LAHORE: Emphasising the need for stability, unity and focus for an economic turnaround, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal said on Saturday current challenges are bigger than a single government and everyone has to gather on a single-point agenda for the revival of the national economy.

While addressing the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)’s first-ever EconFest, here at Alhamra Hall on Saturday, Ahsan said: “Pakistan needs stability, unity and focus for a turnaround. We have to focus on increasing exports, attracting investments and enhancing tax revenues.”

He said: “We must learn to collaborate and cooperate as Pakistanis to make Pakistan’s economy better. Pakistan needs to curb tax evasion, increase tax collection and boost its exports from around $ 30 billion to $ 100 billion in the next 5 to 8 years.

He emphasised on focusing five Es i.e. Energy, E-Pakistan, Environment, Energy and Equity. In this regard, he said, we need to develop our youth’s IT skills. Moreover, the climate situation needs to be tackled. Most importantly, we need to tackle the issue of energy, which is a huge drain on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves. Therefore, we need to move to renewable energy resources. We also need to focus on equity in education and health, he added.

He said that we have to learn the philosophy of collaboration and synergy. For development, we have to give ownership to the people, he said. If there is a conflict in society, no policy will be successful, he said, adding: Pakistan had a number of good policies and initiatives and even India followed policies introduced by Nawaz Sharif in 1991.

Addressing the young audience, Ahsan said: “If you have a dream and the will, this country will help you achieve your dreams but you need to put in a lot of hard work. For public service, you need conviction and the desire to help your country and people.”

He also shared his past memories and meeting with A Q Khan and Dr Samar.

Sharing his views, Ahsan said, Pakistan’s 75-year history shows that we made robust policies. However, we are lagging behind countries like South Korea, Turkey and others in terms of policy consistency. Firstly, we were on course to become the next Japan of South Asia but the 1965 war set us back. Secondly, in 1991, investment came in many sectors with the participation of the private sector but the then government was thrown out, which again derailed Pakistan’s economic progress. The third chance we got in the shape of CPEC.

He said the Chinese government was very interested in making investment heavily in Pakistan but the new regime that came to power in 2018 started alleging corruption in the CPEC project, which again derailed Pakistan. The country’s interest should be not sacrificed for the sake of conflict and politics.

Ahsan further said they took over the country’s affairs to save it and had to pay political price for the country. He said the previous government caused harm to the country.

Earlier, setting the stage for the two-day event, Dr Nadeem ul Haque, Vice-Chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) said that Pakistan has been in the emergency ward of the IMF for the last many decades. He said that it is not the fault of any one government, but the economic problems have accumulated over the years.

Dr Faheem Jehangir Khan, Senior Research Economist at PIDE said that we are an aid-dependent country and our appetite for aid is huge and never gets satiated. Our policies are donor-driven and we look for readymade policies to implement without relying on homegrown research and solutions, he said.

Dr Durre Nayab, Director of Research at PIDE said that Pakistan also needs to tactfully handle the problem of population, which needs urgent attention.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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