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1- AUTO INDUSTRY
2- PAK-INDIA TRADE RELATIONS

3- NEED OF A NATIONAL SUGAR POLICY
4- SHAUKAT AZIZ SETS PRIORITIES FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH

5- KALABAGH DAM AT A CRITICAL STAGE
6-
KILLER MANGO DISEASE IN SINDH

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SHAUKAT AZIZ SETS PRIORITIES FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH

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By AMANULLAH BASHAR

Nov 29 - Dec 05, 2004
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in his maiden address to the nation has identified five priority areas which will be the focus of the government policies for rapid growth of the national economy.

The priorities set by the Prime Minister for special attention of the government were including Agriculture, industry including Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Information Technology, Housing and Construction, and the last but not the least was the Education sector focusing to resolve the unemployment issue and procedural changes aimed at dispensation of speedy justice to the common man.

Under the education program, he announced free education up to Matriculation in Federal government institutions, revival of shelved Khushhal Pakistan Program and expansion of financial services for more loans to farmers and SMEs and launching of skill training program to cultivate over 300,000 youth for future demand.

A farewell to the IMF program was another important aspect when he indicated that Pakistan has declined "with thanks" the last two installments of the International Monetary Fund loan. The amount involved was estimated a $250 million which was due in December. The government has decided not to avail of the last two IMF tranche amounting to 172 SDRs i.e. about 250 million dollars in line with its policy to end its dependence on the Fund any more. In a way, the significant decision regarding IMF indicates the growing confidence of the government within its financial resources which not doubt have built up on strong footings during last three years.

The focus on the five sectors can help strengthen economic growth and create more job openings in the country, if they were implemented in letter and spirits with a strong follow up by the economic managers and the policy makers. The Prime Minister knowing the importance of the follow up of the policies for execution of the good decisions, pointed out that what he announced was not merely an announcement, it would be followed up for timely implementation, he said with a firm tone. "We will change the file culture" he observed. The file culture, which has destroyed the image of our bureaucracy as well as the public sector, which are known for the lethargy for destroying the image of the government organizations in our society.

It is the file culture which did not allow some marvelous ideas and plan to contribute their due role in growth of social, economic and political life in our country. For example, the government has come with an unparallel decision to open the financial sector for House Financing at a massive scale. However, the availability of the funds was unable to play a role in accelerating economic activity in the housing and construction sector which has enormous potential to create job opportunities at a massive scale. Since more than 80 downstream industries are allied to the construction industry, an active construction industry had move the wheel of the allied industries at a great scale. However, unfortunately, a large number of government offices which create uncalled hurdles right from the beginning or early stage of a development project still persist. One can not get passed the map or building plan of a project without appeasing the people sitting on the projects. One has to obtain a number of NOCs and documents to avail the housing finance from the banking sector. For example, despite having all the basic documents such as lease of a property, approved site plan, and map, and all other utility services, the cumber procedure further demands for a number of certificates from the corrupt government offices such as Search Certificate, Completion Certificates and Permission to Mortgage Certificates, Salary Certificate, Pay slips, income tax certificates, and the guarantor before applying for a loan for housing purposes. However, all these bottlenecks or documental barriers are only for the general masses. The influential quarters or the privileged whether they hail from ruling party or in the camp of opposition are considered above the board.

 

 

The Prime Minister has announced that under the new policy the procedural delays would be done away with. However, simplification of the procedures and elimination of unnecessary certificates were not doing any thing good but have become a handsome source of minting money for the corrupt elements.

Although the trade and industry has welcomed the measures announced by the Prime Minister for revival of the economy and the system, yet the most common concern expressed by the trade and industry was the implementation of the decisions and the policies. We are rich of good decisions and policies, but extremely poor in producing results of the policies.

The highlights of the road map designed for speedy economic development include strengthening of the private sector to create more jobs. The allocation for agricultural loans were also increased and steps are under way to ensure supply of inputs like better seeds, fertilizers and water for reinforcement of the agriculture sector. For financing small and medium industries Rs6 billion have also been provided. In order to avoid price inflation, the existing prices of gasoline and crude oil products would be maintained despite an all-time high prices in the international market.