Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 October 2019

Imran Khan: We shouldn't be afraid of creating profit and wealth

Pakistan's prime minister sets out vision for reform of the world's second largest Muslim population country

Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan speaks during day 1 at the World Government Summit. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan speaks during day 1 at the World Government Summit. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Imran Khan set out broad plans for Pakistan's economy on Sunday, urging foreign companies to invest and pledging to open up the country to tourism.

In a wide-ranging speech peppered with references to sporting losses and wins and on the country's economic woes, he urged investors: "This is the time to come to Pakistan."

He said the nation is "just going on the upswing, this is the time - don't miss the boat".

His country must embrace tourism and capitalise on its natural beauty, diverse landscape and further opportunities for religious tourism, he said.

Mr Khan used Malaysia as an example of a Muslim country that has built on its natural beauty, with tourism receipts today of more than $20 billion per year.

He went on to blame Pakistan's socialist governments of the past for being afraid of profit, which he said had been seen as "as sin".

"We are now telling bussineses, 'we will help you make money'.

"As we create wealth, that money will be used to lift people out of poverty."

It is estimated that about 40 per cent of Pakistanis live in poverty, and he pointed to China's economic transformation as a nation that lifted "700 million of out poverty".

“I started this movement to collect money to build this hospital for the people - it started my journey into politics,” Mr Khan said.

The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Peshawar offers 80 per cent of its patients free healthcare.

It is the only hospital of its kind in the country to do so, and was secured with the help of huge public donations.

“I asked why would the people would help build this hospital, but not pay taxes?” Mr Khan said, reflecting on the drive to construct the facility in the early 1990s.

“I realised we were in the top five [nations] for giving to charity and the bottom five nations for paying taxes.

"This was because people did not trust the government and there was corruption.”

Pakistan is hoping to secure significant investment from nations in the Arabian Gulf to help build prosperity in his country, and is winning back the trust of the people.

Renewable energy, mining, petrochemicals, real estate and agriculture are planned as the main areas of investment.

Two oil refineries are also to be established, one in partnership with the UAE worth $6 billion (Dh22bn) and another financed by Saudi Arabia valued a $10bn.

Mr Khan is under pressure to reform Pakistan in return for a $7 billion (Dh25bn) bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He has reportedly put off plans to reform its huge state-owned companies that generate huge annual losses after protests.

But he insisted reform is on the way.

“I have seen the UAE develop economically, and China, and the common thing that has made that happened is good governance,” Mr Khan said.

"Everyone should be accountable and be equal before the rule of law. The state must take responsibility, how do we fit the people from poverty.

“The more accountable and clean it is, the more successful it is.

“I want to see that in Pakistan.”

Updated: February 11, 2019 10:41 AM

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