It has been a decade since the launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which brought with it promises of massive investments and development opportunities for Pakistan.
With project valuations soaring above $50 billion, Pakistan was filled with optimism and excitement. However, as time has passed, it is important for Pakistan to reflect.
It seems that the Special Investment Facilitation Council’s (SIFC) success depends heavily on the way we speak about significant investment numbers and manage and balance their execution vis-à-vis important interests.
To start off, we must learn how to discuss large investment amounts in order to build financiers’ trust while demonstrating accuracy. The investment capital suggested by officials and talk show hosts ranges from $25 billion to around $100 billion in the coming years. This amount has been estimated by some to be precisely $75 billion, which, if accurate, offers a considerable possibility for economic growth.
The CPEC should teach us that disclosing significant amounts of money and terms in public is not prudent before completing any deals. Ten years since the project’s inception, we are still in the process of renegotiating some CPEC deals and reach investors about them. It’s puzzling why we’ve acquired such a strong obsession with discussing investment sums in the billions.
These numbers may occasionally be made public since we admire Pakistan and the prospects it might offer prospective investors. Other times, we might use it to influence market sentiment.
Sometimes we simply speculate to grab attention.
One-sided declarations of expectations and wishlists frequently result in trouble, especially when people involved on the other side have not announced any.
When discussing large sums of money, the public is left with expectations from investors, and when those expectations aren’t met, hostility often grows towards the actors in the spotlight. For instance, we’ve been trying to associate SIFC investments with particular nations, but we haven’t actually heard from any possible investors just yet to match our excitement.
This doesn’t necessarily imply that investment won’t happen, but it could indicate that the discussions are just getting started or that potential financiers are waiting to see Pakistan’s commitment to clean up its act before bringing teams to explore the possibilities for investment.
The Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to India has generated a lot of excitement in the Indian media, which has dubbed the event a “ditch” and a “snub” for Pakistan.
Do we dislike it in any way? Yes, we do, especially in light of reports we’ve received suggesting that Saudi leadership was ready to travel to Pakistan and sign contracts in Islamabad rather than in New Delhi.
The Pakistani media has speculated on whether the Crown Prince will visit Pakistan before or after leaving India. This hasn’t happened, though, in part because Saudi Arabia didn’t have anything planned when they went to India for the G20 and then for a bilateral visit afterward.
The Saudi leadership and other Gulf states will probably plan a separate visit to Pakistan that is suitable for the scope of SIFC work once it becomes clear that projects are discussion worthy and can be pitched.
There have been times in the past when Pakistan’s internal political issues prevented Chinese President XI and even the Crown Prince from visiting. Are we making the same mistake of annoying our potential financiers by stating things before they have been properly thought through and giving project dates and numbers of our choosing?
We really need to calm down and rethink how we go about discussing ties with other countries and speculating about them for domestic purposes because the world perceives things differently than we do.
While many Pakistanis believe that projects under the newly-formed SIFC will complement CPEC, it is essential to think critically about the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Pakistan has never had the opportunity to manage significant investments from numerous countries, necessitating the creation of a policy by Islamabad to maintain a balance in relations.
The sum that would probably come from Gulf countries is being compared to the amount of Chinese investments made under CPEC years ago. By making this comparison, it is implied that Pakistan believes SIFC-approved projects are more likely to help it immediately restore its economy.
This effectively suggests that Pakistan would allocate funds in the coming months to favor SIFC-related projects and placate new investors.
Pakistan will have to walk a fine line between maintaining good relations with China and luring investors to SIFC-mandated projects.
In order to fully harness this potential, careful consideration must be given to ensuring that all stakeholders’ interests are taken into account. We must also behave suitably when discussing potential investments, both in terms of the sequence of events and how our investors may like us to communicate discussions.
The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners