Consensus eludes Senate panel on jobs for locals

ISLAMABADThe Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs on Wednesday deferred its deliberations on the bills moved by Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sherry Rehman for the provision of jobs for Pakistani workers in foreign investment projects.Several members of the committee as well as Board of Investment (BoI) secretary objected to the timing of the bill, saying that any conditions on foreign investors would send a wrong message. The matter will now be taken up in the next meeting of the committee.Senator Rehman had moved the private members’ bills – Foreign Private Investments (Promotion and Protection) (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and The Board of Investment (Amendment) Bill, 2018 – aimed at measures to enhance jobs for the local labour force in foreign companies.The committee debated the clauses related to protection of rights of Pakistani workforce. Rehman was of the opinion that the new bill should carry a clause for employment of 60% unskilled labour of Pakistan in projects by foreign investors.Rehman opined that other countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Iraq took measures to protect right of employment of their workers in foreign funded projects. She added that amendments should be introduced in laws so that local workers could get jobs in joint ventures and foreign investment projects.However, committee members, including Pervaiz Rashid, Taj Muhammad Afridi and Walid Iqbal, urged caution. They were of the view that any new conditions should be avoided at this stage because it would discourage foreign direct investment.Pervaiz Rashid suggested that foreign investors should be given different incentives, encouraging them to hire Pakistani workers. Other members said that stringent regulatory conditions and bureaucratic hurdles were dampening confidence of foreign investors.The senators also said that 50 no-objection certificates were needed by foreign investors to start a business. Committee Chairman Sassui Palijo asked BoI officials to streamline operations and ease conditions for doing business in Pakistan.Sherry Rehman calls for regional cooperation to foster economic relationsParliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan said the government was committed to attract foreign investment while at the same time it would support efforts for hiring of local labour force in projects.During the meeting, Ali Muhammad Khan also assured the committee that a grievances cell headed by him was working to arrange funds for the National Institute of Blood Disease for treatment of poor leukemia patientsSenator Dr Sikandar Mandhro, who had raised the issue in a Senate sitting, said the funds were stopped during the caretaker government. The minister said that he had taken up the issue in the federal cabinet and the Prime Minister and Finance Minister had given approval of funds for the deserving patients.The committee deferred the consideration of the calling attention notice regarding report of the working group of the Election Commission of Pakistan on e-voting for the overseas Pakistanis due to absence of Senator Javed Abbasi, who had earlier raised the matter in the Senate.

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