Chairman of the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) Bashir Ali Mohammad said that Pakistan is in a unique position to catch up and then overtake other economies in South Asia, adding that for this to happen it was important to bring about major structural changes in the economy.

In his inaugural speech at the 3rd Edition of the Pakistan Economic Forum (PEF) held here at the Habib University Campus, he appreciated that no one political party or stakeholder could alone push through the critical reforms needed. For achieving this consensus it was therefore imperative that a common National Economic Agenda (NEA) be developed and agreed to by all major political parties.

The PEF Event which was sponsored by the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) brought together sector experts in the areas of “Energy”, “Logistics & Connectivity”, “Water” and “Macroeconomic Stability & Growth”. The sector experts formed in panels presented their recommendations on how to resolve, in the near and long-term, the issues which are viewed as critical for Pakistan.

The Energy Panel Chaired by Farooq Rehmatullah former Chairman OGDCL and Shell Pakistan and Co-Chaired by Khalid Mansoor, CEO of Hubco recommended that in order to have a focused strategy for resolving the energy crisis in country, it was important to have a single Energy Ministry. Further the panel called for the development of indigenous energy resources coupled with a national programme aimed at improving energy efficiencies. For the gas sector the panel recommended that allocation of gas be prioritised with the power & industrial sectors getting first priority. Finally the panel recommended that the Discos be privatised and the multiple – seller model be adopted.

The Logistics and Connectivity Panel, Chaired by Syed Salim Raza (former Governor State Bank of Pakistan), and Co-Chaired by Babar Badat a leading logistics practitioner recommended that the railway was the key to improving Pakistan’s competitiveness. The panel recommended that emphasis be on freight as opposed to passenger traffic to maximise the utilisation of existing assets of the railways. The panel also called on the government to encourage the private sector under the “open access policy” to invest in rolling stock to run on the existing infrastructure of the Pakistan Railways. Finally the panel recommended that the Railways be converted into a corporation and not be responsible for non-core operations.

The panel on Water, Chaired by Suleman Khan, called for a fresh commitment to Pakistan’s water resources and a proactive approach to the Indus Basin Water Treaty. The panel emphasised that a national consensus was imperative towards the need for and the construction of more mega water reservoirs in the country. Finally the panel recommended for revival of WAPDA as the vision envisaged for WAPDA in its founding document in 1958 is still relevant. The Macroeconomic panel, Chaired by Dr. Ishrat Husain (former Governor State Bank of Pakistan and currently Dean & Director IBA) and Co-Chaired by Atif Aslam Bajwa (President & CEO Bank Alfalah), recommended major reforms in tax policy and tax administration.

The panel recommended that the next NFC award provide some sort of incentive for provinces to increase their tax collection.

The panel recommended the creation of an Infrastructure Finance Bank to fund the CPEC projects and a revival of the Iran Pakistan Pipeline.