Dr Kamal Monnoo The party is over and looks like we again missed most of it The unprecedented period where an exceptional rise in cotton prices (From $0.38 in October 2009 to nearly $2.25 by March 2011) combined with a high demand cycle seems to be coming to an end. Pakistan, with its strong textile backbone and for most parts with capacity in place had the potential and opportunity to at least triple its textile exports, but sadly fell short of even doubling the same. As explained in my previous write-ups as well, we in the past recorded an export figure of nearly $15 billion with national cotton prices at around Rupees 3000 and now with the home cotton prices reaching Rupees 12,500 and given that there was adequate demand for the cotton textile products in the global market place, we should have fared much better than the present 'total exports of $ 24 billion or so (textiles exports on their own would be lower). The Indians yet again proved to be smarter than us in managing their affairs. Sensing the rare opportunity to gain market access they cleverly held back their excess cotton stocks, a strategy that not only gave a clear advantage to the home producers, but also at the same time ensured that the global prices maintain an upward trend while the competition remains choked. There Ministry completely ignored the letters and demands of the ITMF (International Textile Manufacturers Federation) accusing them of being principally responsible for fuelling world cotton prices and asking them to refrain from unpredictable and unlawful (WTO Charter) interventions in the international cotton markets by restricting cotton exports from India. When contacted, the Indian Minister of Textiles, Thiru D. Maran, simply had this to say that, he was responsible for watching the interests of the Indian textile sector and not that of the Worlds.Point taken, but may one ask that whose interests was the Pakistans textile ministry watching? What we saw was, complete inaction, no direction, in-difference and absence of any clear policy measures during a period that could have transformed the economic destiny of the country In fact it was as if we do not have a textile ministry in place Surely unpardonable, but anyway past aside, the global textiles now seem to be entering a different phase that will in-turn present new challenges for the Pakistani textiles in the months ahead. To successfully meet these challenges going forward, the role, help, guidance and vision of the textile ministry will be very important. Nice clichs: 'Help, guidance, vision, but a lot of people will want to know that what precisely our textile ministry should be doing. Well, to start with, 'just follow thy neighbor Do not try to reinvent the wheel. Both India and Bangladesh are eyeing Japan and China as the new destinations for their export products and also for importing high-end fabrics for usage in achieving breakthrough value additions. India and Japan have just signed a mutual free trade agreement and based on this, Indias clothing manufacturers association has embarked on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with its counterparts in Japan to enhance joint ventures and linkages. Bangladesh not to be left behind has taken its own initiatives in this regard and Japan is already emerging as a hot exporting market for Bangladeshi textiles. Pakistan should also endeavor on similar lines.It is rather ironic that, whereas, we claim the Pak-China relations to be 'higher than the mountains and deeper than the seas, it is Bangladesh that has been successful both in, a) gaining access to the lucrative Chinese markets and b) wooing Chinese investment. Enjoying duty concessions on export of 757 products to China, Bangladeshi textile exports to China are thriving. Also, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs backed by their government are busy seeking Chinese investments in solar energy, weaving and other textile sectors. China has been seen to invest heavily in SAARC and ASEAN countries and Thailand can be quoted as a classical example where Chinese investments in textiles alone have exceeded the $5 billion mark over the last 3 years. We need to follow suit.For Pakistani textiles to do well in the changed and expected to be an even more competitive global arena there is a need for a new business model in our industry. At present what we see is a heavily fragmented industry stemming from the single-minded pursuit of cheap labor. Retailers have become pseudo manufacturers taking on roles that belong within the sphere of manufacturing, resulting in an escalation of costs and a lower value proposition to the consumer. Whereas, we see, that around the world industries such as automobile, computer and footwear have provided consumers with phenomenal products at great prices, the textile industry in Pakistan has moved in the opposite direction providing the same product with a sliding edge on its price competitiveness. The new model, which the textile ministry needs to shape, should be one of collaboration within the value chain enabling greater research and development and the employment of breakthrough technologies. Innovation will need to be encouraged One hears of the future belonging to 'Green Textiles. While proactive countries like Thailand, China, Indonesia and Vietnam have already started to seriously focus on developing high value-added products, especially eco-friendly products, Pakistan has not even begun. Major policy initiatives can only be taken by the top, meaning government. In India, we see that there are major policy initiatives being taken by their textile ministry. Under the Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks, 40 Parks have been initiated in nine states, with a total project cost of Indian Rupees 45 billion out of which the government is contributing 15 billion. When fully functional, these Parks will support an investment of Indian Rupees 195 billion. In line with the policy announcement of the Government, the Integrated Skill Development Scheme has been launched for the textile sector. Under the scheme, the government will be investing Indian Rupees 25 billion over the next five years.In comparison, what has our textile ministry done to show for? Finally, to energy An old Chinese saying goes something like this, Give the industry its steam and it will find its own way to make the juices flow. Can someone please convey the importance of this to our ministry, which to date has failed to strongly take up the case of prioritizing power and gas supplies to the home textile industry, which accounts for 70% of total national exports, 13% of GDP and provides for nearly 40% of direct employment in the country? A country where poverty is on the rise, inflation hovering in double digits and urban unemployment touching dangerous levels (some say between 40 to 50%), keeping such a key industry closed at any time should be a crime The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst. Email: kamalmannoo@hotmail.com