LAHORE – The speakers at a seminar have supported the process of liberalisation of trade with India, terming it an out-of-the-box injection into the stagnant Pakistan economy. While they agreed that there existed several non-tariff trade barriers in India, there are also possibilities, which can greatly help Pakistan reduce its import bill and improve its overall balance of payment, they added.

The second day of the Eighth Annual Conference on Management of the Pakistan Economy hosted by the Lahore School of Economics was devoted to discussions on the means and channels of accelerating economic growth in Pakistan. The first session of the day highlighted Pakistan’s strategic importance and its trade relations with its neighbours, particularly India, China, UAE, and Afghanistan. Dr Ijaz Nabi, Country Director, International Growth Centre, Pakistan opened the session proposing regional trade as a vent for economic growth. He provided a historical overview of Pakistan’s trade relations with its neighbours, stating that there still exist substantial economic surpluses in Central Asian Republics, India, China and Iran that Pakistan can profitably exploit.

Dr Hafeez Pasha, Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, BNU also supported the liberalisation of trade with India. Dr. Naved Hamid, Director, Centre for Research in Economics and Business, Lahore School of Economics, summarised the various opportunities and pitfalls for Pakistan in trading with neighbours.

Dr Kamal Munir commented on one of the most pertinent issue of energy politics, providing an assessment of the privatisation of the energy sector in Pakistan. He said that it is time to revisit the private power policy paradigm again in Pakistan’s context.  Providing another perspective to the issue, Asad Umar, former CEO Engro Corp., stated that the immediate threats to Pakistan included difficult access to capital, energy crisis and institutional decay. On the positive front, he remarked that the long term triggers for economic growth in Pakistan are a strong consumer base, wealth of natural resources, and a geo-strategic location.

Dr. Syed M Turab Hussain, Assistant Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, concluded the session by identifying and analysing major constraints faced by the industry in Punjab. The final session of the conference attempted to discuss the issue of making Provincial Devolution work in Pakistan. Dr. Ishrat Hussain, Dean and Director, Institute of Business Administration, opened the session by providing an outline of the 18th amendment to the Constitution, the NFC award of 2010 and the Implementation Commission headed by Senator Raza Rabbani which has helped clarify the structure, roles, responsibilities between the Federal and the Provincial governments. He suggested the creation of a District Civil Service structure in addition to the existing All Pakistan, Federal and Provincial Services to help improve the effectiveness of the delivery of services at the local level.

Dr. Aisha Pasha, Director, Institute of Public Policy, BNU, commenting on the initial impact of devolution stated that the 7th NFC Award has empowered the provinces by increasing financial resources, but the danger is that it can increase the consolidated fiscal deficit.