French companies’ hopes of winning contracts in Pakistan have been boosted by the signing of agreements during Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s visit to France on 2-4 November. In addition to a financial protocol, transport and telecommunications agreements were announced. Discussions were also held concerning a French order to supply military aircraft.

In the protocol signed by Bhutto and French Finance Minister Edmond Alphandery, the French government offered FF 400 million ($76.5 million) in the form of concessionary financing. The projects covered by the protocol, with the French companies bidding, are:

The deepening of the Rohri Canal in Sind Province for irrigation purposes – Campenon Bernard.

The renovation of hospitals in Karachi and Hyderabad – Sopha Developpement.

A rural telecommunications programme in the northern region – Alcatel. Alcatel ISR has also bid to set up a communications system for the Karachi police, while Alcatel CIT’s local subsidiary has bid to supply transmission equipment to Pakistan Telecommunications Corporation.

The transport and communications agreements concern the following projects:

Karachi metro system: The French Transport Ministry and the National Mass Transit Authority (NMTA) have agreed to set up a joint committee on surface transport systems, with the aim of preparing for the forthcoming tender invitation for a $400 million metro project.

Satellite communications programme: A partnership agreement was also announced between the local Saigols and France’s Alcatel Espace. The local/French joint venture is bidding against the US’ Hughes Space & Communications Company for the $250 million-300 million project to set up a complete satellite communications system. A contract award is expected by the end of the year.

The purchase of French military aircraft was discussed when Bhutto met French Industry Minister Jose Rossi on 4 November. After the meeting Rossi hinted that the number of Mirage 2000 aircraft to be purchased by Pakistan from France’s Dassault Aviation could be less than the 40 originally quoted because of financing problems. Agreement in principle over the sale of the jets was reached in January 1992 when Nawaz Sharif visited France as Prime Minister (MEED 29:5:92).

Bhutto also met President Mitterrand, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and the French employers’ federation, the CNPF, during her visit. She urged more French companies to take advantage of improving economic conditions in Pakistan.