President Asif Ali Zardari said that as part of liberal investment policy regime, the present government has embarked upon a policy of trade liberalization with India and other countries in the region including granting Most Favoured Nation status to India. Speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Achievement Award Ceremony 2012 at the Governor House on Friday, he emphasized the need for continuity of economic policies and called upon the business community to take ownership of the policies as the absence of continuity of economic policies was a serious problem of the country’s development. Terming it a major policy shift, the President said that this shift was driven by the business sectors on both sides of the border and expressed the hope that it would benefit all besides contributing in the region’s economies and increasing its stability. He said that it is the business community who should defend the economic policies even if governments change. “I am happy to say that last week I gave accent to a Bill that will do exactly the same”, the President said expressing hope that it will ensure continuity of incentives given to entrepreneurs and added that no government will now be able to withdraw the incentives without Parliamentary debate and discussion. Terming it a landmark development, he said that the government have achieved political consensus on a number of issues adding that it was high time that we work for consensus of economic policies as well. Commenting on energy issues in the country, the President said that he was aware of the problems posed by the lack of energy and termed it the mother of all economic problems. He however said that energy problem was also rooted in the reversal of the energy policy of the previous PPP government, adding that if the energy policy of the PPP government had not been reversed in mid nineties, perhaps there would have been no power crisis today. The President emphasized the need to learn from the past and said that the energy crisis was a reminder to us all to recognize the importance of developing consensus on economic policies. The government has undertaken mega hydro projects including the construction of Basha Dam and raising of the Mangla dam project besides importing gas and electricity from other countries to address the energy problem, he said. Commenting on government’s efforts for achieving enhanced trade access to world markets, the President said that lack of access to international markets was yet another problem adding that as a result of our efforts the EU has given Pakistan Preferential Market Access. He appreciated the EU for the move and said that Pakistan was seeking GSP Plus status and expressed the hope to achieve this status to further increase market access. He said that country’s access to markets was very poor however he reiterated that we want trade and not aid. Noting the impacts of Militancy and terrorism, the President said that the country has lost 44,000 nationals including six thousand military and police personnel in this fight against extremism and militancy, which the country has been fighting for the past ten years. He said that the fight has had a very adverse impact on economy and development besides halting the progress of many social programs. He said that the global financial crisis also hit Pakistan just as we began the transition from a military dictatorship to democracy. He however added the situation was improving as a result of some hard decisions taken by the government. The President said that the government was promoting an investor-friendly environment and offering the most liberal investment policy regime in the region, which includes full repatriation of capital, capital gains, dividends and profits. Welcoming foreign investment, he said that the government has signed Business Investment Treaties with many nations and provide the best possible environment for foreign investment. He said that for the first time in our history, a democratically elected government will complete a full five-year term next year. Welcoming the suggestions of businessmen, he said that the government has always been receptive to the ideas and suggestions of the business community, as we want to make Pakistan a profitable place to do business. “I have no doubt that with the help of private sector, our economy would further improve”, he said, adding that he was looking forward to a booming economy with determination and courage and expressed confidence to achieve it together. The President applauded the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry for regularly holding Achievement Award ceremonies for the last eight years and said that such awards recognize the excellent performance of the entrepreneurs and motivate them to achieve even more. He congratulated Irfan Qaiser Shaikh, President LCCI for holding the awards ceremony and said that he has often been meeting and speaking with the Chamber and Business community and values their advice in finding solutions to economic problems. The President also congratulated all the winners of Achievement Awards for their excellent performance.