Saudi Arabia to invest $5 billion to boost Pakistan’s economy – planning minister

This handout photograph taken on April 16, 2024 and released by Pakistan's Press Information Department (PID) shows Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (R) speaking with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan (L) during a bilateral meeting at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad. (Pakistan Press Information Department/File)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia to invest $5 billion to boost Pakistan’s economy – planning minister

  • Ahsan Iqbal says the national economy can reach a $3 trillion mark by 2047 with 9% growth rate
  • He informs a summit the government plans to maximize investment from UAE, Kuwait and Qatar

KARACHI: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal announced on Tuesday Saudi Arabia was expected to invest $5 billion in Pakistan, adding the administration in Islamabad was also trying to secure investment from other Gulf states to strengthen the national economy.

Amid economic challenges, Pakistan has been actively trying to attract foreign investment and established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body, last year for the purpose.

The SIFC was created to serve as a single window for all foreign investment activities, offering a simplified and more direct route for international investors interested in various sectors such as mining, agriculture, energy, information technology and defense manufacturing.

The body was tasked to address procedural bottlenecks, accelerate policy reforms and create a more favorable investment climate, with a special focus on Gulf economies.

“Saudi Arabia will soon invest $5 billion in Pakistan and in this regard, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will soon visit Saudi Arabia, followed by an expected visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan,” the Planning Commission of Pakistan quoted the minister as saying in an official statement.

Iqbal issued the statement while speaking at a business summit in Islamabad.

He mentioned that discussions were ongoing with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar to maximize investment in Pakistan.

The planning minister said if Pakistan managed to increase its exports to $100 billion in the next seven to eight years, it would achieve a significant economic takeoff.

He maintained that Pakistan could become a $2 trillion economy by 2047 with 7 percent growth, adding it could also reach a $3 trillion mark by maintaining 9 percent growth.
 


Tickets for Pakistan-Saudi Arabia football World Cup qualifier go up for sale

Updated 5 sec ago
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Tickets for Pakistan-Saudi Arabia football World Cup qualifier go up for sale

  • Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will play against each other in Islamabad on June 6 for round two of World Cup qualifier
  • Saudi Arabia beat Pakistan 4-0 in November 2023 when the two sides met each other for first round of qualifiers

 

ISLAMABAD: Tickets for Pakistan’s upcoming FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier Round 2 home-leg match against Saudi Arabia are officially on sale, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) announced on Thursday. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will lock horns at the Jinnah Football Stadium in Islamabad on June 6, with the match scheduled to kick off at 8:30 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time. 

Pakistan is in Group G of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tajikistan. The South Asian country will face Tajikistan on June 11 in an away fixture. 

A total of 36 football squads have been split into nine groups with four teams each in the second round of qualifiers. The winners and runners-up from each group would progress through to the third round.

“In a bid to make the event accessible to all football enthusiasts, ticket prices have been thoughtfully set at budget-friendly rates,” the PFF said in a media release, adding that tickets were available at Bookme.pk website. 

It said tickets for the Premium Plus enclosures were set at Rs4,000 [$14.37] while the Premium enclosure tickets were priced at Rs1,500 [$5.39]. The General enclosure tickets are being sold for Rs750 [$2.69]. 

Saudi Arabia thrashed Pakistan 4-0 when the two sides met in November 2023 for their first clash of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Al Ahsa. 

Preliminary Pakistan squad

Goalkeepers: Hassan Ali and Tanveer

Defenders: Haseeb Khan, Mamoon Moosa Khan, Huzaifa, Waqar Ihtisham, Abdul Rehman, Umar Hayat, Muhammad Adeel, Muhammad Saddam and Zain ul Abideen

Midfielders: Yasir Arafat, Alamgir Ghazi, Ali Uzair, Rajab Ali, Moin Ali, Junaid Ahmed and Fahim

Forwards: Adeel Younas, Shayak Dost, Ali Zafar and Fareedullah

The PFF said the names of diaspora players joining the national training camp later would be included in the final squad.


Heat wave cancels lessons for half Pakistan’s schoolchildren

Updated 28 min 41 sec ago
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Heat wave cancels lessons for half Pakistan’s schoolchildren

  • Some 26 million students will be out of lessons from Saturday in Punjab as temperature soars
  • Met Office has forecast three heatwaves, one underway and two set to hit in early and late June

LAHORE, Pakistan: Half of Pakistan’s pupils will be shut out of schools for a week as the nation takes crisis measures to lessen the effect of a series of heat waves, officials said Thursday.

Some 26 million students will be out of lessons from Saturday in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, which has ordered schools to close for the summer break one week early because of the soaring temperatures.

