Expo 2020 Dubai provides an ideal platform to global businesses to share their innovative ideas and experiences with participating nations and explore trade and investment opportunities during the six-month long exhibition, says a top official of the Punjab government.

Dr Erfa Iqbal, chief executive of Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT), said the province has pitched many infrastructure and development projects to international investors on the sidelines of Expo 2020.

Referring to the provinces flagship project Ravi Urban Development and Lahores Central Business District (CBD), she said these initiatives have been showcased by our own organisations such as Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), CBD, and the Bank of Punjab. In addition, tourism potential of the province has been displayed very effectively at the Pakistan Pavilion.

Expo 2020 Dubai is a huge opportunity for us. Conducting such a mega event is a huge task and I keep my fingers crossed that this month will end successfully for us. We achieve what we want to achieve here. This will definitely work out in favour of PBIT Insha Allah, Dr Erfa told Khaleej Times during an interview on the sidelines of an event in Dubai.

At multiple forums, we have seminars inside as well as outside the Expo pavilion. I would like to share with you that a deal has already been made for the pipeline between Ruda and some foreign Investors, she added.

Showcasing strength of Pakistan

Dr Erfa said whole activity [Expo 2020 participation] is about showcasing the strength of Pakistan and its provinces.

We are here to become a part of the international community and that is why our slogan is #PunjabEase Going Global. Our slogan explains why we are here, what are the expectations, and what we hope to achieve.

PunjabEase indicates the ease of doing business through various initiatives which have been taken by the Punjab government to facilitate the investors and businessmen. Our slogan going global is very descriptive in that we are holding hands with the business community and bringing them to this global stage, she added.

Exploring international market

Dr Erfa said the Punjab government has provided an opportunity to the enterprise businesses in the country to introduce their brands at the international stage through an active participation in the Expo.

We targeted enterprise businesses who want to explore international markets by introducing their products and services. In addition, we also preferred groups who are looking for investment opportunities. We aim to bring them at Expo 2020 and then connect them with the international business community and Pakistani diaspora in Dubai, she added.

Tourism, medical potential

Dr Erfa said the Punjab province has also showcased its tourism potential at Expo 2020.

We are focusing on different different aspecta of tourism that include adventure tourism, health tourism, and religious tourism. The different faiths and cultures in Pakistan and specifically in Punjab, have been displayed at the Pakistan Pavilion to promote religious hormony and tolerance and it will pave the way for religious tourism, she said.

In a similar way, a renowned health team will be visiting the Expo soon to share the details of our health departments, healthcare systems and hospitals to promote medical tourism in the country.

Moving from tourism to culture, here we have a big cultural troupe perform everyday in the courtyard of Pakistan Pavilion. We also got the opportunity of going on a bigger stage; the jublee stage at the Expo venue. It was a huge success and received a very good response in the international media, she said.

The international community thoroughly enjoyed our cultural music, dhol and bhangra of Punjab. This is the softer and productive side of Pakistan, she added.

Facilitating businesses

Dr Erfa said more than 16 public sector departments are part of the government delegation at the Expo 2020.

The visiting delegations will be connected to their counterparts in Dubai and a range of seminars and panels discussions have been arranged at Pakistan Pavilion. Also the venues outside the Expo are all aiming to promote joint ventures and economic development projects, she said.

In reply to a question, she said PBIT is offering some of the mega developments in key sectors of the economy to the UAE and international investors.

As I said, multiple projects are being showcased here, specifically related to infrastructure and IT. These are the areas we would like to focus more in addition to conventional sectors which are agriculture, livestock, and textile. Of course, the industrial sector as well that I discussed before and economic zones which focus on industrial development and industrial corporation.

I would like to add that in order to promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs), we are registering them. We have a launch portal for registration of SMEs and we will sharing its data with the international community so that these SMEs truly become global. The second portal that we launched with the help of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) is for startups and we received a remarkable response in a few days time. More than 300 business startups registered at that portal and then a joint technical committee of PITB and PBIT evaluated the projects and short listed 25 of them to present at international forums such as Expo 2020 Dubai, Dr Erfa elaborated.

Collaboration with UAE investors

To a question, she said the Punjab government is keen to collaborate with UAE investors and Pakistani diaspora on economic and infrastructure development projects.

Before Punjab participation began in November at Expo 2020, I came here as member of the advance team and we reached out to the Pakistani diaspora, international investors and key entities such as Dubai FDI and Dubai Chamber. We also approached Pakistan Association of Dubai, Pakistan Business Council and then I also met quite of few lawyers, chartered accountants, and other professionals from Pakistan, she said.

Dr Erfa said PBIT is the face of Punjab government for everything connected with economic development, foreign direct investment, joint ventures and trade, among others.

We have focused a lot on promoting special economic zones SEZ. I am very happy to say that Punjab has taken a lead in economic zones. We have 10 approved SEZ at the moment with one of them also under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). About seven out of these 10 economic zones are run by the government-owned developers, one by the federal government, one by the FWO, and one by the private sector enterprise, she said.

She said SEZs hold the key to economic success in modern day economy.

This is the model that China follows and this is the model that should be followed in Pakistan in my opinion. We should focus more and more on economic zones, she said.

She said PBIT is also the secretariat of Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) at the provincial level.

So being secretariat of Special Economic Zone Authority, PBIT has done significant work in the past one year to streamline the procedure and resolve different issues being faced by the investors. We have also joined hands with the Federal government and Board of Investment to launch number of initiatives to promote the SEZs which I think is great, she added.

What PBIT offers at Expo 2020 Dubai

Dr Erfa Iqbal said PBIT offers around 30 plus projects to the UAE and international investors. It includes energy projects, economic and infrastructure developments as well as some IT and startup ideas.

1) Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda)

2) Chiniot Iron & Steel Complex: Pakistans first indigenous complex for Iron and Steel plant

3) Mines and minerals projects

4) Lahore Central Business District project that will be developed on more the 700 acers and it is divided in to three major components.

We are also sharing this list with the potential investors, with Pakistan Association of Dubai, Pakistan Business Council, and the Dubai Chamber. We are very hopeful we will get good results and attract a lot of interest from the business community, Dr Erfa concluded.


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