In order to achieve debt sustainability, improve living standards and absorb the growing labour force, Pakistan’s economy must grow at a rate greater than 8 percent for a minimum period of 30 years. Given these high expectations and the conundrum of circular debt, Pakistan’s perpetual BoP, fiscal, and debt issues must be catered to with export enhancement rather than more IMF loans. IMF loans are accompanied by countless conditionalities that are not conducive to economic growth.
To finance a current account deficit, policies include:
Reducing domestic consumption and expenditure on imports;
Supply-side policies that can enhance competitiveness of exports and domestic industry.
Yet the country has persistently sought loans which have been accompanied by a fair share of conditionalities. IMF loans and bailouts are short-term solutions which cannot amount to the long-term growth needed in Pakistan’s economy. Conversely, exports constitute key to not only effectively strengthening the current account, but also to serving as a holistic and viable solution to Pakistan’s debt crisis.
The trend from 2007-2018 was not conducive to export growth, thereby leaving Pakistan far behind its regional competitors. Pakistan’s negative export growth over this 10-year period is shown in the graph below, in contrast to Sri Lanka’s, India’s, China’s and Bangladesh’s.
Competitive inputs for Pakistan’s most productive export-oriented industries must be a priority measure in targeting economic growth, as the impact of competitive input pricing has been proven time and again. During periods where regionally competitive energy tariffs were provided to Pakistan’s textile sector, there was an immediate upward trend in production, with all mills becoming operational and most reaching full capacity.
The textile sector reached a new peak, recording $1.49 billion during the first month of the current fiscal year 2021-22. The rise in exports demonstrates the role of energy pricing in trade competitiveness: when inputs were provided at regionally competitive prices, exports potential was fully realised in spite of an unfavourable international environment created by the pandemic. The trend in 2021 so far is shown in the graph below:
The most recent data has shown a 46% increase in textile exports for the month of August 2021 as compared to August 2020. We are currently seeing the highest ever Textile Exports in August, and at this rate exports for FY22 will be $20 billion without any additional output from new capacity under installation. This is estimated to add at least an additional $1 billion to exports for FY21-22.
This expansion is attributed to unprecedented investment in expansion and new projects - a direct consequence of the government’s regionally competitive energy pricing policy. With this evident correlation between energy tariffs and the country’s investments and exports, it cannot be emphasized enough that the continuation of this policy will be critical to maintaining the momentum gained so far.
Enhanced value addition, competitive inputs and trade competitiveness lead to sustainable economic growth; as unlike aid, these measures are free of any liability. Earnings through enhanced exports serve as a valuable inflow to the economy, and can pull Pakistan out of its current account deficit and economic stagnation. Job creation is another crucial metric for an economy in the growth stage, as yearly increases in unemployment must be catered to. The private sector provides us with a viable means to achieve this, as export-oriented sectors are highly labour intensive. The textile sector in particular creates jobs in every tier of the economy. Different skill sets are required at each stage, be it cotton picking, ginning, stitching, designing, innovating or strategic planning. The expansion and development of exporting industries thereby reduces unemployment in the long term in addition to being essential for a healthy Balance of Payments.
Sustainable development and economic growth necessitate export-led growth, as a strong export base serves as a self-sufficient and highly beneficial method to strengthen the economy without conditionalities. In Pakistan’s context, the textile sector provides a reliable pathway to counter the debt that has accumulated from back-to-back loans and relief packages. The most effective mechanisms to sustain export-led growth include product and market diversification, improvements in quality, and integration into global value chains. Support from the government is an absolute requirement to make these policy measures possible.
===================================================================== Highest ever Textile Exports in August, ===================================================================== Export Value in Million Dollars ===================================================================== Months FY21 FY22 % Change ===================================================================== July 1,276 1,471 15% August 1,013 1,478 46% Total Textile Exports 2,289 2,949 29%** =====================================================================
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021
PUBLIC SECTOR EXPERIENCE: He has served as Member Energy of the Planning Commission of Pakistan & has also been an advisor at: Ministry of Finance Ministry of Petroleum Ministry of Water & Power
PRIVATE SECTOR EXPERIENCE: He has held senior management positions with various energy sector entities and has worked with the World Bank, USAID and DFID since 1988. Mr. Shahid Sattar joined All Pakistan Textile Mills Association in 2017 and holds the office of Executive Director and Secretary General of APTMA.
He has many international publications and has been regularly writing articles in Pakistani newspapers on the industry and economic issues which can be viewed in Articles & Blogs Section of this website.