LAHORE - The businessmen have expressed concerns over the alarming rise in the trade deficit of the country, which has widened by 14 percent to $30.245 billion during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year of 2017-18.

They said that only recovery in exports would ease pressure on external sector, as trade deficit amounted to $26.44 billion in the July-April period.

APBF President Ibrahim Qureshi said that widening gap in exports and imports is affecting the current account balance. Current account deficit has risen to $12.03 billion in the first nine months of FY2018, up staggering 51 percent year-over-year. Current account deficit swelled to an eight-year high of five percent of the GDP in the July-March period. He said that the policy intervention of government and State Bank of Pakistan in terms of rupee devaluation and tariff and non-tariff barriers have started yielding some positive results as exports are picking up and imports are slowing down.

He said that Pakistan faces this unprecedented trade deficit despite the prevalence of low international prices of our biggest import oil. A number of reasons can be attributed to the increasing trade deficit , which includes structural factors and erroneous policies. Unlike the Middle East or East Asia, Pakistan has followed a traditional policy of import substitution rather than export promotion. Therefore, little emphasis has been given on broadening exports that have remained over-reliant on textiles. Exports of cloth, cotton yarn and value-added textiles make up to almost 60percent of our total exports.

REAP chairman Samee Ullah Naeem said that the economic charts of Pakistan stand on an unsatisfactory level at the moment. I urge the government and policymakers to encourage private sectors to play their roles in putting the economy back on the right track, he added.

Samee said that the government should contain the deficit within manageable limits. With China-Pakistan Economic Corridor machinery coming in, the increased exports are good omen for the external sector.