By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif invited Qatar to invest in Pakistan’s energy and aviation sectors during a meeting with the Qatar Investment Authority in Doha on Tuesday, according to a statement from Sharif’s office.
Sharif travelled to Qatar earlier on Tuesday in hopes of attracting trade and investment for his country, his office and aides said.
Sharif said earlier he planned to highlight sectors including renewable energy, food security, industrial and infrastructure development, tourism and hospitality.
The South Asian country of 220 million people is in economic turmoil with a balance of payment crisis as its foreign reserves have fallen as low as $7.8 billion, hardly enough for more than a month of imports. Pakistan also faces a widening current account deficit and a historic depreciation of the rupee against the U.S. dollar. In July it posted inflation of 24.9%.
“The Prime Minister invited the Qatari businessmen to invest in Pakistan’s energy, aviation, agriculture and livestock, maritime, tourism and hospitality sectors,” the statement said.
Sharif’s Qatar visit precedes an International Monetary Fund meeting next week that is expected to approve a $1.2 billion tranche of lending, which has been stalled since the beginning of the year.
Sharif’s office did not give details of his agenda but two sources close to him said he was expected to offer Qatar shares in state-owned enterprises including the loss-making Pakistan International Airlines and the Roosevelt Hotel in New York.
He was also expected to offer the opportunity to manage Pakistan’s airports and hoped to secure energy deals, aides said.
Pakistan, a major importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar, also hoped to seek a deferred payment plan for the LNG bought under long term deals.
Pakistan has two long-term LNG supply deals with Qatar to provide up to nine cargoes a month.
“We will surely seek any facility of deferred payments on our LNG deals,” an aide to Sharif told Reuters, adding that the country was also seeking support for its foreign reserves to the tune of $2 billion.
Sharif’s Cabinet on Monday approved a draft agreement that allows the government to provide troops for security at the FIFA soccer World Cup in Qatar this year.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad in IslamabadEditing by Robert Birsel and Matthew Lewis)