ISLAMABAD - Former governor of State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain has called upon the government to reduce the cost of doing business by slashing the power tariff for making Pakistan competitive in international market.

Pakistan’s exports drastically came down to $20.45 billion during last fiscal year 2016-17 from the level of $25 billion achieved a few years back. The government’s external sector is under severe pressure due to decline in exports and increase in imports. Pakistan’s current account deficit widened to $2.1 billion in July this year against just $662 million in the same period last year due to increase in trade deficit.

“Export sector play a very important role in keeping the economy stable therefore this sector should be facilitated,” said former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain while speaking at a seminar regarding export competitiveness. He further said that energy prices and some other reasons had resulted in high cost of doing business which causes loss of competitiveness and retreat in the international market.

Other speakers of the seminar said that law and order situation also contributed to the increased cost of doing business while some conflicting policies should be rectified. Our exports are falling since 2013 while some other regional countries have doubled their exports during the same period, they added.

Speaking at the occasion, President Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Zubair Tufail said that regional countries are providing incentives to their export sector. He informed that the price of gas and electricity in regional countries is 50 percent less than Pakistan while their labour is also cheap. He said that energy is cheap as compared to Pakistan in the competing countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia and that Indian textile exports have surged by over 31 percent in one year.

Zubair Tufail demanded that price of gas should be brought down significantly while the power tariff for the exports sector should be immediately slashed by Rs3 per unit so that export sector can be revived.

Prof Dr Sarosh Hashmat Lodi, Vice Chancellor, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Prof Dr. Javed Ashraf, Vice Chancellor, Quid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Prof. Sikandar Mehdi, Senator Javed Jabbar, former federal minister, leaders of the business community and others were also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, the government has started to take measures to enhance tumbling exports as it decided to make “Pakistan Horticulture Development & Export Board” functional to enhance agricultural products exports.

A meeting, chaired by Federal Minister for Commerce and Textile Pervaiz Malik, considered several options to enhance agricultural products exports. The meeting was also attended by Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan and secretary Commerce Mohammad Younus Dagha.

PHDEC will be revived and reinvigorated to increase the export of kinnow, citrus fruits and other fruits. Secretary Commerce is the main force behind the revival of PHDEC as he is of the opinion that PHDEC can play a significant role in the export of fruits and that we need to make other specialized bodies for export of rice, mangoes etc. “We will bring best of the best people into the PHDEC who are very professional,” said Younus Dagha.

The meeting also decided that PHDEC head office will be shifted to Islamabad. Board has established work plan on what to do in next 5-8 months. Board finalized 3 names for CEO and sent to ministry for selection of CEO.