LAHORE - The business community on Sunday demanded the new government to immediately focus on major economic issues, especially enhancing exports. Businessmen representatives also called for formulating as well as implementing an effective industrial policy with major focus on lowering cost of doing business.

FPCCI former president and UBG chairman Iftikhar Malik said that circular debt, trade deficit, discouraging exports, rupee devaluation, water shortage and miseries of industrial sector have led to stagnant growth in Pakistan. He added that the new government must have to address these issues through good economic reforms in consultation with the real stakeholders. He said that Pakistan has all resources to become an economic giant, but setting directions with zeal, courage and sincerity is the need of the hour.

Iftikhar Malik said that Imran Khan would have to take steps to bring political stability by bringing all political opponent parties on the same platform of his agenda.

He said Pakistan should reduce its dependence on India and Afghanistan for water by constructing dams and water reservoirs.

Iftikhar Ali Malik, who is also senior vice president of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, observed that SAARC region accounts for only three percent of global output and two percent of world exports. He said he believed that more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) can be secured for SAARC if we collaborate, rather than unhealthy and non productive competition. Even trade within the SAARC countries is less than 6 percent, which is a big question mark, he deplored. He said an investment-friendly environment to promote trade in the region if appropriate steps are taken timely to remove trade barriers and streamline custom procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current USD 28 billion to over USD 100 billion.

Noted economist Dr Salman Shah expressed optimism that early revival of Public Sector Enterprises will be one of the top priorities of the government as these white elephants are eating up a major part of budgetary amount. He said that collective loss of Public Sector Enterprises has reached Rs1.2 trillion. A developing country, which is carrying heavy load of over $90 billion of external debts and various other economic challenges, cannot afford to spend such a huge amount on these institutions.

LCCI former vice president and chairman of Standing Committee on Economic Reforms Kashif Anwar said that business community has offered support to the development agenda of the new government. He said that expats should be encouraged to send money through banking channels by offering relaxations, state-run corporations should be sold, FBR and other institutions should be monitored, and diplomats should be given export targets.

Kashif Anwar said that measures to cut down expenses, bringing tax reforms instead of taking loans, eradicating poverty, motivating overseas Pakistanis and rooting out corruption should also be the priorities of Imran. He said the government should cut indirect taxes, strengthen institutions and reduce trade deficit with China and bring back the stolen funds as soon as possible.

LCCI President Malik Tahir called for economic plans in consultation with the stakeholders to help financial managers evolve an aggressive policy to cope with the challenges. He said that there are economic weaknesses, which give room to external powers to interfere in the internal matters.

The LCCI president said that experts and economists should be consulted for new strategy and methodologies to give momentum to the falling Public Sector Enterprises.

FPCCI former president Mian Idrees said that by putting the economy back on track, Prime Minister Imran Khan would get rid of many in-house problems and could focus on other major national issues. He said that the new premier had promised wide-ranging reforms, safeguarding Pakistan’s resources and redistributing them from the rich to the disadvantaged, which was laudable.

APTMA Chairman Amir Fayyaz said that economic indicators, which are not looking good at the moment are directly linked to the progress and prosperity of the country and also to the foreign investors’ sentiments, therefore, immediate brainstorming for economic planning is direly needed. Noted economist Dr Ishfaq Hassan said that leading economic indicators including manufacturing activities, housing sector, stock market, ease of doing business, Gross Domestic Product, availability of energy, debts, balance of trade and foreign exchange reserves portray real picture of economy. If these indicators are healthy, these would attract huge foreign direct investment, build the confidence of local investors, result in increase in remittances and turn the country the country into hub of manufacturing and economic activities.