakistan’s army chief met leading business figures in Karachi and reportedly discussed the SIFC’s potential to attract up to $100 billion in investments from countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.
“I can confirm it,” Kakar said in response to a question about whether Pakistan would receive investments of $25 billion each from the Kingdom and the UAE under the SIFC.
The Pakistani prime minister was speaking to international journalists at the Prime Minister House on Monday evening. He gave a 2-5 year timeframe for the Saudi and UAE investments to come through and said they would be focused on the mining and mineral sectors, among others.
Saudi Arabia and UAE have not yet commented on the PM’s statement.
Pakistan has reportedly approved 20 projects to pitch for multibillion-dollar investments from the Gulf and other states under the SIFC umbrella.
The identified projects include the Saudi Aramco Refinery, TAPI Gas Pipeline, Thar Coal Rail Connectivity, hydropower projects of 245 MW in Gilgit-Baltistan, handing over of 85,000 acres of land to a single investor, the establishment of cloud infrastructure, and telecom infrastructure deployment.
Last month, a delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in the mining sector as part of SIFC, aiming to tap into Pakistan’s $6 trillion estimated worth of mineral deposits. The Saudi delegation also attended Pakistan’s first dedicated summit on minerals in Islamabad.
In July, Pakistan established a Land Information and Management System, Center of Excellence ((LIMS-CoE) to modernize its agricultural sector, with Saudi Arabia providing an initial $500 million investment to set up the facility.
Continued economic and investment support from Saudi Arabia and other allies such as the UAE is key for Pakistan, as economic stabilization is a major challenge for PM Kakar, who took oath last month, with the $350 billion economy on a narrow recovery path after an ongoing $3 billion International Monetary Fund bailout averted a sovereign debt default.
Economic reforms have already fueled historic inflation and interest rates and the country is in the grips of sporadic but nationwide protests against record electricity bills and fuel prices.