The United States Mission to Pakistan along with the Punjab Government opened a three-day private sector forum, “South Punjab Virtual PSE Forum” to identify opportunities and challenges for commercial and social investments in the region. The “South Punjab Virtual Private Sector Engagement Forum” was organized by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Punjab Enabling Environment Project (PEEP) in partnership with Punjab Board of Investment and Trade through the USAID Lahore Office in collaboration with the South Punjab private sector. The forum focused on four key sectors: agriculture, tourism, textiles, and energy. One of the main topics was identifying the challenges for growth of the private sector in South Punjab, including market access constraints exacerbated by COVID-19 mobility limitations. Other topics included lack of innovation in agriculture practices and crop value chains, the widening knowledge gap in agriculture enterprises, and access to finance for smallholders.
The U.S. Consul General Lahore, Additional Chief Secretary for South Punjab Zahid Akhtar Zaman, CEO PBIT Dr. Erfa Iqbal, Dr. Asif Ali, Vice Chancellor, MNS-University of Agriculture, Multan, Ali Afzal, Head of Corporate, South CIBG, The Bank of Punjab, and representatives from Grace Solar, Systems LTD, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation as well as Chambers and Associations operational in South Punjab attended the virtual forum.
CEO Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, Dr. Erfa Iqbal were the speaker in opening plenary session and made a presentation on “Punjab as a potential investment hub with a special focus on South Punjab. speaking on the situational analysis, she highlighted that despite having abundant labor force, Southern Punjab, like the rest of Pakistan, suffers from a mismatch between trained workers and the needs of industry, creating a scenario in which the industry suffers from a labor force with low productivity. She underscored the need for planned, market-based skill development in the region. Highlighting the potential for industrialization in the region, she shared that sector wise Investment Corridors may be established in various districts across South Punjab to support the local industry and to boost exports and reduce imports for the uplift of the economy of Pakistan. In this context, she gave a detailed presentation on Multan, D.G Khan, Bahawalpur and Sahiwal Divisions, their ingenious industry and future potential investment corridors. She also shared opportunities in tourism sector and service industry with the participants, encouraging the private and public sector to share their projects with Punjab Board of Investment and Trade for showcasing to the foreign investors across the globe.
Chairman Punjab Board of Investment and Trade and Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Trade, Business and Investment Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan were the speaker in closing session. He said in his remarks that briefed that Government of the Punjab envisions public-private partnership to develop the capacity of agribusinesses in Southern Punjab whose economy is mainly agriculture based. He added that supply chains in the Southern Punjab may be digitized to overcome challenges of physical proximity to urban centers and banks. He shared that the region also presented ample opportunities for digitization in agriculture and textiles sectors and leveraging digital shared economy such as uber for tractors.