The early closure was confirmed by a spokesperson for Punjab’s Education Department.
Pakistan’s meteorological office has forecast three heat waves — one already underway and two more set to hit in early and late June.

Temperatures in Punjab are currently six to eight degrees Celsius above normal, the disaster management agency said, with the provincial capital Lahore due for 46 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) at the weekend.

The government’s Coordinator on Climate Change and Environment told journalists in Islamabad on Thursday that “global warming is causing a sudden change in weather patterns.”

Parts of Pakistan are facing power cuts of up to 15 hours as demand for fans and air conditioning surges, leaving students sweltering at their desks.

The Save the Children NGO said the 26 million Punjabi schoolchildren with lessons canceled account for 52 percent of pre-primary, primary and secondary students in Pakistan.

“Prolonged exposure to intense heat impacts children’s ability to learn and to concentrate and this puts their education at risk,” country director Muhammad Khuram Gondal said.

“Excess heat is also potentially lethal to children.”

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than three-quarters of children in South Asia — or 460 million — are exposed to temperatures above 35C (95F) for at least 83 days per year.

It warned that children are at risk of “dehydration, higher body temperature, rapid heartbeat, cramps... and coma.”

Pakistan is responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the nation of 240 million ranks high among countries vulnerable to extreme weather events, which scientists have linked to climate change.

A third of Pakistan was submerged by unprecedented monsoon rains in 2022 that displaced millions of people.

It was also battered by above-normal rainfall last month that killed at least 144 people in the wettest April recorded since 1961, with more deluges forecast this summer.

Lahore’s students also saw lessons cut this winter when schools were shut as the megacity was enveloped by choking smog.


Pakistani exporters confident of increasing sales in Kingdom after encouraging response at ‘Saudi Food Show’

Updated 55 min 28 sec ago
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Pakistani exporters confident of increasing sales in Kingdom after encouraging response at ‘Saudi Food Show’

  • Saudi Food Show, Kingdom’s largest food and beverages sourcing event, is being held in Riyadh from May 21-23
  • Thirty Pakistani companies are among 1,000 exhibitors from over 97 countries taking part in the exhibition

KARACHI: Buoyed by an overwhelming response at the “Saudi Food Show 2024” being held in Riyadh, Pakistani food exporters on Thursday said they were confident of increasing their market share in the Kingdom. 

The Saudi Food Show is the Kingdom’s largest annual event for food and beverage sourcing. The event is being held in Riyadh from May 21-23 where over 1,000 exhibitors from 97 countries are taking part in the exhibition. Among the exhibitors are also thirty Pakistani companies that are taking part in the event, the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) said. 

“The annual demand for rice in Saudi Arabia is 1.2 million tons and Pakistan’s share is only 7 percent at present,” Chela Ram Kewlani, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), told Arab News.

“We are expecting to increase our share after this exhibition.”

The Saudi groundbreaking platform convenes a distinguished global contingent of exhibitors, thought leaders, industry communities, strategic partners, innovative brands, and acclaimed chefs.

The Pakistan Pavilion at the event featured 30 companies comprising 15 from the rice sector, 12 from the processed food sector, two from the meat sector, and two from the dairy sector, the TDAP said.

Pakistani rice exporters hope to achieve a new milestone in exporting the product after India decided last year to ban rice exports. 

India, the world’s top rice exporter, banned the export of non-basmati white rice last year to control its rising domestic food costs and maintain domestic supplies.

The move prompted Pakistan’s rice exports to increase by more than 80 percent this fiscal year to $3.28 billion. REAP officials hope rice exports will cross $3.5 billion mark by the end of the current financial year.

Praising the response received at the Saudi Food Show, Khalid Ghori, a representative of the leading Pakistani agribusiness Matco Foods Limited, hoped “the market will be fruitful for Pakistan in the coming days.”

“Large number of people including importers and exporters visited our stalls and we hope that the market will be very fruitful for Pakistani products,” Ghori told Arab News. 
 
Pakistani food exporters also participated in a three-day major food and beverage trade show held last week in Canada’s Montreal. 
 
SIAL Canada featured about 10 Pakistani companies that displayed various products including beverages, dairy products, rice, pink salt, sweet snacks, seafood products, fresh fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, frozen and ready-made products.
 


Pakistan PM says in UAE to seek joint investments, not loans 

Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistan PM says in UAE to seek joint investments, not loans 

  • Pakistan and UAE business representatives sign three agreements in IT, energy and infotech
  • UAE one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has frequently financially bailed out South Asian nation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday he was on a day-long visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not to seek loans but to explore opportunities for joint investment and collaboration that would pave the way for “mutual benefits” for both nations.

