EPB'S NEW MOVE TO PROMOTE EXPORTS
Business community widely hails the step
From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Ialmabad
August 02 - 08, 1999
Perhaps for the first time in its history, the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) has made some scientific move to promote exports from Pakistan. It has signed an accord with the world renowned US-based agencies offering comprehensive data base on global trade along with services for international debt collection and credit information about the status of individual business firms on a worldwide basis. This has been welcomed by the exporting business houses as a very significant step of the EPB in the direction of promoting export marketing.
The agreement was signed with International Credit Information Limited (ICIL) and Dun and Bradstreed. While the former specializes in providing credit information with regard to the credibility and other relevant aspects of globally-based business forums, the latter is operating a database with 53 million individual business records on a worldwide basis. The accord with these two firms would make the entire network of information accessible to EPB which in turn would be able to offer the available data and information to the export firms in Pakistan desiring to explore contacts with prospective buyers around the world. At the same time these agencies would also assist the EPB and Pakistani exporters in the collection of export proceeds.
This arrangement has seemingly opened the way for the local businessmen to make the use of modern information technology through the services of well-established internationally reputed agencies. It may be emphasized here that timely collection of vital information is most essential in business and more so in the case of exports. The changing taste of consumers in respect of quality and design specially those of clothings and textile made ups, etc. is a prerequisite for successful export promotion specially when new markets are to be explored for the traditional and non-traditional exportable goods. The availability of services from specialized agencies in supplying necessary information for the purpose of marketing specific goods in different countries would contribute to eliminate time consuming exchange of correspondence between the sellers and buyers in far-flung countries.
This type of innovative seeps are needed to promote exports which have been falling during the last 2 years against all tall claims of the concerned quarters, and estimates. Exports had been increasing, though at a nominal rate in the preceding 6 years. In the just ended fiscal year we missed almost all the targets in different sectors including the exports. The Finance Minister started the fiscal year with an estimated exports of $ 9 billion and with a zero trade deficit. With the passage of time, however, he started revising his estimates in view of the dismal performance.
The Minister has admitted in April last that the target of zero trade deficit may not be achieved because exports have not picked up despite best efforts of the government. He had, however, estimated that the fiscal year 1998-99 would close with a trade deficit of slightly over $ 1 billion. However, the year ended well over his estimate at well over $ 1.5 billion. The increase in imports of 7.53 per cent, from the target of $ 8.42 billion to $ 9.054 billion, was one contributory factor. The other was the fall in exports of 8.36 per cent, from the target of $ 8.299 billion to $ 7.605 billion.
If the target for 1998-99 now appears wholly unrealistic, what can one say about the target set for 1999-2000. The exports target has been set at $ 9 billion, and the imports target at $ 9.8 billion, leaving a trade deficit target of $ 0.8 billion. And this target, it is revealed, has set after the suggestion of a zero trade deficit target was finally turned down by the Economic Committee of the Cabinet.
The export target fixed for fiscal year 1999-2000 may appear optimistic in the context of our previous year performance but it is certainly achievable with little bit of extra efforts. Nobody agrees with the Prime Minister's wishful thinking that exports can be doubled in 2 years time but there is a consensus in the relevant circles that there can be a quantum jump and a target of $ 10 billion could be achieved if the recommendations made by the committee, appointed by the Prime Minister to suggest measures to boost exports, are implemented. The accord signed by the EPB can also prove helpful.
Pakistan's major exportables include textile items namely cotton yarn, fabrics, ready-made garments, hosiery goods, knitwears, towels, bed-sheets, etc, which are mainly shipped to countries allocating specific quotas to different exporting countries including Pakistan. As a result Pakistan is largely tried down to quota countries with all their whims and ever changing laws such as imposition of anti-dumping duties. Under these circumstances Pakistan's full potential of textile exports is not exploited to the desired extent mainly due to inability of exporters to explore new markets outside the quota countries. This deficiency and drawback in the marketing efforts are expected to be overcome through availability of services in this regard from the specialized agencies.
Moreover, Pakistani exporters quite often fall prey to fraudulent practices of some unscrupulous business firms in some of the third world countries. Advance information on the credibility of foreign importers, as envisaged under the agreement of EPB with the specialized agencies, would also help Pakistani exporters.