Forbes endorses Pakistan tourism

In this file photo, foreign tourists and porters rest at a camping site above Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram range of Pakistan's mountain northern Gilgit region on Aug. 12, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Forbes endorses Pakistan tourism

  • The magazine has added Pakistan to its ‘10 Best Under-the-Radar Trips’ for 2020 list
  • Forbes mentions the visit of British royals as a significant feather in Pakistan’s tourism cap

ISLAMABAD: Forbes has joined the league of international publications that have added Pakistan to their list of must-visit places in 2020. The magazine has published a catalog, “The Not Hot List,” which mentions countries that skew away from popular and typical vacation spots and aims to seek out those “off the beaten path.”

In its “10 Best-Under-The-Radar Trips” for 2020 list, Pakistan’s northern areas are included for being the “ultimate” location for adventure seekers.

Forbes lists the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, as a significant feather in Pakistan’s tourism cap. It also mentions an adventure travel group, Wild Frontiers, which gives a curated 16-day group tour through the mountainous northwest frontier and introduces tourists to places like Kalash Valley, Hunza, and Chitral.

British royal couple during the visit of Bombaret village in Kalash valley Pakistan on Oct 16, 2019. (Photo by PTI Twitter)

The founder of Wild Frontiers told Forbes: “Pakistan is perhaps the ultimate adventure travel destination. It offers ancient Indus civilizations stretching back 4,000 years, and exciting cities like Lahore with its forts, mosques, and palaces. But most of all, it offers incredible scenery, particularly in the north where the three greatest mountain ranges collide. Pakistan is great for trekking, mountain biking, rafting or just cultural tourism. The infrastructure has also improved, with resurfaced roads and new tunnels cutting down travel time, new luxury hotels are opening up in the region.”

Forbes joins Conde Nast Traveler and the British Backpacker Society in naming Pakistan a top holiday destination for 2020.

Since the sitting prime minister, Imran Khan, assumed the country’s top political office, there has been an effort to project Pakistan’s soft image to revive tourism in the country. The government has had a number of royal visits, including the aforementioned British Royals as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and has announced plans to refurbish and preserve a number of religious sites.

Pakistan most recently opened the Kartarpur Corridor with India, allowing Sikh pilgrims from the neighboring country to visit their most important religious shrine with limited restriction. Pakistan also announced late last year that Hindu temples in Peshawar would be renovated next. It also said that Buddhist sites of worship would be tended to as the country intends to host a Buddhist summit in April.

Pakistan seeks Arab creditors, China to convert $7.7 bn into long term loans — Hafeez Shaikh

Updated 02 June 2020

Pakistan seeks Arab creditors, China to convert $7.7 bn into long term loans — Hafeez Shaikh

  • Pakistan received $3 billion BoP support from Saudi Arabia, $2 billion from the UAE and $2.2 from China
  • Conversion of short term deposit will provide long term financial stability to the country, say experts

KARACHI: Pakistan is in talks with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China to extend the tenure of their $7.7 billion short term deposits, a move that will ensure long term forex stability of the South Asian nation, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the prime minister’s adviser on finance and revenue, told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
“Last year, when Pakistan was going through the worst balance of payment (BoP) crisis in our history, we were provided financial support by our brotherly countries,” Shaikh said on Monday.
Pakistan’s friendly countries were approached by the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan soon after assuming the office in 2018 as the country’s current account deficit reached $20 billion.
Responding to Pakistan’s call, Saudi Arabia deposited $3 billion while the UAE and China deposited $2 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively. Qatar also contributed by depositing $0.5 billion with Pakistan’s central bank.
“The $7.7 billion secured from the bilateral arrangements provided the much needed balance of payment support to Pakistan,” he added.
“These are short term deposits placed with the central bank in Pakistan at concessional rates,” the PM’s adviser said, adding: “We are in talks with our development partners to move these deposits toward longer tenors.”
Economists say these deposits provided a lifeline to the country’s economy that had higher imports and lower exports.
“The balance of payment support oxygenated the country’s economy that was much need for its survival. The support helped Pakistan not to default on its foreign payment obligations,” Muzzamil Aslam, senior economist, who is familiar with the developments, told Arab News.
Pakistan’s current account deficit (CAD) was $20 billion in 2018 which declined to $13.43 billion during the last fiscal year. Its further decline is also projected for the current fiscal year (2019-20).
“CAD is projected to decline to $4b [or 1.7 percent of the GDP] in the current fiscal year, compared to $20b when the government took office in 2018,” Shaikh said.
The major balance of payment support came from Saudi Arabia which provided $6 billion in financial assistance to Pakistan, with $3 billion in foreign currency support and $3 billion worth of oil on deferred payments. The agreement was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Kingdom in October 2018.
Economists say when Pakistan approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the bailout program, the United States had expressed concerns that the money could be used to pay off debts, especially those taken from China.
“After we started getting the IMF assistance, the fund imposed a condition during the first review of the program to roll over these loans instead of paying them back. This was because the US had misgivings that Pakistan will pay the Chinese debt with the IMF money,” Aslam said.
However, the IMF acknowledged in April that “Bilateral creditors have maintained their exposure in line with debt sustainability objectives of the EFF [Extended Fund Facility].”
China maintained their exposure by renewing $2 billion bilateral deposits in March. Saudi Arabia also refinanced $3 billion BoP support loans that matured in November-January, while the UAE rolled over $1 billion BoP support loans in March. The oil facility with Saudi Arabia – worth $3.2 billion – was activated in August 2019 and has also been providing support to the balance of payments, according to the IMF documents.
Instead of frequent rollovers now, the government wants to convert these short term deposits into long tenors. “The IMF is behind this strategy,” Aslam informed. “The conversion will impact the status of these deposits in a way that loan rates will be decided in line with the international benchmark which may be LIBOR+2-3 percent.”
Economists say the conversion of these deposits will positively impact the economy of the country since Pakistan will get some breathing space and an opportunity to improve its overall financial condition. “It will provide long term forex stability. Otherwise, we will be under pressure to pay back $7.7 billion,” Aslam said.