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LAHORE: The Burki Institute of Public Policy (BIPP) on Friday launched its report “State of the Economy, Frontline Stakeholders, Reaping the Gender Dividend” at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

President of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kashif Anwar, Chief Secretary Punjab Abdullah Khan Sumbal, Chairman Higher Education Commission Prof Dr Shahid Muneer, Chairman Burki Institute of Public Policy Dr Shahid Javed Burki, Vice Chairman Dr Shahid Najam, Secretary Women Development Department Sumaira Samad, Syed Yawar Ali, Chairperson Bunyad Foundation Shahida Shaheen Ateequr Rehman, Dr Farrukh Iqbal and former LCCI Vice President Zeeshan Khalil spoke on the occasion. LCCI Vice President Adnan Khalid Butt presented the vote of thanks.

All the speakers spelled out the critical economic challenges that needed to be addressed to achieve the desired pace of economic growth. The major thrust of the report was to suggest policies to reset the economy to its long-term potential growth path and inextricable nexus between all the stakeholders of economy.

Abdullah Khan Sumbal said it is unfortunate that there is lot of lip service on this particular area which we call women empowerment despite efforts to increase women role in different walks of life. Still, we need to enhance women’ role particularly in economic governance.

There are two areas where there is need to work more practically. One is population planning and the second is gender parity. These two areas are very much under achieved. State has a very important role to play in development. Bureaucracy cannot go alone without the help of other stakeholders.

Shahid Najam said that the situation needs our collective resolve to continue to work for gender parity. He said according to Global Gender Gap on gender parity Pakistan is only above Afghanistan which is very unfortunate. This issue wants us to refocus on how we are handling the gender issue. He said that the kind of potential we have in terms of diverse young population and we are squandering it away when there is a lot of talk going on about gender sensitive issues on every forum.

LCCI President Kashif Anwar said that political stability plays a crucial role for economic stability and by achieving both we can move forward for any other agenda more effectively.

He said that all the stakeholders are aware about the serious economic crisis being faced by Pakistan that includes unfavorable balance of payment deficits due to record current account deficit, trade deficit, high inflation, currency devaluation, soaring debts and high policy rate etc.

He said that the trade Deficit in 2021-22 stood in excess of US$ 48 Billion. In first five months of current financial year (July- Nov), the trade deficit stood at $14.27 billion with imports ranging around 26.2 billion dollars and Exports merely around 11.9 billion dollars.

Kashif Anwar said that the inflation rate has consistently remained above 20% since June 2022. The main reasons for the increase in inflation are exchange rate depreciation, over reliance on imported commodities/raw materials/ machinery/oil and the increase in electricity tariff.

He added that massive Devaluation has taken place in recent times as the inter-bank dollar rate has crossed Rs 226 .Since our Industry relies on imports of raw materials, components and machinery, this devaluation has resulted in an increase in the cost of production.

The LCCI President said that according to the State Bank of Pakistan Statistics, Pakistan’s total external debt and liabilities have reached 126.9 billion dollars as in September 2022. Similarly, the Government Domestic Debt has reached 31,401 billion rupees as in September 2022. It seriously calls for taking immediate steps as Pakistan’s total Debt and Liability have reached 89.2 percent of GDP (as of June 2022).

He said that the policy rate of 16 percent prevailing in Pakistan is considerably higher than other economies in the region. The high policy rate is creating many hindrances in the process of Industrialization and private sector growth It is pertinent to mention that policy rates in our neighbouring countries are much lower than Pakistan (e.g. India 6.25 percent, Bangladesh 5.75 percent and China 3.65 percent).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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