Pakistanis are very hospitable and Pakistan is a great nation : Mr. TORE NEDREBQ,
Interview by : Syed Safeer Hussain Shah
Bilateral relations are already excellent, but it is of course my job as the Norwegian ambassador in Islamabad, just like it is for Pakistan’s excellent ambassador in Oslo, to work for even better relations between our two countries. The prospects for this should be good. Norway and Pakistan already have a special relationship because of the large Pakistani diaspora in Norway, probably counting between 30,000 and 40,000 individuals.Pakistan with its nearly 200 million people is of course a huge market. Moreover, Pakistanis have growing purchasing power. But Pakistan is a demanding market with a number of challenges, so Norwegian companies interested in trade or investment here need to know what they are doing. The embassy can advise them, but they must decide themselves. Currently, a Norwegian solar power company is waiting for the final green light to invest several hundred million U.S. dollars in Pakistan. Previously, Norwegian hydropower as well as petroleum companies have considered investments in Pakistan, but so far they have decided not to get engaged.The solar company I mentioned has a local partner. Otherwise the companies themselves have to decide. In order to export more to countries like Norway, Pakistan should diversify and develop its economy. In order for Pakistan to attract more trade and investment from Norway, the business climate needs to improve. Notably, it is important to have a more predictable policy and legal framework, to enhance security and safety, and to fight corruption. wish the solar power investment I mentioned would receive the final go-ahead soon. But the mobile phone company Telenor already represents a major Norwegian investment in Pakistan. It is the second biggest mobile operator in Pakistan, with a subscriber base of 38 million. Since 2005, it has invested about USD 3.5 billion in Pakistan, has created over 5000 direct jobs (including Tamweer Bank), and has a network of over 200,000 retailers. Because of Telenor, Norway is already the second biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan. Last fiscal year, Norwegian FDI here was USD 173 million. Our annual aid budget is in the order of USD 15 million. It focuses on education, women and gender equality, human rights, peace and reconciliation, disaster prevention and preparedness. Some Pakistani NGOs working for human rights and women’s rights are among the recipients. I think the prospects should be good. Especially through Telenor there is already a considerable technological transfer going on. Moreover, the Norwegian company Jotun has established a state-of-the-art paint factory outside Lahore. Telenor is by far the biggest Norwegian company in Pakistan, but there are a few others, like Jotun paints and Brighterlite, which leases out home solar power units to households, and a Norwegian ship-owner that will provide a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) for a new gas terminal in Karachi soon. Moreover, Norwegian shipping companies have many decades of experience in servicing Pakistani ports, mainly Karachi. The Norwegian economy has for many years been quite dependent on revenues from our petroleum production. Since the oil price has fallen significantly recently and our oil stocks are being depleted, we need to transition to a more diverse, less petroleum-dependent economy. But we have saved a lot of the petroleum revenues in the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world and Norway continues to be one of the richest countries globally. The economic prospects for 2016 look quite good under the circumstances. We have a very advanced banking and financial industry. The corner-stones of Norwegian foreign policy are our membership in NATO alliance for regional security, of the European single market for prosperity, and of the United Nations for global security, justice and development. Norway is one of the European countries with the highest defence expenditure per capita. Our defence policy is based on NATO solidarity and on promoting global peace and reconciliation. Personally, I think the key has been our relatively protected, remote geographical location combined with abundant natural resources, educated, relatively hard-working and disciplined people, and liberal but equitable and effective policies.Pakistanis are very hospitable and Pakistan is a great nation. But there is still a lot of work to do. If I should give only one piece of advice, it would be to spend more on public education and health.