KARACHI - The businessmen have demanded moratorium from the federal government for the repayment of long-term loans. The business pointed out that the hour-long loadshedding of electricity and gas has badly damaged the capability of the industries to repay their long-term loans so government should intervene to provide moratorium to the deserving industrialists. The businessmen raised this important issue at the 32nd FPCCI Export Awards that was chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani in Karachi on Monday. In his welcome address, FPCCI President Tanvir Ahmed Sheikh said the federation has achieved the highest-ever export mark of $19 billion during the last fiscal year. This annual function of the federation was recognition of the outstanding performance of the exporters, he added. He said: "We hope the government will extend a helping hand to the FPCCI by providing moratorium on loans and increasing the annual grant of Rs9m to at least Rs12m out of Export Development Fund." In order to enhance the exports of Pakistan, we cannot afford to be less competitive than our competitors like India and China. Pakistan shares borders with Afghanistan, China, India and Iran, which have big potential markets that need to be tapped for further enhancing of our exports. The government had very kindly extended support for R&D to the textile industry to boost exports, which expired on 30th June, 2008. This needs to be extended for a further period of 3 years as international market is becoming more competitive." He said the FPCCI was very much concerned about the shortage of energy and its price determination mechanism, as these factors ultimately increase the cost of locally manufactured products, which affects the competitiveness of Pakistani products in international and local markets, he said, adding, "we have made several recommendations to the government to solve the energy crisis." The federation, in collaboration with the USAID had organized a policy-oriented seminar last year in Islamabad. The seminar recommended the use of wind and solar resources for energy production, which were highly capital-intensive and depend on foreign technology and skilled labour. He reminded that the foreign investors have shown readiness to provide supplier-credit for the plant and equipment as well as foreign equity and debt. The industries prefer the use of indigenous resources i.e. Thar coal and generation of hydel electricity which was the cheapest, he said. He further stated that the loadshedding of electricity and gas has adversely affected not only the production but the quality of products as well as unannounced electricity load shedding spoils the quality of the work in process. This situation has affected the capability of the industries to repay the long-term loans. The government needs to consider grant of a moratorium in the repayment of long term loans and interest thereon. In order to enable FPCCI to play its role, its representatives should be nominated on the governing Boards of NEPRA, OGRA, State Bank, the port authorities and Planning Commission, FPCCI demanded. However, he said that Pakistan was predominantly an agriculture economy. Unfortunately, least attention has been paid for the development of this sector and for setting up agro-based industries the country has to import wheat, oil seeds, vegetable and live stock. Comparative advantage in agriculture gives us an edge in the development of agro-based industry, value-addition chains and processing arid packaging of products, he said and added the agriculture sector offers huge potential for growth and investment which can dramatically improve balance 'of payment position. "Meanwhile, he said, Pakistan has not made a single dam during the last twenty years whereas our neighbour India has constructed over 40 dams during this period. How can our agriculture survive without water and for how long? He said, without tackling lay and order, neither local investors would be encouraged to invest in new projects nor international investments will be attracted. Partly, it can be attributed to increase in population and resultant increase in unemployment as our agriculture and industrial sectors have not grown correspondingly. The abnormal increase in international petroleum prices had forced the government to pass on the burden to the public. The credit goes to present government that with decrease in the price of oil in international markets the government has reduced the price from Rs87.75 a litre to Rs 57.80 a litre. But unfortunately the effect of reduction has not trickled down to the general public. Whereas a segment of the business community cannot be absolved of this attitude, it also indicates the lack of attention on the part of the government about the welfare of its people, he concluded.