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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would develop and improve the economy of the country and China is its successful example.

The minister expressed these views while addressing a discussion on “New Vision for Economic Transformation: Recourses Allocation and Production Structures” via video link at a conference, here on Thursday.

Chief Economist/Member (Economic Policy) Planning Commission Dr Muhammad Ahmed, Chairman Economic Advisory Group Syed Javed Hassan, Founder and Executive Director PRIME Ali Salman, Members National Assembly (MNA) of PTI Shandana Gulzar and representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank participated in the conference.

He said that the government is focusing to establish industrial zones for progress and expedite the economic activities in the country. He said that the SEZs is the strategy for the development of economy.

The minister said that we would consider new ideas and proposals of the participants. He said that we need new skills and knowledge-based economy. He said that we need to use new technology to stop smuggling in the country.

He said that there is a need to debate about the elite class that has captured the economy and now it is further strengthening by establishing media industry in the country.

He said that we would make policy to encourage the role of common people and middle man in the economy. He said that role of the state was to improve the education sector especially higher education in the country.

Chairman Economic Advisory Group Syed Javed Hassan said, while presenting the EAG Vision Document that there is a need to reduce custom and regulatory duties, and replace these with a uniform tariff across all sectors and product categories. He said that we should also reduce existing schemes (such as the SBP’s export finance scheme) to incentivise export of new products and/or to new markets.

“Focus on being competitive for parts of Global Value Chains (GVCs) for products, rather than for the entire product and on moving up GVCs. Strengthen industrial and infrastructure capacity so as to attract efficiency-seeking Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) (which is more geared to boost export) rather than market-seeking FDI.

Activity engaged with regional trading blocs with aim to either join these or enter into a FTA with them. Engage with regional countries and work towards signing bilateral FTAs. Work with national and sub-national trade bodies to help businesses conform to international standards. Improve border infrastructure along the Western border and facilitate Central Asian countries in using Gwadar port for their trade,” he said.

About the agriculture sector, Syed Javed Hassan said that the fixing of support prices for certain agriculture commodities have had the perverse effect of incentivising suboptimal usage of agricultural land holding and sluggish improvement in yields. He said that there is a need to increase and strengthen skills training programmes for agriculture, horticulture, livestock, dairy, poultry, and fisheries.

He said that energy is another critical sector with significant distortions. He said that low natural gas prices in preceding years decreased in the incentive for firms to invest in gas exploration.

He said that foreign investment in oil and gas exploration declined roughly 50 percent between 2012 and 2017.

He said that in contrast, higher energy prices in the United States during the last two decades played an important role in incentivising investment in exploration activity.

He said it also played a critical role in exploration of shale gas.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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