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Budget 2018-19 is balanced with many pro-business measures

Smooth manufacturing and business upbringing help Pakistan meet ECO promises

Interview with Mr Shamim Ahmed Firpo – President, Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry

PROFILE

Besides discharging his services as President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), he is also the Chairman of Firpo Private Limited and Saeed Ghani. He is also the President of Pak-Ukraine Trade & Culture Information Center. His association with Karachi Chamber dates back to 2007 when he became part of Businessmen Group being led by its Chairman Mr. Siraj Kassam Teli. He has also served the business and industrial community of Karachi as Former Senior Vice Chairman KCCI, Former Member Managing Committee KCCI and Former Chairman of Public Utilities Power & Gas Sub-Committee KCCI and Deputy Chairman of Special Committee for My Karachi Exhibition. As President KCCI, he is also posted as Member on the Board of Governors of 22 Universities and Educational Institutes.Moreover, he has also offered his services as President of Delhi Cooperative Housing Society Limited, President of Karachi Cooperative Housing Societies Union Limited, Vice President of Societies Resident Association, Senior Vice President of Union Cooperative Club Limited Karachi, Joint Chief of Community Policing System Karachi, Former Honorary Member of Citizen Police Liaison Committee, Former Honorary Treasury of Jamiat Punjabi Saudagran-e-Delhi Karachi.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE 13TH SUMMIT OF THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO)?

SHAMIM AHMED FIRPO: The 13th summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held on the 1st of March 2017 in Islamabad, Pakistan under the theme of “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity”. It is encouraging to see that Pakistan hosted this summit very successfully while also included CPEC project in the agenda.

The summit deliberated measures in the light of the new and emerging global and regional circumstances where the new ECO Vision 2025 was expanded upon. It agreed on expanding regional economic cooperation among its member states, which requires concerted efforts by all the member countries to bring in noticeable improvement in the region economic and trade landscape.

PAGE: DO YOU THINK THE 13TH SUMMIT OF THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO) WOULD HELP IN DOUBLING INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

SHAMIM AHMED FIRPO: The ECO summit has vowed to double the current level of intra-ECO trade within the next 3-5 years, including through implementation of ECO Trade Agreement (ECOTA) and other ECO trade-related arrangements; as well as identification and elimination of physical and non-physical barriers.

The ECO summit also focused on various economic and trade related issues like it stressed on the need of strengthening the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Women Entrepreneurship, which has a very significant role in the economic growth. Although trade is expected to improve considerably if physical and non-physical barriers to trade are taken care of in the region. However, Pakistan will need to go a step further in facilitate the manufacturing sector, reducing the cost of doing business and enabling a conducive business environment. Failing to do so, Pakistan might witness a further surge in imports without any significant improvements in exports leading to increased trade deficit and putting pressure on the foreign exchange reserves of the country.

PAGE: THE SUMMIT ADOPTED ISLAMABAD DECLARATION AND VISION 2025. THE DECLARATION CALLS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE, FACILITATION OF TRADE AND INVESTMENT, PROMOTION OF CONNECTIVITY WITH OTHER REGIONS, EFFECTIVE USE OF ENERGY RESOURCES AND UNDERTAKING MEASURES FOR MAKING THE ECO EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT. VISION 2025 UNDERSCORES PROMOTION OF COOPERATION AMONG MEMBER STATES. YOUR VIEWS:

SHAMIM AHMED FIRPO: For Pakistan, development of transport and communication infrastructure, facilitation of trade and investment, promotion of connectivity with other regions and effective use of energy resources are more or less all being catered to in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

The CPEC project is envisioned to expedite regional economic integration and transform Pakistan into a Central and South Asian economic hub. About 64 projects are planned in the energy, transport and infrastructure sectors. The projects would provide a reliable growth platform for domestic economic activities and exports while it will also mitigate Pakistan’s long standing electricity problem estimated to be have been costing the nation 7% of its GDP annually. We believe, capitalizing on the humungous opportunity presented by CPEC entails a marked improvement in national production capability and business environment.

PAGE: THE SUMMIT CRITICIZED TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT?

SHAMIM AHMED FIRPO: Travel restrictions discourage trade activities limiting business-to-business interactions, which is very crucial in promoting trade. Therefore, we strongly advocate that businessmen should not be hindered in any way to communicate with their counterparts, which includes travelling to the respective countries. We believe that with the removal of travel restrictions and economic sanctions against Iran, trade activities in the region would improve.

PAGE: FACTORS RESTRICTING TRADE IN THE REGION INCLUDE DIFFERENCES IN ECONOMIC SYSTEMS, LOGISTIC CONSTRAINTS DUE TO INADEQUATE TRANSPORT LINKAGES AND PROBLEMS WITH BANKING TRANSACTIONS. THE ECOTA WAS SIGNED IN JULY 2003 BUT HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED AS YET BECAUSE HALF OF THE MEMBERS ARE STILL TO ACCEDE TO IT. THE AGREEMENT IS AIMED AT REMOVING TRADE BARRIERS FOR INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE. YOUR VIEWS:

SHAMIM AHMED FIRPO: ECOTA was a good move towards promoting trade and removing the bottlenecks of trade particularly the tariff barriers, which is expected to enhance regional trade. In order to implement it in letter and spirit, all the participant countries should play their role in removing any hurdles in the way through mutual consent and enhance cooperation so that trade can be facilitated in the region.

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