Islamabad, February 04, 2019 (PPI-OT): Government is willing to work with the business community and other stakeholders for the solution of economic issues being faced by businesspersons in Sindh province said Ghazala Saifi, Parliamentary Secretary, National History and Literary Heritage and the former vice president of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Karachi-South. She said that Pakistan needs to focus on providing high quality skills to its labour so that high demand for labour services coming from the Middle-East countries can be met.
She said this while speaking during the roundtable meeting titled, “Meeting of National Network of Economic Think Tanks to Discuss Drivers of Future Economic Growth and Job Creation in Sindh,” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Institute of Business Administration (IBA), here at Karachi.
Speaking on the occasion Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP) MNA Shahida Rehmani said that PPP government in Sindh was focusing on agriculture and livestock to provide jobs. She emphasized the need to improve federal-provincial coordination to implement reforms that bring down the cost of doing business.
Executive Director, IBA, Dr. Farrukh Iqbal highlighted the role of entrepreneurship in economic growth and job creation. He emphasized that the role of the government should be to set fair policies and regulation, leaving the production activities in agriculture, manufacturing and services to the private sector. This will also boost competition and help in bringing diversification in economic base and exports. Supply and demand gaps in the labour market can be addressed if private sector is responsible for training manpower as per industry needs, he added.
He stressed upon the relevant authorities to see why potential Chinese investors are still not coming to Pakistan in big numbers. The irritants faced by foreign investors should be removed. He also said that it is important for the government strategies for economic growth to also respond to the weak social sector and human capital indicators in Sindh.
Joint Executive Director, SDPI, Dr. Vaqar Ahmed while moderating the meeting said that the National Network of Economic Think Tanks aims to help the federal government in collecting evidence that can be part of the forthcoming annual budget of PTI government, 12th Five Year Plan of Planning Commission and still under formulation Strategic Trade Policy Framework of the Ministry of Commerce. He said it was important for the business community in Sindh to brainstorm and submit their pre-budget proposals by February 21st – deadline set by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
The Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) needs to engage with the government well in time before the budget so that measures which lead to a reduction in cost of doing business can be made part of the next Finance Act. He also said that the business associations in Sindh need to engage more closely with authorities responsible for implementing decisions of 8th Joint Coordination Committee of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) programme.
It is important for the business persons to foresee what will be the future demand patterns in China and which goods can be exported from Pakistan to China in future. The federal and provincial Boards of Investment also need to find out regarding specific difficulties which Chinese business persons are facing in Pakistan. Primarily these difficulties lie with taxation authorities and government offices responsible for the provision of utilities such as water, electricity and gas.
The meeting was attended by Mr. Majyd Aziz, President Employers Federation of Pakistan, Mr. Danish Khan, President Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI), representatives of Pakistan Ready Made Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), Faraz Khan of SEED Ventures, some local start-ups, government departments and senior journalists.
The participants suggested that it is important to discuss regarding sectors and products which can bring future economic growth. There is a large growth in ICT based services and more startups need to be encouraged in this area through appropriate policy facilitation. It will be important to study the impact of artificial intelligence and how this can help the traditional and non-traditional production activities in Pakistan. The private sector associations were of the view that institutions for investment and trade promotion including Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) should be headed by the private sector.
This will not only bring greater ownership of these institutions but also help in providing these organisations a corporate culture which is essential for promoting brand Pakistan. The participants of the meeting were concerned at the lack of interest and debate in the parliament after the coming of mini budget in January. According to data by FAFEN, 60 percent parliamentarians did not participate in the budget debates in National Assembly.
In terms of export promotion, there was a consensus that there is large untapped potential in agriculture, fisheries and mining. However cold storage, warehousing facilities and trade-related border infrastructure needs improvement. The inland freight transportation costs are higher in comparison to peer economies. Furthermore, there is a need to complete land reforms in Sindh so that agriculture land can be given to genuine farmers. Also, to release idle savings from the real estate it was important the property valuations should be notified as per the market rates. For development of essential utilities, government was advised to launch infrastructure bonds and raise money from Pakistani citizens locally and abroad. Administrative measures were demanded to curb smuggling and informal trade. This is posing unfair competition for the local industry.
The participants lamented the fact that up-to-date information on business enterprises in Sindh by sector, activities and location was difficult to access. For this purpose, it is important to build capacities at the Sindh Bureau of Statistics. There was also a concern that the anti-encroachment drive in several cities is leading to problems for the informal sector in turn leading to loss of jobs for the poorest of the poor. There should be some alternative arrangement whereby the businesses already present in encroached areas should be relocated. The representatives from start-ups explained that current laws were not encouraging impact investment and crowd funding. The foreign exchange regulations of the central bank are also a constraint in scaling up trade-in-services.
Mukesh Kumar representing SMEDA stated that a National Business Development Programme is being initiated where helplines and mentoring will be available for struggling small and medium enterprises. He stated that this is a good time in Pakistan’s history for start-ups and several incubator and accelerator programmes are now in place to support new enterprises.
For more information, contact:
Coordinator, Policy Advocacy and Outreach
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
38 Embassy Road, G-6/3 Islamabad, Pakistan
Postal Code: 44000
Tel: +92-51-2278134 (Ext: 113)
Cell: +92-333-559 2210