KARACHI – A meeting was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi to discuss Drivers of Future Economic Growth and Job Creation in Sindh at the IBA, main campus.
“Government is willing to work with the business community and other stakeholders for the solution of economic issues being faced by businesspersons in Sindh,”
said Parliamentary Secretary, National History and Literary Heritage and the former vice president of Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Karachi-South, Ms. Ghazala Saifi in the meeting. She said that Pakistan needs to focus on providing high-quality skills to its labor so that the high demand for labor services coming from the Middle East countries can be met.
The meeting was also attended by MNA Ms. Shahida Rehmani who said that the PPP government in Sindh was focusing on agriculture and livestock to provide jobs. She emphasized on the need to improve federal-provincial coordination to implement reforms that bring down the cost of doing business.
In his welcome remarks, 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; as this would boost competition and help in bringing diversification in economic base and exports. He mentioned the supply and demand gaps in the labour market which can be addressed if private sector is responsible for training manpower as per the industry needs. He stressed upon the relevant authorities to see why potential Chinese investors are still not coming to Pakistan in large numbers.
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 a part of the forthcoming annual budget of the 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 21 – 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 added 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 the coming days. He further discussed the difficulties Chinese businessmen are facing in Pakistan, which primarily lie with taxation authorities and government offices responsible for the provision of utilities such as water, electricity and gas.
The meeting was attended by President Employers’ Federation of Pakistan, Mr. Majyd Aziz, President Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI), Mr. Danish Khan, representatives of Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), Mr. Faraz Khan of SEED Ventures, some local start-ups, government departments and senior journalists. The participants suggested that it is important to discuss about the sectors and products which can bring about economic growth in the future. There is a large growth in ICT-based services and more start-ups 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 organizations 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 announcing/declaring the mini budget in January. According to data by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), 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 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 is important the property valuations should be notified as per the market rates.
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 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 the current laws were not encouraging impact investment and crowdfunding. The foreign exchange regulations of the central bank are also a constraint in scaling up trade-in-services.
Mr. 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.