AS Saudi Arabia is opening up to make billions of dollars of investments abroad, Pakistan is at the verge of receiving the most which again manifests love and affection that Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman al Saud have for people of Pakistan who also hold them at high esteem for always standing by Pakistan in difficult economic times.
Saudi Arabia initially extended a financial support package worth three billion dollars to Pakistan to shore up its foreign exchange that were fast depleting due to foreign liabilities along with agreeing to provide oil on deferred payment. Such Saudi assistance has always been forthcoming whenever Pakistan found itself in difficult economic situations. However, this time Saudi Arabia also came up with an investment package, which will go a long way in addressing the country’s economic woes. It will be unfair not to appreciate the role played by Saudi Ambassdor to Pakistan Nawaf Saeed Al Malki in putting the matters pertaining to investment on fast track. Following two important visits of Prime Minister Imran Khan, several Saudi delegations came to Pakistan and firmed up the investment portfolio and now these will be inked as agreements when the Saudi Crown Prince will visit Islamabad next month.
The most significant investment is establishment of $10b oil refinery in Gwadar. The refinery, with a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day, will represent one of the most modern and largest refinery plants in Aramco’s international portfolio. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, a developer, investor and operator of power generation plants that has assets in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Tunisia, is also in advanced planning to enter Pakistan’s renewable energy sector. Also Saudi Arabia has evinced interest in setting up petrochemical complex near Karachi which has its own significance as such a complex will build capacity of Pakistan to convert natural resources such as crude oil, natural gas, ores and minerals into products for a wide of applications including building blocks for industry processes such as ethylene, propylene, butadiene and aromatics. The establishment of oil refinery alone will help Pakistan reduce dependence on imported refined fuel. We can reduce our $16 billion petroleum import bill if we import cheaper crude oil instead of more expensive finished products. Therefore, establishment of oil refinery in Gwadar will help Pakistan substantially cut its oil import bill.
Then such a mega Saudi investment indeed will also serve the factor of confidence building and encourage other countries and international companies to invest in different potential sectors of the economy including that of oil and gas exploration. This will also help realise the objective of making Gwadar real hub of economic and commercial activities at a fast pace and attract investment in the special economic zones being established under the corridor project. Thus the benefits of Saudi investment are manifold and this will also make Saudi Arabia an important partner in the CPEC. As Saudi Arabia has also expressed interest to invest in other sectors, authorities concerned should spare no effort and sit with Saudi friends to exploit more investment opportunities that are in the interest of both the countries. The way Pak-China relations have transformed into a long term strategic economic partnership ever since the launch of the CPEC, Pak-Saudi relations are also heading for same direction, which will be beneficial for both the countries.
This process of engagement between Pak and Saudi Arabia must go on with the same speed and vigour seen most recently. Ease of doing business is the slogan of Imran Khan’s government and our authorities need to facilitate Saudi investors and remove any bottlenecks coming in their way. Our enemies will try to throw a spanner just like they are plotting to sabotage the CPEC but we along with our Saudi and Chinese friends need to stay firm and foil their nefarious designs by ensuring early completion of all projects. Then we also need to enhance our trade relations with Saudi Arabia. As the holy land attracts millions of pilgrims every year, we can produce and export such goods and commodities that are in great demand there. This will help take our exports to high levels and bring valuable foreign exchange to the kitty.