ISLAMABAD - A poor business environment, an overvalued exchange rate, relatively weak trade facilitation and infrastructure and lack of value chains inclusion in trade policy led Pakistan’s exports decline by 20 percent over the period fiscal year 2011 to 2017, said World Bank’s lead country economist Enrique Blanco Armas.

“Pakistan’s exports performance in past ten years has not been stellar,” said Enrique Blanco. Exports in goods and services rose by a low of 27.3% in Pakistan, whereas exports on average during the same time period grew by 165% in India, 276% in Bangladesh and 445% in Vietnam, over the period of 2005-16,” World Bank’s lead country economist said while speaking at roundtable meeting titled “Public-Private Policy Symposium of achieving export competitiveness in Pakistan”, organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with the World Bank Group here on Tuesday.

He further said that Pakistan can strengthen implementation mechanisms of its rules and regulations through the introduction of Prime Ministerial and Presidential delivery units, which are tasked with monitoring micro-level targets.

Enrique Blanco Armas said that trade through the generation of employment can propel the country towards a sustainable path of economic growth and development. Armas noted the role of the World Bank in collaboration with SDPI, in holding private sector engagements. These engagements proved to be instrumental in the formulation of the key policy recommendations to streamline the export competitiveness in Pakistan.

Stressing the need for remedial measures to salvage exporters’ woes, Joint Executive Director of SDPI, Dr Vaqar Ahmad later said an operational and implementation strategy for the forthcoming trade policy needed to be devised. “The trade policy framework needed urgent recalibration in order to mitigate heterogeneous issues faced by exporters due to differences across provinces,” he said, adding that the reduction of logistics costs through streamlining transportation and warehousing facilities as well as a decrease in supply side bottlenecks of high energy, tax compliance and regulatory costs required urgent attention.  

“Inter-departmental coordination should be achieved through reviving high-level cabinet committee on exports and production,” said Dr Vaqar, adding that the committee should be representative of all the four provinces so that provincial tax issues could be adequately addressed. The Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2018-23 should give the utmost priority to boosting export competitiveness through reduction in production and logistics cost, he added. Further, expanding outreach by trade facilitation measures on the marketing side, he emphasized the need to promote ‘Made in Pakistan’ campaign particularly in those nations which are the non-traditional sources of export destinations.

While raising concerns on issues such as lengthy customs and immigration procedures, representatives of private sector said there was a sheer lack of coordination and cooperation, not only among the provinces but also among the traders, public institutes and think tanks within country. “Lack of innovation, high prices of energy, the dismal transportation infrastructure and inadequate research funds are among major challenges putting spanner on export growth,” they said, adding that effective reforms need to be initiated and materialize at the earliest.