Aug 13 - 19, 2007

While consistency in economic policies is considered a pre-requisite for economic growth, mere consistency of economic policies cannot provide fruitful results, the goal of economic development in true sense can only be achieved through providing full support and conducive atmosphere to both local and foreign investors.

Pakistan's economy has continued to perform strongly over the last some years and it has been one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, even after the massive earthquake in 2005 and the unprecedented increase in global oil prices. The credit goes to the present regime which introduced prudent macroeconomic policies, wide ranging structural reforms, fiscal discipline and consistency and continuity in policies.

According to financial experts, with a current population of 160 million of which over 100 million is below the age of 25, Pakistan has a rapidly growing middle class that is fueling unprecedented growth. This is rapidly transforming Pakistan into a major market economy with large scale product, services and labor markets, they added.

The present government, they said fully realized that the goal of achieving development is not possible without harnessing the potential of all our people. The government was attaching priority to education and skill development and many reforms and projects were initiated to improve this vital sector. These measures, they said include: Reforms to achieve the MDG target of providing universal education to all by 2015, Increase of funds allocated to education sector from 2.5% to 4% and health sector allocations from 0.7% to 1.5% of GDP in the next few years, Substantial increase in the budget of Higher Education Commission to help improve the quality of higher education sector, HEC programs have been estimated at Rs. 1100 billion in the next ten years. The programmes are targeted on three interlinked areas public finance reforms to ensure increased public spending for education; devolution of public sector management reform; and improvement in access, quality and governance of education.

When contacted President Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Dr Shehla Javed told PAGE that major achievements made by the government during the last few years include robust performance in industry, agriculture and services. The economy has expanded from $ 60 billion to over $ 140 billion in the last seven years. Doubling of per capita income and strong remittances have generated extraordinary strengthening of domestic demand that has been title engine of growth, she observed.

The Government has set up a National Vocational and Training Education Commission (NAVTEC) under which technical and vocational training institutions are being established at district and tehsil levels across the country while the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) have been established at the provincial level with similar objectives, she added.

Dr Shehla Javed who is also country's leading Dietician and big name in Pharmaceutical Industry said that Pakistan can save millions of rupees of foreign exchange being spent annually on importing food items through creating awareness among the people about changing their eating habits.

Talking about women entrepreneurs, Dr Shehla Javed Akram said that women constitute over 50 percent of the country's population and they need to be encouraged in promoting their businesses. She asked the government to provide soft loans and help guide them in proper marketing of their products. She was of the view that women entrepreneurs have potential to fetch precious foreign exchange provided they are given opportunities to export their products. In this regard, she said that Trade Development

Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) has to play a leading role and also allocate quota for women entrepreneurs in all the trade delegations.

The Life Member of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Director of Alam Group of Industries which is among top 25 Groups of the country, Mr. Faraz Shafiq Alam told this scribe that the living conditions of one-third of the population of the country, which is living below the poverty line, ought to be improved, through both achieving high economic growth and direct poverty-alleviation programs. However, he said over the last five years, the government first achieved macro-economic stability through introduction of basic and structural reforms in the economy. Financial discipline was introduced and the debt burden was reduced while the budget deficit was brought under control, he added.

Mr. Faraz Shafiq Alam, who is also CEO of the Alam Cotton Mills (pvt) Limited, was critical over high cost of doing business in the country.

He stated that spinning industry which is important part of textile sector was facing worst crisis. About 130 spinning units had already been closed down while remaining 350 units were struggling for their survival. He urged the government to provide some relief to the spinning sector to help survive in the globally competitive environment. He demanded long-term finance and Research and Development Support for the spinning sector. He also urged the government to bring down the interest rate to help the textile industry.

Another leading textile industrialist Chaudhry Javaid Elahi asked the government to give 10 to 15% subsidy to textile industry on energy and reduce the ratio of taxes so that textile industry could further progress.

Talking about the proposed Textile Policy, he said it is aimed at setting up of garments town, weaving city, state-of-the-art laboratories and establishment of training institutions to produce a skilled workforce.

He said that there is a need for implementation of short-term measures of the government for dealing with the existing crisis of the industry. Till 1965, there was harmony between textile industry and the government but unfortunately, the government in the past nationalized all institutions, which caused a serious set back.

Ch. Javaid Elahi further said that international relations revolve around trade and there is no question of personal liking and disliking. ''There is need for concerted efforts by the government and those associated with textile industry. We should not give the impression of instability of our industry at international level, as we have made all out efforts for the promotion of textile sector during the last 60 years. We should work as a team with the government so that industrial sector should flourish and accept the fact that compared to financial sector, manufacturing sector was ignored in the past'', he said.

Ch. Javaid Elahi said that there is need for effective measures for the promotion of textile industry and there should be a balance between textile industry and the development and supply of a skilled workforce. He suggested that a unanimous strategy should be evolved for the solution of the problems of textile sector.

A member of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Irfan Qaiser said that prudent macroeconomic policies have contained the inflationary pressures with core inflation maintaining a downward trend and the exceptionally strong financial flows particularly unprecedented foreign investments leading to balance of payment surpluses that provides us a window of opportunity to address the trade imbalance and continuing our march toward a prosperous Pakistan. He was of the view that government policies of privatization, liberalization and deregulation have contributed to a marked improvement in productivity and investor confidence, leading to high domestic and foreign investments in the country. Due to excellent policies of the government Pakistan is recognized as an investment friendly high growth economy.

For improving the competitiveness and productivity of our enterprises, he asked the government to develop Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks apart from further reducing the cost of doing business are high on our genda, he added.