LAHORE BUSINESS SCENARIO

Exporters focusing at $20 billion target

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Dec 12 - 18, 2005

Pakistan's exports recorded a growth of 16.9% in 2004-05 against the target of 11.5%. Although Pakistan is eyeing on export target of US$ 20 billion by the end of the current financial year, the target for export has formally been set at US$ 18 billion.

In order to achieve the cherished goal of enhanced exports, the LCCI President Mian Shafqat Ali suggests that Pakistan would have to evolve a new strategy for the promotion of trade as the exports always play a key role in providing a solid base to the economy of any country.

Addressing a 19-member delegation of trade officers appointed at Pakistan Missions abroad, Mian Shafqat Ali observed that the competition from China and India is the biggest challenge confronting the country. Both these countries have the advantage of indigenously produced raw materials, highly skilled but cheap labour and low utility prices. Pakistan produces good quality products but frequent hikes in the energy tariff is rendering the country incompetitive in the international market.

Pakistani exports are highly concentrated in few items. Five categories of exports namely cotton, leather, rice, synthetic textiles and sports goods account for over 79% of our exports. Similarly, exports are highly concentrated in few countries. About 50% of our exports like engineering goods, marble and granite, precious and semi-precious stones and jewellery, fisheries, milk products, construction, IT, finance and accounting services and pharmaceuticals went to seven countries. CARS, Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and India could be the most rewarding markets for Pakistani products.

He said that despite the fact that Pakistani companies have a strong export base in textiles they have not invested in developing their own brands and labels.

European Union is presently giving around 64 billion Euros of subsidies to their farm sector, which is creating problems for the export of agricultural commodities of the developing countries to the European Union. The developed world needs to come up with a timeframe for dealing with the issues of agricultural subsidies.

LCCI Vice President Aftab Ahmad Vohra was of the view that there is a lot of scope for developed countries to make investment in Pakistan. He said that it is high time to invest in Pakistan owing to its improving indicators and investment friendly pro-active policies. There is no limit on foreign equity and foreigners can transfer capital, profits and dividends to their countries. No permission is required to establish any industry in Pakistan by the foreign investors.

Pakistan offers good scope to investors in information technology, telecommunication, textiles (value addition), oil & gas, water & power, food & food processing, SMEs, engineering, tourism & services. Pakistan Trade Officers abroad need to explore areas of trade and cooperation between Pakistan and the country of their posting.

Trade Missions abroad should also facilitate the businessmen of both the sides as frequent exchange of economic and trade delegations to identify the areas of mutual interest, single country exhibitions and socio-cultural programs in each other's country and establishment of joint business forums could be helpful in boosting exports.

GERMAN DELEGATION

German business delegation, presently visiting Pakistan, spent a busy day on Thursday last in Lahore as they had business meetings with various top officials of the government, including Wapda Chairman Tariq Hameed and Chief Secretary Sulman Saddique.

LCCI President Mian Shafqat Ali, Vice President Aftab Vohra, former Presidents Mian Misbahur Rehman, Mian Anjum Nisar, former Senior Vice President Sohail Lashari and Vice President Mohammad Ali Mian were also present at the meetings.

Dr Talat Mehmood, Chairman Pakistan Forum, Asia Pacific Forum Berlin (APFB), led the delegation.

The Wapda Chairman gave a detailed briefing to the delegation about the ongoing and upcoming projects of electrification. He also invited the German delegation to make investment in power sector projects. He informed the delegation that by the year 2007 all the villages would be electrified.

He said that there is a great potential for cooperation with Germany in the field of power generation and transmission as energy requirements are growing rapidly due to the growth of the economy of Pakistan.

He said that as power requirements grow, Wapda would like to benefit from Germany's experience and technology for its hydel and thermal projects.

He said that the present government was giving special attention towards the establishment of water resources in the country to control the shortage of power.

Chief Secretary Sulman Siddique, during his meeting with the German delegation, explained the Vision 2020 besides giving an overview of the overall economic situation in general and business opportunities available in the province of Punjab in particular.

He informed the German delegation that in the next 10 years the province would be the hub of the business activities therefore it is the right time for potential foreign entrepreneurs to make investment.

He said that Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was very keen to attract foreign investment in the country and he has directed all the departments to facilitate foreign investors in every way.

He said that not only the government policies are very business-friendly but the atmosphere itself is very conducive.

He said that tourism and hotel industries have a lot of scope in Punjab and the prices of land are very low as compared to neighboring countries.

The Chief Secretary said that the Punjab government is giving special attention towards the development of infrastructure and the Ring Road Project is an ample proof of it.

He said that the Ring Road would not only ease the traffic mess on the city roads but would also be help for the industrial units being set up around Lahore.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry was also supplementing government's efforts for bringing in foreign investment through exchange of trade delegations.

He said that the present government has a right approach and giving a special attention towards the issues facing the business community of the country.

He also lauded the role of President General Pervaiz Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz for turning the country into a hub of business activities.

The LCCI Vice President Aftab Ahmad Vohra appreciated the Punjab government's policies for foreign investors. He said that the present government's decision to provide free land to big foreign investors would go a long way and help invite more investment.

The former LCCI's Senior Vice President Sohail Lashari was of the view that water treatment plants are the dire need of the hour and the present government should complete the proposed plan as early as possible.

Earlier, the head of the delegation, Dr Talat Mehmood gave a briefing about the German delegation. Dr Talat Mehmood is a senior economist and providing services for foreign direct investment and joint ventures between Pakistani and Germany.