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ISLAMABAD: Former minister for finance Sartaj Aziz has said there is a need for a new “charter of governance” based on fair elections and our priority should be aimed at developing a solid economically-developed state.

Aziz on Thursday expressed these views while addressing a national high-level seminar of development leaders organised by the Planning Commission of Pakistan and the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).

He said, “We need a new charter of governance based on fair elections. Gender rights, human rights, health and education, all depend on the governance system. We don’t have a merit-based system, and our priority should be aimed at developing a solid economically-developed state.”

He said the energy conundrum had become a black hole for the country, adding “failure to adopt a population policy in terms of energy would lead us towards a dead end.”

He said another failure was the productivity issue. “Without real productivity, flexing economic muscle is a distant dream,” he said.

Economist Dr Hafeez Pasha said while sharing his thoughts on 75 years of economic journey of Pakistan, apprised the participants that per capita income has risen by 4.5 times since 1947. He said the sub-continent which once comprised Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh achieved an average growth rate of around five percent. “India rather performed poorly in the first three decades. In parallel, Pakistan’s growth rate in the initial decades went above six percent. So, what went wrong? Apart from many other issues. First, is the tax-to-GDP ratio which is around 10.3 percent. Research shows that it should at least be at 14 percent. Pakistan is to climb up to 3.7 percent to get on the train to long-term growth.

Pakistani banker and economist Dr Ishrat Husain said that for the first 40 years, the growth rate was more than six percent, later 35 years could only manage under four percent. Additionally, he informed the audience that India’s global export share increased from 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while that of Pakistan got slashed from 0.2 percent to 0.1 percent over the course of time.

Explaining Pakistan’s downfall, Dr Husain expressed it was Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) that helped in establishing Singapore Airlines, Jordanian Airlines, and Emirates. He said that “today that very PIA is in shambles.” “One point solution to all these issues is in reforming governance institutions. There is no other way,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Dr Nadeemul Haque, vice chancellor PIDE said the economy was not in dire straits but it certainly was in a difficult situation. Pakistan’s economy has always performed strangely. He said “we are still stuck in the realm of extractive institutions and a colonial state.” He said Pakistan had made significant headway despite the numerous issues it had confronted. As a result, the country had the option to move into a semi-industrial economy and a hub for business activities, he said.

“Our economic vision is to shape a brighter future for Pakistan’s economy by improving development efficiency, enhancing productivity, increasing investment, and creating wealth, unleashing the private sector’s entrepreneurial energies,” he said.

While chairing the seminar, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal as a chief guest said, “I would like to say that tragedy in our story is that to this day, we as a nation could not ascertain our direction. We go one step forward and two steps back. Our trajectory keeps changing every few years”.

He further stated that despite all the odds, Pakistan still had come a long way. “What if we compare our progress with others? Certainly, we would find ourselves far behind in the league of nations. At this point in time, we need self-introspection. Let’s decide as a nation and choose a trajectory and stick to it for at least the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.

He said “we need to get on fast-track export-led growth. Nevertheless, it would not be possible without sorting two things, which happen to be at the core – political stability and policy consistency.”

He thanked the PIDE for its valuable and timely research which indeed would help in better and effective policy formulation for long-term growth and sustainable development.

Dr Gohar Ejaz, renowned industrialist and chief executive, Ejaz Group of Companies, while giving a presentation on the textile industry enunciated that the current capacity is not fully utilised due to energy supply and quality constraints.

“Existing capacity can add $800 million per month and $10 billion per annum to exports. However, this would require an adequate supply of energy at regionally competitive tariffs, availability of working capital and at least 500 new entrepreneurs required. In parallel, the TERF-like facility finance around $2 billion to facilitate investment. Besides, the debt-equity ratio of 80:20 must include building and Infrastructure as 50 per cent of the cost of garment factories is on these items.”

Besides, he was of the opinion that more strategies are to be developed for bringing packages for poor and unprivileged people to develop their small businesses.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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