Public-private dialogue to be backbone of forthcoming trade policy framework

LAHORE (Staff Reporter): Director General (DG) of Trade Policy at the Ministry of Commerce, Noman Aslam has said that the Ministry of Commerce’s (MoC’s) forthcoming Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2018-2023 will be formulated while incorporating the insight obtained from constructive and broad-based engagement between the public and private sectors, with a view towards addressing Pakistan’s gradual decline in export competitiveness over the past 20 years. He stated this while addressing a roundtable ‘Achieving Export Competitiveness in Pakistan’ held under the auspicious of SDPI, here on Tuesday. Charting the development of Pakistan’s trade policy over the last decade, Noman Aslam highlighted Pakistan’s movement towards a more forward-looking and longer-term approach since 2009, when the MoC drafted its first 3-year STPF. In this regard, he mentioned the Ministry’s forthcoming trade policy framework, which will be valid for 5 years, between 2018 and 2023.
Speaking on Pakistan’s decline in exports over the last 2 decades, senior economist at the World Bank Group (WBG), Gonzalo J. Varela presented the detail of country’s challenges in penetrating more diverse export markets and leveraging global value chains as a vehicle of sustained economic growth.
He explained how Pakistan’s overall share of the global export market had declined in comparison to peer economies such as India and Bangladesh, even though the country’s exports had increased in absolute terms. To reverse this decline, he recommended more market and product diversification and measures to improve the quality and sophistication of Pakistan’s export basket.
Providing further insight on the decline of trade and investment in Pakistan, Senior Economist at the WBG, Nadia Rocha recommended introducing modern trade facilitation measures and a flexible exchange rate mechanism in the country. She recommended measures to reduce the cost-of-doing business, with a few towards creating a more favorable climate for foreign direct investment. In this regard, she also highlighted the need for greater trade liberalization efforts, which can boost productivity and export competitiveness in Pakistan.
Earlier, Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director at SDPI, highlighted key issues identified by the business community in the context of nation-wide consultations held by the organization. He explained how, despite recent investments in the energy sector, the cost of energy was still higher than in regional economies, reducing the competitiveness of local industries.
He highlighted how local business competitiveness was being eroded by the imposition of multiple taxes by numerous revenue authorities at the federal and provincial levels. He explained how these same businesses faced audits by multiple tax bodies, leading to double taxation and higher compliance costs.
To address the decline in Pakistan’s export competitiveness, Dr Vaqar Ahmed recommended reducing the overall regulatory burden on businesses, especially in terms of registration and compliance with tax, environment, labor and building regulations. In this regard, he also called for greater public-private cooperation to encourage the adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies and improve sophistication and quality of Pakistan’s export basket.

FPCCI demands reduced energy prices for industrial sector

KARACHI (INP): The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on Tuesday urged the government to reduce electricity and gas prices for the industrial sector to boost employment, production, and exports. In a statement issued here on Tuesday, President FPCCI Zubair Tufail said that the high cost of production is hitting production and exports, therefore, the government should immediately cut prices of electricity and gas to stabilize the economy. He said that a prompt decision regarding rationalizing of energy prices will help enhance the international competitiveness of local products. The govt should spare some resources and take an immediate decision to arrest the decline in the exports which has created many problems for the country, he added. The main reason for competitive disadvantage and the dismal performance of the export sector is the much higher energy prices for Pakistani exporters as compared to that of the neighbouring and regional countries, he informed.
Zubair Tufail said that last year Pakistan’s imports were more than USD52 billion against exports of USD21 billion and the import trend during July-Oct 2017 is almost five billion dollars per month, which means that imports till June 2018 can cross USD60 billion mark.
Investments in industries are poor, except for the CPEC related projects which have put breaks on the creation of new jobs, he observed.
He said that the business community is eagerly looking to government for the early announcement on energy price reduction.

First rain of season to have positive impact on Rabi crops

ISLAMABAD (APP): The first spell of rains will have positive impact on all Rabi crops, fruit orchards, vegetable farms, pulses etc and would help to boost their sowing besides helping in enhancing their production during the season. The rains would be most beneficial for wheat, which is major cash crop of the season, said Food Security Commissioner in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research Dr Imtiaz Ahmad Gopang. Talking to APP here on Tuesday, he said that the current rain spell would put positive impact on the seasonal pulses cultivated over thousand of hectares of land across the country and fruit orchards. The prevailing smog was putting negative impact on the growth and nourishment of all citrus fruits including kinow (orange), which was standing over thousand of hectares across the country, he added. Due to smog and dust existing in the local environment, the process of photosynthesis was badly affected and stopped the growth of citrus, he remarked.
The rains would be a blessing for all crops and act like an cleansing agent for environment, agriculture and human health. Besides, rains would help in removing the smog and settling down the dust, he added.
The wheat sowing in rain fed areas of the country would also get momentum with the first rainfall of the season and farmers would be able to bring more areas under wheat and other seasonal crops cultivation, he observed.
Food Security Commissioner further informed that the rains would also help the oil seed farmers for preparing their land for the cultivation of oil seed including mustard, sun flower and others. He said that the Government of Punjab had announced Rs 5,000 per 10 acres subsidy for oil seed growers to encourage the farmers to cultivate the oil seed to overcome the growing edible oil imports into the country.

Services trade deficit narrows 26.15pc in September

ISLAMABAD (APP): The country's services trade deficit in September 2017 narrowed by 26.15 per cent compared to September 2016 as the exports increased by 9.45 per cent and imports decreased by 7.33 per cent. The services trade deficit declined to $275.37 million in September 2017 from $372.89 million in same month of previous year, according to latest data released by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). The data shows that services export during the period under review was recorded at $457.78 million compared to export of $418.24 million during September 2016. Similarly, the services imports went down from $791.13 million in September, 2016 to $733.15 million in same month of current fiscal year. Similarly, on month-on-month basis, the services deficit also narrowed by 39.48 per cent as the exports went up by 12.64 per cent and on the other hand, the imports plunged by 14.89 per cent in September 2017 compared to August 2017.
The services trade deficit during first quarter of current fiscal year, however widened by 5.87 per cent as it rose to $1.225 billion in July-September (2017-18) from $1.157 billion in same period of previous year.
The services export during first quarter of current fiscal year increased to $1.271 billion compared to that of $1.2 billion in July-September (2016-17) thus showing an increase of 5.55 per cent, while imports during the corresponding period also increased by 5.71 per cent to $2.496 billion in July-September (2017-18) from $2.36 billion in same period of last year.