On the outlook of it, the government’s announcement of a scheme allowing permanent residency to foreign investors seems like a good cause. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry stated that the scheme was in line with Pakistan’s ‘citizen-centric’ National Security Policy, which has put geo-economics at its core. According to reports, the permanent residency scheme for foreign nationals – primarily wealthy Afghans, Chinese nationals and UK-based Sikhs – is only applicable to those who invest from $100,000 to $300,000 in the real estate sector of the country. The government hopes that this will not only bring a significant inflow of dollars into the economy but will also boost the real estate sector of the country, which the ruling PTI has been trying to enhance since it came in power.
It must be noted that the controversial Finance Supplementary Bill 2021 recently passed in the National Assembly amid opposition protests has provided income tax exemption for the richest people who own real estate investment trusts, whereas the government withdrew the Rs335 billion sales tax exemptions that will affect every segment of the society. However, it is the implementation of the same bill that will unleash a wave of inflation in the economy, making the cost of doing business higher. Unavoidably, denting locals as well as foreign investors confidence. Moreover, the inflationary pressure will raise prices and further reduce the purchasing power parity which is already below the countries the government’s proposed scheme is reportedly influenced by: Iran, Turkey and Malaysia.
In the wake of this, how exactly the government aims to make Pakistan seem like an attractive country to foreigners is any body’s guess. And perhaps if factors pertaining to price hikes and inflation are put aside, we must remember that our poor human rights conditions do not favour the government’s resolve. It was just last month when Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara was brutally killed in broad daylight over allegations of blasphemy in Sialkot. The Human Right Watch 2022 report has also ranked Pakistan poorly as it mentions: “Women, religious minorities, and transgender people continue to face violence, discrimination, and persecution, with authorities failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators to account.”
The incumbent government may have its heart in the right place but it needs to be aware of its ground realities and more importantly, work towards fixing them than announcing new schemes. Burying its head in the sand isn’t going to help anyone, certainly not Pakistan.