Haqqani encourages US investment in Thar coal

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HOUSTON: Pakistan offers tremendous opportunities for American investors in energy sector and foreign companies can greatly benefit from business-friendly environment, geared towards meeting the country’s fast-growing energy requirements, Islamabad’s envoy to the United States Husain Haqqani stated.
Ambassador Husain Haqqani told participants of a conference, focusing on the extraction of Thar coal and Pakistan’s energy potential, that there are lucrative business prospects in power generation. He urged participants not to be dissuaded by negative and exaggerated media reports about the situation in Pakistan.
Additionally, he claimed that the cost of doing business in Pakistan compares favorably with its peers in the region. Foreign investment in Pakistan will create job opportunities and deny recruits to extremist outfits, Haqqani said.
The envoy noted that negotiations on Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the US are progressing and the implementation of the treaty would open up more business opportunities between two countries.
The Forum was attended by a large number of Texas companies specialising in coal driven-power generation. The Forum was also addressed by Aijaz Ali Khan, Secretary Coal and Energy Development Department Government of Sindh, who provided further information on opportunities existing in coal power generation.
General Electric (GE) has signed a MoU with the government of Pakistan, indicating a long term interest in exploring the country’s rich potential in a number of key sectors, the participants were informed. Pakistani officials also spoke about Islamabad’s effort to harness the potential that the country’s geographical advantage offers.
Ambassador Haqqani said Islamabad is making the required investments to develop the national trade corridor, linking the ports in the south to northern Pakistan and onwards to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The recently inked Pakistan-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement is a milestone and will kick start regional growth and development process.
The United States is a key partner of Pakistan in this initiative. He told the audience that development of coal and energy should be treated as a national security matter. “With energy constraints on Pakistan growing, it is imperative that we extract and develop alternate energy resources.” The conference was informed that the Thar Desert of Pakistan is one of the largest coal reserves which have been discovered yet.
These reserves are explored on an area of almost ten thousand square kilometers and massive investment is needed to explore these reserves. Haqqani said Pakistan offers one of the most liberal and attractive investment regimes.
The participants were informed that power generation using clean coal technology needs to increase its capacity from the current 160 Mega Watts (MW) per annum to 20,000 MW by 2030. Investments in oil and gas exploration both offshore and on land to tap unexplored natural resources (239 trillion cubic feet of gas and 26 billion barrels of crude oil).
By some accounts, the Thar Coal Field has the potential to yield over 200 billion ton of coal used to produce electricity which can give way to sufficient power to make Pakistan self-sufficient in electrical power. In 1992, the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) discovered more than 185 billion tonnes of lignite reserves in Thar coalfield.
The GSP completed coal-resources evaluation in the four specific blocks of the coalfield with an area of 356 square kilometers. On the basis of GSP studies, the required coal potential of a minimum of 500 million tonnes in each block has been established. It is found that there is presence of 9 billion tonnes of coal in four blocks.
Thar coal reserves are estimated at 850 trillion cubic feet of gas. According to Pakistani officials, the Thar coal project would not be any imposition on the carbon emission. With right policies of mitigation and adaptation, we can make our Project eco-friendly, according to Pakistani officials.
Some analysts believe that this project will be distinguished by the low impact it will have on the environment. They concur that Thar coal has low sulfur content and hence its exploitation is environment- friendly. “In my view the Thar Coal Field must be developed as soon as possible to make Pakistan self-reliant in electrical power production,” he said.
“International financing is vital for coal extraction. I hope that US will also play its role financing this project,” the envoy said. The conference was told that the government of Pakistan has signed agreements on avoidance of double taxation with 52 countries including China.
Under these agreements proportionate tax relief is allowed to a person resident in Pakistan, on any income earned abroad (if such income has already been subjected to tax outside Pakistan), at the average rate of tax in Pakistan or abroad, whichever is lower.
That forum was also informed that hard core manufacturing sectors in Pakistan including ship building, automobiles, construction machinery, farm implements, and railway locomotives are all open to foreign investment.

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