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ISLAMABAD: Naguib Sawiris, an international Egyptian investor, has shown keen interest in making new investment in digital banking, tourism and mining projects especially Reko-Diq besides expanding the scope of existing investment in the real estate sector in Pakistan.

Talking to a select group of journalists here on Monday, Sawiris chairman and CEO of Ora Developers stated that the present government has facilitated foreign investors in a big way. We will show our consent for investment in other sectors including mining. If Pakistan offers a digital bank, we are ready to take it right now, he said.

The visiting CEO Orascom Telecom Naguib Sawiris said: “We are willing to work in Reko-Diq but first the government gives us a clean project by resolving all lingering disputes. I am the largest single investor among three largest investors of the world in the mining sector. We are interested to get a digital banking license here in Pakistan as we already possess a bank in Europe.”

He said: “I have been a friend of Pakistan for the last 25 to 30 years and initially we had invested $4 billion in Mobilink that was, later on, sold out. Now we have invested in EIGHTEEN development projects in Islamabad and are going to invest a total amount of $2 billion in the next 5 to 7 years period. So far, we have invested $450 million for completion of 20 percent of total developmental areas for construction of flats and villas nearing Islamabad.”

Sawiris said that EIGHTEEN development projects would be accomplished in the next five to seven years with a total investment of $2 billion. So far we have completed 20 to 25 percent construction by investing around $450 million on the EIGHTEEN project. EIGHTEEN is an Ora Development project in partnership with Saif Group and in conjunction with Kohistan Builders and Developers.

The visiting billionaire businessman said that the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted every business for having devastating effects but Pakistan and Egypt were at least impacted countries, so both the countries kept going on because we were dependent upon local sale, while other projects around the globe faced devastating impacts.

When asked about his comments related to the government’s policies with effect to investors especially for real estate sectors, he said that first of all there was no land available as its fragmented, so first of all there was a miracle of consolidating this kind of land. We managed to get two plots at the last moment as it required patience to accomplish projects, he added.

He said that the second miracle was getting permission to construct roads and permits from the bureaucracy. The dealing with bureaucracy is challenging both in Egypt and Pakistan; however, they were able to get permission from all lengthy procedures.

He said that when they came here in Pakistan the government was very helpful and now the government could reduce the steps to get accomplish bureaucratic procedures. The more procedures of bureaucracy result in delays in execution of projects.

When asked about the recent step of the government for increasing valuation of property by 700 percent, he said that it was not a good step as in a country like Pakistan having 220million population the demand for property was ten times higher than offering in the market. “There is untapped potential and the government announced low-cost housing but it did not kick-off because of lack of land and other hurdles” he added.

The government should give incentives rather than increasing taxation, he said. It would hurt investment because it would add to the price of the land. The government should impose tax on re-selling on profit as if one buys at $300,000 per unit and sells $500,000, so tax should be imposed on profit making.

The speculation could also be curbed through taxing the profits, he maintained. He said that he had fallen in love with this country when he first time visited Pakistan during the tenure of Musharraf regime and entered into Mobilink and the subscribers’ base went up to 40 million. “We were treated with respect at that time.”

He said that the quality of the Pakistani workforce was amazing as the quality of human resources was unbelievable. He said when he got a telecom company in Italy and its IT system was in bad shape. When the IT system in Mobilink was working properly, they invited six Pakistani engineers so they fixed everything in six weeks. The Pakistani workforce is talented; respect Pakistani workforce because of their devotion and hard work, he added.

When asked what he would convey to Prime Minister Imran Khan, if a tentative meeting with the premier was held, he said that he would not convey any complaints as their project was going very well. He said that the government had treated them well and resolved all issues up to their best capacity.

He said if all outstanding disputes resolved and local peoples were taken into confidence on the RekoDiq project, he would be willing to come and invest $300 to $500 million. Some people say Pakistan is a risky country but he does not think so. My villa is completed here and I will use it to stay here for two weeks every year, he added.

He said that the government promised to provide land for low-cost housing but it could not be done. He said they built the same villa for just 20 minutes away from Islamabad for one million dollars, whereas, the prices stood at $2 to $4 million in Islamabad.

He said that everything offered in EIGHTEEN was already sold. The villa and flat here is under-priced. Total area of EIGHTEEN project is 4,850 kanal of land out of which 2,850 kanal was available for phase-1.

He said that they consolidated land in a 10years period with the help of Anwar Saifullah and his family. EIGHTEEN is an Ora Developers project in partnership with Saif Group and in conjunction with Kohistan Builders & Developers.

EIGHTEEN will cover an area of 2.7 million sq yards (2.2 million sq m) with over 2,000 residential units, a 7,200-yard Championship Golf Course, exceptional amenities, as well as, a 5-star hotel, and retail and commercial areas. It is being developed at a cost of US$2 billion. The concept master plan was prepared by Callison RTKL and developed by renowned architects and urban planners WATG, with interiors by Wimberly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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