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Pakistan's growth story goes unheard

Pakistan's economy is growing at an unprecedented rate but foreign investors, exercised by doubts about political stability, haven't heard the good news.

Shaukat Aziz

FINANCE MINISTER SHAUKAT Aziz is bullish. "Pakistan is on a roll," he proclaims. "The economic situation is looking better by the day and the country is on an accelerated growth path." The economic team put in place after General Pervez Musharraf seized power five years ago in a bloodless coup has achieved a remarkable turnaround. GDP growth for the financial year ended June 30 is expected to nudge 6%, per capita income is forecast to rise from $450 to $600 and industrial output is up by a record 15%. Exports are ahead by about the same percentage as output, private sector credit has increased threefold, and foreign reserves have soared to $12.5 billion, more than 10 times the 1999 level.

"This is the best macroeconomic picture we have seen since Pakistan was created 55 years ago," says Sirajuddin Aziz, senior executive vice-president of Bank Alfalah.

Foreign banks are equally enthusiastic. "After several years of consolidation, Pakistan is poised for an acceleration in growth," says Sakib Sherani, analyst at ABN Amro. "All in all, the country appears well positioned for further upgrades to its sovereign credit rating [currently B/B3]."

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