LAHORE - There is no institution that now exists to work meticulously with the auto industry after dissolution of the Engineering Development Board (EDB). The industry, with investments exceeding Rs370 billion and supporting 2.5 million households, is seeking help in ensuring its very survival.

A spokesperson for Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts and Accessories Manufacturers (PAAPAM) regretted that “It is extremely unfortunate that government rushed into the decision to dissolve the EDB at the very moment where all of its hard work over the years is paying off dividends to the industry and the nation”.

The years upon years of the private-public partnership that was the EDB has been bearing fruit over the last several years. It is only now, after seeing the results of the work done by the EDB, new entrants find the market attractive enough to make their move, he added. He explained that new investment worth of $ 800 million is in the pipeline, and new players including Hyundai, Kia Motors, Volkswagen, Isuzu, Nissan, Renault etc are coming in the country. It is a crucial time for the industry and the Pakistani markets, and it is at this time that the need for a board like the EDB is at its greatest, he said.

The spokesperson added that EDB functions are very fundamental and the entity should be restored for the support of industrialization in Pakistan. If there were any discrepancies in the workings of the EDB, then the institution should have been reformed with a proper investigation. This dissolution without evidence is a disservice to the nation.

He also reasoned that “EDB was the custodian of AIDP 2016-2021 (Auto Industry Development Plan). It oversees the implementation of various aspects of Auto policy and provides a one window operation for all aspects related to auto sector. Dismantling EDB will also make AIDP ineffective and unproductive and will make it impossible to achieve our industrial targets.”

Moreover, EDB was giving expertise in implementation of various regulations including technical evaluation of CKD imports and verification of pre-requisites for claiming concessions allowed under ADP. Similarly, audits and records, approval of import items is a highly specialized function. It would take years for any other organisation to develop the skills, expertise and experience available within EDB today.

The spokesperson said these are only few internal fronts on that EDB supported the auto industry. On the external fronts EDB had been the only government actor trying to work for the benefit of the industry when the rest of the government was trying to put forth policies that could destroy the industry. This is particularly true in case of the FTA negotiations with India (pushed by the government, but halted due to circumstances), China, and Thailand, he added.

Moreover, its functions including organising Pakistan’s participation at specialized international engineering trade fairs, organizing trade delegations to potential markets, organizing local sectoral exhibitions for sectors having export potential, developing market expansion plan for engineering goods and services sector, disseminating information on export potential of local engineering companies (export directory), attending local exhibitions to identify potential engineering sectors/products, organising training courses for the export-oriented industries and liaison with commercial counsellors for the promotion of business networking of local business with foreign engineering companies, are pillars that helped grow the auto industry.

“The EDB has played a critical role in the development of the auto industry in Pakistan, and in PAAPAM’s view the EDB has always kept its focus on strengthening the engineering industrial base in Pakistan first and foremost. This singular focus of the EDB has as such been a great boon for the industrial sector in general, and the automotive industry in particular,” he concluded.