Aug 29 - Sep 11, 2011

Undoubtedly, the country's exporters are playing their vital role by ensuring growth momentum of exports, which are major source of earning precious foreign exchange for the country.

Despite facing gas and power load shedding, high cost of doing business, high interest rate and security concerns, the exporters are playing their role for earning precious forex for the country.

As per statistics made available to PAGE, the country's exports surged 27.64 percent during the first month of the current fiscal year (2011-12) as against the exports figures of the same month of last year.

Exports from the country rose to $2.203 billion during July 2011 as compared to $1.726 billion recorded during July 2010. On the other hand, imports into the country increased to $3.689 billion in July 2011 from $3.239 billion during July 2010, showing a growth of 13.89 percent, the data revealed.

However, trade deficit during the first month of the current fiscal year decreased 1.78 percent. Trade deficit during July 2011 stood at $1.486 billion against the deficit of $1.513 billion during July 2010.

As per statistics, as compared to the exports of $2.427 billion during June 2011, the exports in July 2011 decreased by 9.23 percent. Similarly, imports during July 2011 also declined by 4.50 percent as compared to the imports of $3.863 billion during June 2011, the figures revealed.

It is pertinent to mention here that despite several domestic as well international challenges, Pakistan achieved the historic target of exports of over $24 billion during the last fiscal year.

Pakistan export surged by 27.6 percent to highest ever figure of $ 2.203 billion during July 2011-12.

According to trade data compiled by trade development authority of Pakistan (TDAP), this is the highest ever exports for the month of July in the history of Pakistan.

Pakistan's exports during July 2010 remained at $ 1.726 billion. Imports during July 2011 valued at $ 3.689 billion registering a growth of 13.9 per cent over the level of imports of $ 3.239 billion in July 2010.

Official sources claimed that the ministry of commerce and TDAP are continuing their support and collectively facilitating the business community to maintain this momentum going forward while ensuring the provision of enabling environment.

According to them, the new initiatives taken by TDAP to focus on regional markets are paying off.

Prominent business leader Iftikhar Ali Malik said hike in gas, power, and petroleum prices lead to higher cost of production.

According to him, increase in gas, power and petroleum products prices would disturb the manufacturers, already hard hit by gas, power load shedding and weak rupee against dollar. All this would hamper the industrial production in the country and lead to cut in export orders, he said.

Mr. Malik said that the industry was already facing energy crisis and the increase in electricity, gas and petroleum prices would squeeze liquidity.

The high power, gas, and petroleum tariffs had created liquidity crunch for importers of industrial raw materials, he added.

He said that keeping in view the business scenario world over, the high mark-up by banks should also be reduced to single digit for providing solace to the industry.

He said that increased gas prices would burden the industrial sector, which was already facing high mark up rate and energy crisis. "All these factors are increasing the cost of doing business," he added.

He further said the need of the hour is to make hefty cut in the discount rates by the State Bank of Pakistan as reduction of 50 basis points would not provide any benefit to the business community.

SBP only reduced its policy rate by 50 basis points whereas business community was expecting hefty cut in discount rate in new monetary policy in line with international trend, he said. The reduction of 0.5 percent in interest rate would not provide any benefit to businesspersons, he added.

To control the damaging effects of current recession on the employment and investment, government should have announced an expansionary policy to boost growth of business and industrial activities and overcome the problems of unemployment and poverty, he said.

According to him, the government had declared year 2010 as the year of industrial revival but no relief was provided to ailing industry.

According to federal minister for commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the government will hopefully achieve the export target of $40 billion next year.

"We had achieved our target of exports worth dollars 25 billion with the help of the business community and would hopefully achieve our target next year as well with improved performance," he said.

The federal minister said that multi-lateral talks were underway for the promotion of trade particularly with China, Central Asian States and other countries.

He said it was for the first time that Pakistan got good response on non-traditional exports particularly mangoes not only in the United States but UK, Australia and other countries as well through commercial offices of the embassies of the country.

The minister said that preferential trade agreements were also on the table with many countries with the help of the business community to promote exports in the coming years.

"It is also our endeavor to get rid of the culture of red-tapism from the Ministry of commerce to facilitate our exporters," he maintained.

It may be noted that the government had launched a strategic trade policy framework for three years (2009-12) to ensure continuity and certainty of policies for the development of trade with particular focus on exports.

The trade policy aims to revive domestic commerce and international trade in Pakistan, which could become a major contributor to the reduction of poverty and promotion of peace in the region.

The government needs to make a paradigm shift to enable country's entrepreneurs to become internationally competitive and export high-value added products in the world markets.

It is in this perspective that it is essential for Pakistan to align itself with other developing economies by establishing bilateral and regional trading agreements in order to maintain its international trade at the present level and attain its due market share by securing a higher percentage of the total global trade.