Planning Commission has admitted government's failure to address structural challenges of the economy during the last two and a half years as entire focus remained on stabilisation. Speaking at the inaugural session of a consultative workshop on mid-term performance and future planning here on Tuesday, Minister for Planning Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said, "success has largely been on stabilisation and structural challenges remain unresolved and out of box thinking is required for growth".
He also claimed of saving Rs 567 billion through scrutiny and rationalisation of the projects of various ministries and divisions. The purpose of the consultative work was to solicit inputs from the stakeholders to devise a comprehensive policy for remaining period of the government as well as for years to come, he said and asked the participants to give some tangible and actionable proposals and assured them that these would be implemented on priority basis.
Chief economist of the Planning Commission Nadeem Javid in his presentation said that low growth, decline in exports, low saving and investment as well foreign direct investment and declining credit to private sector are some of the major issues. He said the desired growth rate is not expected without raising investment and saving to 20-25 per cent of the GDP and low foreign direct investment was also primary concern of the country.
He also stated that there is 2 to 3 per cent gap of revenue mobilisation in the first quarter of the current fiscal year which would be plugged through the additional taxation measures taken by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
He said that the country exports have been falling due to multiple factors such as energy crisis, overvaluation of exchange rate of around 7 per cent and low commodity prices in the international market. Nadeem Javid also stated that burdensome taxation and regulatory duty as well as liquidity crunch due to high sale tax tendency is pending and declining private sector credit. The decline in current account deficit is expected from low import bill and growth in remittances.
The Planning Commission said that the current growth rate is inadequate to provide employment opportunities to the youth and the government is faced with a massive challenge of raising GDP growth from 7 to 7.5 per cent to generate employment opportunities for youth other wise the unemployment rate would increase to 5.96 per cent by 2017-18. There is also challenge for the government on how to start economic activity in manufacturing sector which is very critical for providing employment opportunities.
The Minister and Chief economist recounted how poor economic condition of the country was when the present government came into power and measures taken by them to bring about stabilisation.
Ahsan Iqbal said that all the recommendations made by experts belonging to different sectors would be presented to the prime minister for consideration. Speaking at the concluding session of workshop on 'mid-term Performance review and future planning of the government', organised by his ministry he said that the government is resolute to fulfil its election manifesto by giving priority to four Es-Education, Economy, Energy and Eradication of Extremism.
"Since we are a developing country and our focus is on four Es...the government is determined to pursue very aggressive infrastructure development programme on communications, transmission lines, energy sector, etc," he added. He called for collaborative measures to resolve the issues faced by the country, adding the countries that spent on higher education have prospered in view of a world poised to become a knowledge economy.
Responding to a suggestion by a participant about providing a level-playing field to youngsters, he said: "If we, the elders can look forward to our kids to fix our smart phones and computers, why can't we entertain the suggestions given by our young officers".
He maintained that the roadmap for the uplift of the country is inextricably linked to research and education, adding education was the only instrument behind progress and affluence across the developed world. About lack of implantation on Police Ordinance 2002, the minister blamed the police department of making the ordinance controversial, saying it was police that made it redundant as the government had no objection in implementing it.
The panels comprising some top police fell short to accuse the government of wilfully making the Police Ordinance 2002 redundant as it was the brainchild of the then military president General Pervez Musharraf, which had been largely appreciated. However, the minister said that the government has no problem in implementing the ordinance. The panellists questioned why it is not implemented in Sindh and Balochistan province, adding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab it was implemented after some amendments.
In order to bring reforms within the police which are considered to be the most corrupt, they said that the ordinance must be implemented in letter and in spirit, saying as long as the Police Act 1861 is there, the existing police system would remain the same.
Some of the participants belonging to different sectors also came down hard on the minister on wasting time on mere seminars and conferences without doing anything practical despite passage of two-and-half years since Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) took over.
A representative of pharmacology sector said that they had been expecting for the government to come forward with a comprehensive policy to promote homoeopathic sector, but nothing has so far been done. The minister assured him that all the suggestions submitted by the representatives of all the sectors, including homoeopathic sector would be submitted to the prime minister as soon as possible.