KARACHI: Putting forth a range of recommendations to boost economic growth in the country, speakers at a meeting held on Monday called upon the government to make fair policies and regulations and look into the reasons why potential Chinese investors had not yet come to Pakistan in as large numbers as was earlier projected by official quarters.
They suggested that the government should allow the private sector to head institutions such as the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority to bring greater ownership of these institutions and to provide them with a corporate culture.
The programme was organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, to discuss ‘Drivers of future economic growth and job creation in Sindh’ at the IBA.
MNAs’ lack of participation in budget debate criticised
In his welcome remarks, Dr Farrukh Iqbal, IBA executive director, highlighted the role of entrepreneurship in economic growth and job creation.
He emphasised that the role of the government should be to make fair policies and regulations, leaving the production activities in agriculture, manufacturing and services to the private sector.
“This (approach) would boost competition and bring diversification in economic base and exports,” he said, asking relevant authorities to see why potential Chinese investors had not come to Pakistan in large numbers (as was projected).
Dr Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director at the SDPI, spoke about the aims of the National Network of Economic Think Tanks which, he said, would help the federal government in collecting evidence that could be a part of the forthcoming annual budget, 12th Five Year Plan of the Planning Commission and still under formulation Strategic Trade Policy Framework of the ministry of commerce.
“It is important for the business community in Sindh to brainstorm and submit their pre-budget proposals by Feb 21 — the deadline set by Federal Board of Revenue. The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry needs to engage with the government well before the budget so that measures which lead to a reduction in the cost of doing business can be made part of the next Finance Act,” he said.
He urged the business associations in Sindh to engage more closely with the authorities responsible for implementing the decisions of the Eighth Joint Coordination Committee of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor programme.
“It is important for business persons to foresee what will be the future demand patterns in China and which goods can be exported from Pakistan to China in coming days,” he said.
Pointing to the difficulties Chinese businessmen were facing in Pakistan, he said these problems primarily pertained to taxation authorities and government offices, which were responsible to provide utilities such as water, electricity and gas.
The participants in the meeting were concerned at the lack of interest and debate in parliament following the announcement of a mini-budget last month.
A reference was made to the Free and Fair Election Network data according to which 60 per cent parliamentarians did not participate in the budget debates in the National Assembly.
In terms of export promotion, there was a consensus that there was large untapped potential in agriculture, fisheries and mining and that inland freight transportation costs were higher than such costs in peer economies.
They called for improvement in storage, warehousing facilities and trade-related border infrastructure, stressing the need for land reforms in Sindh so that agricultural land could be given to “genuine” farmers.
The meeting participants included president of the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan Majyd Aziz, president of the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry Danish Khan, representatives of the Pakistan Readymade Garments, MNA Shahida Rehmani and former vice president of the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Karachi South Ghazala Saifi.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2019