KARACHI - President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) Younus Muhammad Bashir has said that the challenging export target of $35 billion, set under Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF 2015-18), is highly unlikely to be achieved by 2018, particularly considering that during FY16, the exports target of $24 billion could not be achieved due to lack of a specific plan.

Speaking as a chief guest at an awareness seminar on “Post Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF-2015-18)”, organised jointly by Karachi Chamber in association with USAID funded Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity, Bashir said, “The on ground result has remained quite disappointing in the absence of a workable plan of action. Therefore, precise realistic targets with timelines should be set and the progress should be monitored on periodic basis rather than by issuing general policy statements.”

The KCCI president was of the opinion that in order to achieve export targets, extraordinary will, extreme hard work and dedicated efforts were needed whereas events like today’s seminar and constant interaction with the business community were also must, which, he hoped, would surely pave way for achieving such targets.

He further pointed out that the cost of doing business was roughly 9 percent higher in Pakistan as compared to other regional countries.

“Pakistan comes at 138th among the 189 countries. However, no practical measures have been proposed in the policy to reduce the high cost of doing business,” he regretted.

Bashir said that another serious issue that required attention were the refund claims of exporters, worth billions of rupees, which are still stuck up at the FBR, resulting in severe liquidity crunch for the export-oriented industries.

“In order to deal with the situation, I suggest there should be an automated mechanism where these refunds do not get stuck and traders do not face difficulty,” he suggested. He further noted that despite securing GSP Plus status, Pakistani exporters had failed to witness a decent upsurge in their exports.

“We have to identify why we have not been able to fully benefit from this facility, and accordingly take corrective measures in order to improve presence of Pakistani goods in the European markets,” he said, and added, “The primary objective of the new trade policy should be to promote and facilitate exports by addressing both the supply side problems and demand-related issues, and it should be laden with measures meant to improve industrial efficiency.”

He said that inconsistency in policies, negative perceptions, high cost of doing business and security concerns had a major impact on fresh investments, manufacturing and exports.

“In order to tackle these issues, a proper road map needs to be put in place which may include long-term policies, increased ease of doing business, efforts for image building, traders’ facilitation and transparency,” he proposed.

Additional Secretary Ministry of Commerce Donal Cotter, Chief of Party, Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity, Raheela Tajwar, Director General (Trade Policy), Ministry of Commerce, Arsalan Ahmad, Director Trade Policy, Ministry of Commerce, Tayyaba Batool, Senior Trade Policy & Research Specialist, Ministry of Commerce, representatives of State Bank, KCCI Managing Committee members and other stakeholders were present on the occasion.