LAHORE - Provision of all possible facilities to traders and business community is the philosophy of PML-N government, which is making all-out efforts to ensure free and expanded economic activities in the country.

Minister of State for Commerce and Privatisation, Engr Khurram Dastagir Khan stated this at a dinner hosted by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) at a local hotel on Sunday. The REAP Chairman Chaudhry Masood Iqbal and the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik brought the REAP problems into the notice of the Minister. While, former LCCI president Shahzad Ali Malik, other REAP office-bearers from different parts of Pakistan and a large number of the rice sector community was also present.

The State Minister said that the PML-N government and its leadership was very much serious in re-establish the country’s fragile economy on strong footing that was why it had to take tough decisions on many fronts including Karachi operation for peace, rise in electricity tariff.

He, however, hoped the people would be taking advantages of a developed economy due to results of these decisions within next two years. The N-League government’s sincerity could be well judged from the fact that the Prime Minister had reduced the PM House expenditures up to 70 per cent with a sole of ensuring an early prosperity of the nation, he added.

Khurram Dastagir said that PML-N government was striving to maintain a partnership relation between the public and private sector by incorporating the traders and industrialists’ plausible suggestions in the economic policy making process. “We have to fight out the menace of extremism with the hope and struggle of economic development,” he observed.

He said, the Commerce Ministry meant for taking such measures that lead to expansion of trade and economy and “We want the economic activities to be done in free and responsible manner, and increase the export volumes by competing in the international markets.” However, the trade community had a major responsibility of focusing on product quality and coming up to international accreditations to maintain Pakistan’s trade credibility in the comity of nations, he stressed.

The Minister of State for Commerce and Privatization also assured the REAP members that Commerce Ministry would take early steps to resolve their problems such as establishment of technical institutes for rice; currency swap agreement with Iran; check the working and utilization of funds of QRC Rice Inspection Cell as well as the usage of Export Development Fund (EDF).

Earlier, Iftikhar Ali Malik said that unfortunately, the overall rice exports witnessed 25 per cent decline last year mainly due to poor performance of the relevant trade departments and research institutes. He urged the government to help improve the rice quality and branding and seek technical support from India in this regard.

While, the REAP Chairman Chaudhry Masood Iqbal said that rice was the third major crop in Pakistan and “Our rice brand of ‘Basmatti’ was assumed as an ambassador of Pakistan.” He also expressed concern over the role of TDAP (Trade Development Authority of Pakistan) in the functioning of the QRC Rice Inspection Cell as well as utilization of the EDF. He also sought government help in establishing the technical and training institutes for rice sector promotion.

He claimed that REAP had the ability to raise the rice export from the current $2.4 billion to $4 billion per annum, provided the rice exporters’ problems were settled down.