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LAHORE: V Kate Somvongsiri, the recently appointed USAID Mission Director stationed in Islamabad, commended the vibrant and diverse opportunities she witnessed during her visit to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI).

USAID Director and LCCI President discussed Pakistan’s Economic Landscape and Challenges.

President LCCI Kashif Anwar extended a warm welcome to Somvongsiri and provided her with insights into Pakistan’s business landscape.

Kate Somvongsiri highlighted USAID’s sustained presence in Pakistan for over seven decades, spanning a wide array of sectors, including education, democratic governance, civil society, economic development, women’s empowerment, and healthcare. She reiterated USAID’s status as Pakistan’s largest bilateral donor.

The Mission Director also discussed USAID’s evolving priorities, notably in addressing the consequences of climate change.

Despite being among the lowest emitters, Pakistan faces substantial climate change impacts. Somvongsiri pointed to the US-Pakistan Green Alliance Framework, prioritizing actions that help Pakistan adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts, particularly in the water, energy, and agriculture sectors.

She stressed the shift in USAID’s strategic direction, recognizing recent geopolitical changes. Resources have been redirected from border regions with Afghanistan towards unlocking trade opportunities, fostering a business-friendly environment, supporting women entrepreneurs, enhancing the education system, and promoting sustainability in energy, agriculture, and water.

Kate Somvongsiri expressed a keen interest in engaging with the local business community to better understand challenges and opportunities. She also mentioned a Memorandum of Understanding with the gaming industry, acknowledging Pakistan’s role as a hub for cross-learning and its receptiveness to expertise and talent.

President LCCI, Kashif Anwar, acknowledged USAID’s extensive support across various sectors in Pakistan, including agriculture, energy, women empowerment, and governance. He emphasized the pressing issue of devaluation, which leads to challenges like high markup and inflation, underlining that addressing devaluation is key to solving Pakistan’s economic woes.

Kashif Anwar emphasized the need to reduce imports and boost exports through industrialization and import substitution.

He also underscored the importance of constructing water reservoirs and dams, with a special emphasis on the Kalabagh Dam, considering Pakistan’s significant fuel imports contributing to trade and current account deficits.

The high cost of doing business and the scarcity of raw materials were also discussed as hurdles facing Pakistani industries, making them uncompetitive in export markets. Kashif Anwar appreciated government efforts to stabilize the rupee and urged for further currency rate reduction.

President LCCI stressed the importance of political stability for economic stability, expressing support for a democratic process.

He suggested initiating a “charter of economy” discussion among political parties before elections and commended LCCI’s efforts in women empowerment, showcasing the organization’s over 1500 women members and its active role in promoting gender equality.

Kashif Anwar, also stressed the importance of simplifying the taxation system and initiating policies to bring the undocumented sector into the formal economy, while commending the State Bank of Pakistan’s initiatives to support SMEs and women entrepreneurs through loan schemes.

He said that the visit by the USAID Mission Director to LCCI highlighted the collaborative efforts of USAID and LCCI in addressing diverse challenges and fostering economic growth in Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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