Hoor Asrar mentions a unique formation
Hybrid investment forum – It is a well-known fact that the military establishment of Pakistan has been instrumental in utilising its influence and clout to obtain financial succour for the country. These efforts are observed to be particularly effective with respect of friendly countries of the Middle East specifically the Gulf region. Moreover, Pakistani establishment also takes keen interest in the economic aspect of the country as it is keenly aware of the efficacy of economic viability in ensuring adequate defence of the country. It is also commonly known that successive civilian democratic dispensations have not been very successful in conceiving, formulating and implementing economic policies necessitating frequent intervention of the establishment that is often considered decisive. This state of affairs may not be the preferential arrangement for experienced political and economic experts but this practice is the outcome of decades of hybrid pattern of governance in Pakistan which is now considered part of the institutional setup of the country. The hybrid civil-military arrangement prevalent in Pakistan is however accepted by the Gulf states whose monarchical system of governance is quite close to the hybridity principle practiced in Pakistan owing to its overweening centralised decision-making functionality.
Keeping in view this typical Pakistani practice the political elements have brought about an institutional arrangement known as Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) specifically designed to accommodate civil-military efforts with regards to promoting economic national activity attracting investment from the Gulf countries that are willing to engage in such activities. This arrangement has been given legal cover by an act of parliament that has amended the Board of Invest¬ment (BoI) law that is considered as part of the new economic revival plan. In this respect it was reported that some Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have asked for guarantees for the continuation of policies that they believe could be ensured by the military establishment. Accordingly, the army has been given a strong representation in the SIFC that may assist in removing policy uncertainty by ensuring predictability and continuation irrespective of political changes.
The SIFC will serve as an interface for investors and remove all the bottlenecks to investment with the help of the army with the military establishment particularly getting a significant role in the new arrangement. In this context it is mentioned that the army chief would be a member of the apex committee and a senior army officer will act as the director general of its executive committee and its national coordinator. Moreover, the implementation committee of SIFC will also be headed by an army officer.
This formation is justified by the incumbent prime minister as reflecting a unified approach while tackling the current economic crisis and it is pointed out that it would ensure wholesome efforts of governance dispensations that would bring in a kind of policy predictability, continuity and implementation of economic affairs that currently lack such an arrangement. It was also mentioned that the dicey economic situation requires collective wisdom without which it will not be possible to handle economic challenges. In this respect it was reported that the army leadership is keen to lend a credible hand towards stabilising the economic content of the state as it is the only way forward. Apparently, jointly devised economic policies are the need of the day and their consistent implementation is the logical next step that may not only rectify the current economic mistakes but will also open the door for prosperity.
There is hardly any doubt that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is desperately needed for picking up the economic activity in the country. It is therefore imperative to look for investment from friendly countries and SIFC is the forum that would make it possible. It is reported that to increase foreign direct investment to $5 billion and to $100 billion in three years as well as achieve nominal GDP of $1 trillion by 2035. For the moment this target appears to be unachievable as the bureaucratic hurdles and regulatory complexities in the country constantly impede it. SIFC will bring about comprehensive reforms that are needed to simplify regulations, enhance transparency and foster a business-friendly environment. It is expected that SIFC will act as a central hub to streamline cooperation with investor nations. SIFC is mandated to facilitate investment and privatisation in various sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure development, telecommunication and energy.
The SIFC has been given due authority to summon regulatory bodies, government divisions, or representatives if delays in necessary licenses, certificates or permits hinder investment operations and discourage investor confidence. The regulatory premise of the SIFC allows it to relax or exempt regulatory requirements for projects, transactions, arrangements and agreements though such relaxations or exemptions must comply with the provisions of the respective laws in force. In effect the SIFC will act as a single window for multi-domain cooperation in relevant fields with the GCC countries in particular and other countries in general for the facilitation of investment and development of an enabling policy environment. The Weekender