Sharif arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday with a high-level delegation amid a concerted push by Pakistan to seek foreign investment as it navigates a challenging path to economic recovery. Sharif is scheduled to meet UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi later today, Thursday. 

The UAE is one of Pakistan’s closest allies and has frequently bailed out the South Asian country, joining Saudi Arabia and China in rolling over billions of dollars of loans to Pakistan last year to help it clinch a last-gasp deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and avoid a sovereign debt default. 

The UAE is Pakistan’s third-largest trading partner, after China and the United States. Policymakers in Pakistan consider the Gulf state an optimal export destination due to its geographical proximity, which minimizes transportation and freight costs while facilitating commercial transactions. The UAE is also home to more than a million Pakistani expatriates and the second-largest source of remittances to the South Asian country, after Saudi Arabia.

“Today I am here in this great country, this great brotherly country, not to seek loans but to seek joint collaboration, seek joint investments, which have mutual benefits … for the investor, and draw dividends through hard work, ingenuity, and by using modern tools and skills,” Sharif said at a roundtable conference where leading Pakistan and UAE businesses signed three agreements on information technology, energy and infotech.

Sharif said Pakistan, a country of 241 million people, offered great potential for investors, with a majority of its population comprising people aged between 15-30 years.

“We want to provide the highest quality vocational training and empower our youth with modern skills so that they can come to UAE, to Abu Dhabi, to Dubai, and by fulfilling legal formalities, open their offices here,” the PM said. 

Sharif said his government wanted to support Pakistani small and medium enterprises so they could provide their services through a remote mechanism in the UAE.

“I call you great ambassadors of Pakistan, but this is not enough,” Sharif said, referring to Pakistani businesses. “You have to learn from now the expertise and experience of our Emirati brothers and sisters.”

Pakistan has seen a flurry of foreign visits in recent weeks, including by the now deceased Iranian president, the Saudi foreign minister, a delegation of top Saudi companies as well as officials from Qatar, China, Japan, Turkiye and Central Asian countries, among others.

Reeling from high inflation, low forex reserves, and an unstable currency, Sharif has vowed to steer Pakistan out of its prolonged economic crisis by enhancing bilateral trade with allies and attracting more international investments. Islamabad is also currently in talks with the IMF to secure a new, longer-term bailout package of at least $6 billion. 


Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha

Updated 23 May 2024
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Pakistan’s main health body warns of Congo fever risk ahead of Eid Al-Adha

  • Congo fever is viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals
  • NIH also urges timely and appropriate measures to ensure protection from heatstroke and typhoid fever

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s primary health body has issued an advisory for the prevention of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), a press release said on Thursday, in light of the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha that could be a breeding ground for the tick-borne virus.

CCHF is a viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals, mainly through handling livestock or their blood, tissue, or excrement. It can also be transmitted from human to human through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. The disease has a high fatality rate, and there is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for it. 

“During Eid Al-Adha, there is an unusual increase in the movement of animals from all provinces and increased contact between the general public and animals, raising the risk of the spread of Congo fever,” the National Institute of Health (NIH) said on Wednesday, advising people to wear light-colored clothing to easily detect ticks on fabric and avoid areas where ticks were prevalent.

The NIH also urged timely and appropriate measures to ensure protection from heatstroke and typhoid fever.

Pakistan has been experiencing severe climatic changes due to global warming in recent years which has led to heat waves, untimely rains and droughts.

A sunstroke is a form of hyperthermia and medical emergency during which the body temperature is elevated and can be fatal if not promptly treated, the health body said, adding that profuse or no sweating, dry skin, headaches, chills, slurred speech and dizziness were common signs of heatstroke.

Emphasizing precautionary measures during extreme heat, the health advisory advised people to avoid direct sunlight, drink plenty of water and use an umbrella or hat when outdoors. 

On May 21, authorities had urged people to stay indoors as the country was hit by an extreme heat wave that threatens to bring dangerously high temperatures and yet another round of glacial-driven floods. Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, shut all schools for a week because of the heat, affecting an estimated 18 million students.

The country’s chief meteorologist has warned that the heat wave would “intensify” from today, May 23, onwards.

Regarding typhoid fever, a bacterial infection that can prove to be life-threatening if not treated properly, the NIH said Pakistan was among countries with the highest burden of typhoid fever due to a lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices. 

The statement stressed the importance of following hygiene practices, using clean water and avoiding street food. The disease has been reported from various parts of the country since 2016, especially during the monsoon and summer seasons, the health advisory said.