FAISALABAD - Federal Government has allocated Rs 2 billion for R&D activities in the agriculture in order to increase sustainable growth rate of this significant sector. This was stated by Federal Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin while addressing the gathering of inaugural ceremony of Business Incubation Centre as chief guest in new Senate Hall of the University here on Wednesday morning. While expressing his concerns over declining growth rate in agriculture, he said that from 1960 it used to decline up to one percent in every decade which needs to be stabilised by investing on R&D and entrepreneurship activities. Sha-ukat Tarin told the house that government is going to establish four outstanding research centres of major crops; two in Punjab and two in other provinces aiming to net the growing poverty in the country. He told that government is spending Rs 110 billion on water projects particularly on small and big dams in the country. He asked the UAF water experts to design a national incentive programme to adopt water conservation technologies being designed at UAF. He was of the view that Business Incubation Centre is a right platform to transform the ideas of academia into action through collaborative efforts of industrial and business communities. He said that today a major problem of a small farmer is shortage of storage capacities of his produces to which a middleman used to exploit and gain a big share of his profit so government is determent to spend Rs37 billion during the next five years to expand the storage capacity in the country. He told the gathering that government is investing on establishment of service centres and model farms at village level in order to boost the local business activities at grass root level. The chief guest underlined the need to export fresh fruits and graded vegetables to Middle and Fareast states as there is an immense potential of profit through such exports. US special ambassador to Pakistan Robin Raphael told that Pakistani scientists are second to none and have their meritorious services for humanities. She urged the need to transform the innovative ideas into action with a proper business and marketing plan through Business Incubation Center. She told that inception of UAF as University, Washington State University of US played a vital role and there are many avenues to progress to be discovered as Washington State University is popular one in agriculture and could help UAF in many ways. Executive Director HEC, Prof Dr Sohail H. Naqvi said that consequent upon a huge investment on higher education, Pakistan become top ranking country of published research work. Dr Naqvi added that other counties are followers of Pakistani higher education programmes. While lauding the quality of manpower trained by UAF, he said that Pakistan has produced a substantial number of PhD scholars in the field of agriculture and their novel ideas could be transformed into profitable businesses through business incubation facility of this prestigious alma mater. Federal Textile Minister Rana Farooq Saeed Khan, Chief USAID Robert Wilson, Manager Media and Communication CSF Stephen Manuel, US counselor US Embassy, Islamabad Joseph M. Carroll, Syeda Abida Hussain, VC Arid Agricultural University Prof Dr Khalid Mehmood Khan, VC UVAS Prof Dr Muhammad Nawaz, HEC Advisor Prof Dr Raiz Hussain Qureshi and other were also present on the occasion. Prof Dr. Zafar Iqbal Randhawa Executive Director Endowment Fund Secretariat UAF conducted the programme. Meanwhile, Shaukat Tarin, while addressing the audience in a meeting with business community at FCCI, said that the government is preparing Corporate Restructuring Act for revival of the sick industrial units and a Resolution Trust Corporation based on public-private partnership to settle down the financial disputes through sell and buy assets including sharing and transferring of the bonds of the effected units. He said that debt market will be created through equity funds to be registered by stock exchanges for meeting their financial requirements as well as loan at lower mark-up directly from private sector to private sector. He hoped that this step will provide an edge to industrial units especially big corporate sector for obtaining their requirements through their own balance sheets. He further said that we are taking up the matter of free access to the EU and US markets at every forum and has emphasised for trade but not aid. However, he suggested that our business community should explore non-traditional market like Central Asian Republics, USSR and Africa etc. Regarding promoting SMEs he said Credit Guarantee Fund and Venture Capital Fund have already been introduced by SBP and the Govt. has already earmarked Rs 10 billion for this purpose. He said that preferential treatment regarding the supply of gas and electricity will be ensured for industrial sector. He discouraged the cross subsidy to other specific sectors like fertilizer on the cost of other manufacturing sector. Regarding VAT, he assured that in this regard the whole business community will be taken into confidence for implementation purpose and nothing will be practiced without their consultation. He hoped that in near future the Govt will win the target of bringing inflation rate at single digit. He further referred that inflation rate and currency exchange rates are directly interconnected. While responding to the extraordinary audits he said that five percent companies will be selected at random and third party audit will be performed. While expressing his views, Federal Minister for Textile Ministry Rana Farooq Saeed Khan appreciated the Federal Minster for Finance for delivering thought provoking address and briefing the audience about the latest reforms being carried out by the federal government for the betterment of business community. Earlier, Sh Abdul Qayyum, President FCCI, requested the Federal Textile Minister to provide the electricity and gas to the industrial units on priority basis. He urged that the free market access to be granted to the exporters of the country to EU and US markets and the alternative means of electricity generation to be adopted. He strictly discouraged the proposed value added tax system likely to be implemented by the FBR and said that the business community should be taken into confidence before implementation of VAT. The extraordinary audits carried out by the taxation officials to be stopped with immediate effect as it is causing undue harassment within the corporate sector. The undue procedural constraints created by the taxation officials to be discouraged, he added. While highlighting the image building of the Faisalabad city he said that there is a dire need to upgrade the Faisalabad Airport on International Standards and the direct Hajj and Umra Flights to be started forthwith. He hoped that the issues shall be taken up with the concerned officials and the Prime Minister of Pakistan by the Federal Ministers.