LAHORE -  The business associations, chambers, industrial bodies and experts have unanimously opposed the government plan of disbanding the Engineering Development Board (EDB) and termed it an unjustified decision, as the development and growth of whole auto parts vending industry’s credit goes to this institution.

The representatives of Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA), Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts & Accessories Manufacturers (PAAPAM), Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) criticised the government move of abolishing the EDB on charges of corruption.

PAAPAM former chairman Muhammad Salim said that Engineering Development Board was established under the banner of Planning Commission of Pakistan. Its performance under the control of Planning Commission having nationwide vision, remained exemplary for the rest of the government departments and it brought an industrial revolution in the country.

Later on, EDB was placed under the control of Ministry of Industry. There and then, appointment of incompetent, biased and politically motivated personnel started eroding the entity, he said. He alleged that no CEO was appointed on merit in the EDB after Dr Akram Sheikh during Musharraf era. Salim alleged that Jahangir Tarin has actually destroyed the EDB. With the passage of time, its performance declined and for the last decade, it has become almost stagnant. The winding up of Engineering Development Board on certain allegations will cause hardships for engineering industry in getting Input Output Ratio Certificates (IORCs) required for import of raw materials in addition to depriving the industry of representation on other government forums including ECC, he added.

He suggested that in accordance with the initial setup Engineering Development Board may be placed under the control of Planning Commission which is unbiased, futuristic and all-encompassing vision of national interest while its head Ahsan Iqbal is himself a competent professional and an engineer, who worked for years in engineering institutions, can be given the task of rebuilding the EDB.

Veteran business leader and FPCCI/LCCI former president Iftikhar Malik appreciated the role of EDB, saying its strict monitoring mechanism developed the auto parts industry in Pakistan. Presently, the tractor industry has achieved more than 90 percent localisation while the car industry’s localisation level has touched over 70 percent and the whole credit of it goes to EDB.

However, Malik, who is also the chairman of Guard Group (auto engineering sector) stressed the need for transparency, merit and better performance in the EDB to fulfil its mission of strengthening the engineering sector in Pakistan and integrate it with the world market to make it the driving force for economic growth. He questioned as to who will allow the establishment of new car plants in the country if EDB is dismantled. Who will play the monitoring role of whole engineering sector if the EDB is dissolved, he asked. Disbanding of the EDB will create so many problems and complexities. He said that solution not lies in closing the EDB rather it should get free from political influence, as no country can be developed without reinforcing the engineering sector.

“It would be a stupid idea that all government departments, particularly the Federal Board of Revenue and a large number of political parties should be disbanded on the allegation of corruption, observed a PAMA member, who did not want his name to be mentioned. He said that performance of not a single federal or provincial department can be considered satisfied but it doesn’t mean that they should be dissolved rather their performance should be improved. Same is the case with the EDB, the performance of which should be improved through merit based appointments, he added.

LCCI President Abdul Basit opposed the decision to close EDB which was taken at a high-level meeting in the absence of any stakeholders from the engineering industry. He said that to dismantle an institution, which has been instrumental in promoting the engineering sector on charges that are not verified through a systematic audit, would be unfair.

PAAPAM former chairman Syed Nabil Hashmi said that the EDB’s role in localisation is vital but it was cosmetic not high-tech localisation. He said that the closure of EDB will derail the growth of the engineering industry, especially the auto sector. This will also reduce the ability of the government to regulate the industry due to lack of expertise, leading to shortage of investments especially the vending sector.

PAAPAM Chairman Mashood Khan said that the government should appoint a competent professional to head the Engineering Development Board, instead of shutting it down. He blamed the previous CEO of EDB for its poor performance, adding that inefficiency coupled with a dictatorial attitude led to its downfall. He said that EDB still has the potential to make new advances as long as the government is able to appoint an effective leader. He said that an important area where EDB has contributed the most is the Automobile sector. It supports the vendor industry by handling various SRO’s, by assuring local content enhancement and curtailment of rollback, based on the government’s policy guidelines.

Closure of EDB will derail the engineering industry, specially the Auto sector will lead to inefficiency in the government and lack of expertise would further complicate the situation, leading to stoppage of investments in Auto sector. An official of the EDB stated that the EDB focuses primarily on the development of engineering goods and services sector on modern lines enabling it to become technologically sound and globally integrated.

He, while seeking anonymity, told The Nation that the EDB has made an operation plan by creating four operational groups ie Tariff group, Policy Development Group, Sector Development Group and Business Development Group with the objective to develop growth strategies for engineering sub-sectors and Integrate Pakistan’s engineering sector with global markets as well as focus on tariff rationalisation, indigenisation, deletion monitoring and vendor development, giving international exposure to industry, handholding of industry, creating comprehensive databank of industry and benchmarking & training.