EDITORIAL: People were still in the process of digesting this fiscal year’s rather ambitious export target of around $40 billion, wondering how it would really be achieved, and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Razzak Dawood has already raised hopes of fetching $50 billion in 2023, the last fiscal year of the present administration. And while it would have helped if the minister had been a little less vague about just how our exports are going to double in two years, beyond repeating the same old things like “diversification, focus on non-traditional sectors and increasing exports to new markets,” it must still be appreciated that the government is always looking for ways to jack up exports. Because without improving revenue from exports there is no way that the economy can stand on its own two feet and shed its reliance on foreign aid to stay functional.
As things stand, our import bill is about the same size as our exports and remittances put together. And as the global recovery from the pandemic gathers pace and vaccinations provide cover to a larger part of the world, commodity prices will rise further, putting even more pressure on our current account. A lot of work has been done, and is still being done, to make laws to channel all remittances through legitimate channels. And it has started to show results, even though the big bulge in remittances is still temporary and will begin to plateau sooner or later. Therefore, exports will have to be the prime area of concern in order to achieve the sort of economic independence and self-sufficiency that we are looking for.
An intriguing fact about our traditional export markets is that while we send a fair share of our products to the US and the EU, there isn’t much by way of volume to neighbouring China with whom we are always looking to upgrade all sorts of ties, especially in the economic realm. One reason for that is that China is itself world’s manufacturing ‘superpower’, which limits the kind of things that it really needs to import from a producer of very few finished items like Pakistan.
Yet it ought to work in our favour that China is in the process of winding up, and also relocating, a lot of its sunset industries. That makes this the ideal time for us to carve out a sizable share of that market for ourselves. Since China is our all-weather friend, surely there’s no harm in our government sitting down with theirs and working out a plan to relocate at least part of those sunset industries to Pakistan; and then continue their production and exports from here to markets that they already have a presence in. There is also a very urgent need, as advised often in this space, to identify markets for which we will then specifically produce to export; regardless of whether or not those products are used or needed in Pakistan.
Time is scarce and we are already almost two months into the present fiscal year; very close to the time when we have to prove our case about the expansionary budget to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to keep the bailout programme alive. That is why the government must now move from making bold claims and promises to concrete actions that will show results on the finance ministry’s balance sheets. There is always a time lag involved in turning policies into earnings and now we are in a race to get a lot of work done, and increase our earnings by as much as possible, in very little time.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021
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