A top aide of the Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday claimed that the country’s exports have witnessed a 2% increase in the last 6 months – in an apparent bid to substantiate the PTI government’s claim that it has put the economy on the right track.

“The country’s exports have witnessed 2 per cent increase during July 2019 to January 2020,” Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood told the Senate on Friday. He was responding to various supplementary questions during the question hour.

“The textile sector exports witnessed 25 per cent increase, poultry 50 per cent and fishery 28 per cent during the last period,” he said, but added that “exports registered upward trend quantity wise but not value-wise due to prevailing recession at international level.”

Razak said special focus is also being given to boost export of IT, chemical and engineering products.  Gas and electricity tariffs are also fixed for export-oriented sectors, he added.

To another question, he said the Ministry of Commerce is in the process of finalising the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2020-25, with an aim to address capacity constraints of competitiveness and factor productivity related issues that are hampering growth of small-scale entrepreneurs.

“The federal cabinet has approved the National Tariff Policy (2019-24), on November 19, 2019.

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“The policy aims at making the tariff structure truly reflect trade policy priorities, improving competitiveness through duty-free access to imported inputs, rationalizing the tariff structure for enhancing efficiencies and reducing the relative ‘disincentive’ for the exporting activities,” he said.

To a separate question, Dawood said as many as 43 commercial counselors were selected and 35 had already joined their duties. Proper training was given to them before posting them abroad, he said.

Losses of PIA

Minister In charge for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan also informed the Senate that losses of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) – the national flag carrier – have decreased to Rs11 billion from Rs32 billion during 2019 owing to good governance and better management.

Responding to various supplementary questions during the question hour, he said the government took various pragmatic steps to overcome the deficit and put it on right track.

He said more flights are being operated on commercially viable routes to enhance revenue.

“The PIA was in dire financial straits but the present government is very keen to make it self-reliant. Efforts are under way to improve the financial health of the corporation by reducing its losses/ deficit through various means and modes,” he added.

He said the major reason behind the PIA losses was the increased financial cost due inherited legacy loans of previous governments and rising markups and debt servicing.  Significant increase in fuel prices and devaluation of currency had also contributed to losses.

“Decrease in losses is ensured by enhancing revenues and curtailing costs.”

He said revenue side is addressed by realigning sales team, manning stations on merit, aggressive sales promotion, improvement in product and services, focusing on revenue generation through ancillary sources, mounting new flights and expanding on existing productive routes.

BISP

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati informed the Senate that additional Rs55 billion are allocated for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to help the poor segment of society.

Replying to a question, he said job creation would help reduce poverty in the country. The BISP is a federal unconditional cash transfer poverty reduction programme. Launched in July 2008, it is the largest single social safety net programme in the country.

FPSC bill

A bill, the Federal Public Service Commission (Validation of Rules) Bill, 2020, was also introduced in the upper house by Swati, which was referred to the relevant committee for deliberation.

Senate Functional Committee on Devolution Chairman Moula Bux Chandio presented special report of the committee on non-compliance of the devolution plan of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) and related public petition.

A report of the Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication regarding number of persons working in the ministry and its attached departments was deferred on the request of its chairperson Senator Rubina Khalid.

The debate on annual report of the board of directors of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on the state of the economy, which includes the review of fourth quarter on the state of the economy for the year 2018-19 was deferred till next sitting.