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KARACHI: Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Monday emphasized upon the need of maximum utilization of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as only $20 billion of the projected total $62 billion CPEC has so far been utilized.

Addressing an online session titled 'Making Pakistan prosper: strategy for economic growth and development' organized by the Institute for Policy Reforms he said: "We need to go beyond the power plants, and should work on the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), rail and road infrastructure, and enhancement of capacity utilization of Gwadar port - the flagship project of CPEC to yield maximum benefits by attracting serious Chinese investments in the country." Shaikh said this while responding to queries.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh termed the country's tax-to-GDP ratio as pathetic, saying that the country has done badly in taxing the rich and consequently, Pakistan's tax-to-GDP ratio was pathetically low compared to some regional countries.

Dr Shaikh, however, stated that the tax returns have been considerably higher this year and prior to the coronavirus growth in tax collection was 17 percent. The minister stated that the present government had been trying to build on the economic recovery, and redirecting the country on path to industrial growth.

The government has also been striving to increase the exports by providing liquidity to the exporters, and if economic stability continued for some time, the Pakistan would be at a much better place.

He also identified some, what he called, 'big facts' about Pakistan. Firstly, he said no single Prime Minister has been able to successfully complete his tenure during the last 73 years. This [political instability] was a serious defect which did not let the country to have long-term policies.

The 2nd fact, Shaikh said is the absence of sustained economic growth. At different occasions the country achieved high but temporary economic growth, which could not translate into improved socio-economic lifestyle.

3rd, he said the growth was not evenly and equitably shared [with the federating units]. The 'so-called' growth miracle in the President Ayub Khan's era resulted into split of a part of the country.

4th, Pakistan's share in the global economy has remained a very little during the last 72 years. This is because "we don't make alliances" he said. Nobody is coming to the country for investment.

Like other countries, Pakistan was too hit by Covid-19 pandemic this year; however the PTI-led federal government has taken several measures to mitigate sufferings of the vulnerable groups, and businesses including cash payments to 15 million families under 'Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme' through a swift and transparent manner and the world has noticed that.

In order to stimulate economic growth, the government also gave package to boost construction sector that included amnesty scheme, tax exemption and subsidy. It gave loans for salaries, and relaxation in energy bills for small businesses.

When the government came into power the country was in very serious crisis. It inherited a Current Account Deficit of over $19 billion, but that has been now a surplus. Similarly the figures of exports are also encouraging. Signs of recovery can also be witnessed in cement, fertilizer, consumer goods, etc.

The Video meeting was Chaired Humayun Akhtar Khan CEO IPR. Dr Justin Yifu Lin, former World Bank chief economist and professor at Peking University advised Pakistan to focus on infrastructure development, particularly set up SEZs to create jobs, attract FDI, and earn foreign exchange.

He emphasized upon the finding 'right ideals' to steer the country out of crisis. He said during the times of second world war, the East Asia was considered one of the poorest regions, because the countries had no skilled manpower, advanced technology, modern institutions etc, however, these countries particularly China has achieved prosperity within one generation. It was because, this nation followed its true ideals. He said that no matter how poor a nation is, if its ideals are correct, no power on the earth can stop it from being prosperous.

Arif Habib CEO Arif Habib Group hailed the incumbent government for its several initiatives particularly providing a stimulus package to the construction industry. He said around 40 industries are related to construction sector. The government's mortgage financing for the housing sector has been a good initiative, he said.

Sharing statistics he said Pakistan needs some 10 million houses to accommodate its population; the country requires 700,000 houses every year. The family size in Pakistan is 6.6, as against 2.4 in UK. On an average three persons occupy one room here as compared to 1.3 in U.S.

Waseem Vohra, who represented FPCCI, said on this occasion that tax authorities in Lahore have been harassing taxpaying businessmen. FIRs have been registered against some businessmen. He also highlighted the issue of high cost of some imported raw material relating to SME sector.

Karen Chen, CEO Challenge Apparel Pakistan said that Pakistani government has very preferential policies and measures for foreign investment. Textile exports to China and EU are tariff Free, labor costs are low, and demographic dividends are obvious. She said Chinese companies are still not enthusiastic about investing into Pakistan. Why? This really requires deep thinking, investment promotion is one aspect.

She asked to treat Chinese companies, which already invested in Pakistan, well and support and serve the companies well, and set a typical example, so that the other Chinese companies follow them. This is more effective than making more investment promotion and intergovernmental activities, she concluded.

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