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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production, Thursday, expressing serious concerns over the cheap export of Pakistani precious stones has stressed the need to provide a conducive environment to the gems and jewellery manufacturers so that the industry can add value to their products and earn more foreign exchange for the country.

The standing committee meeting held here under the chairpersonship of Senator Khalida Ateeb discussed the issues related to the Pakistan gems and jewellery industry as well as the operational status of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).

The committee members underscored the potential of the gems sector said that this demands enhancing the value-addition processes within Pakistan to ensure that the country and the people involved can benefits more significantly from its natural endowments.

Briefing the panel, Alamgir Chaudhary, a representative of the Gems and Jewellery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (GMPG) said that Pakistani precious stones were being sold to Thailand at much lower rates, only to be cut and resold for substantially higher amounts.

Chaudhry lamented the stark comparison between Thailand’s gems and jewellery exports, which exceed $8 billion, and Sri Lanka’s $300 million exports in the same sector, while Pakistan’s exports were relatively cheaper and stood at $6 million annually.

Simultaneously, the GM of Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development briefed the committee, stating that Pakistani precious stones are sold to Thailand at low prices.

In Thailand, these stones are cut and sold for over 70,000 rupees. He attributed export difficulties in gems and jewellery to non-accelerated legislation. Comparing with India’s annual gem and jewellery exports worth $40 billion, Chaudhary said that in contrast to Pakistan’s average annual exports of $6 million, Thailand’s exports are surpassing $8 billion.

Chaudhary illuminated the stark disparity in the global market positioning of Pakistani precious stones, which are currently exported to Thailand at alarmingly low prices, only to be resold at a substantial markup after processing. This practice not only undermines the potential revenue for Pakistan but also highlights the inefficiencies in the value chain that prevent Pakistani artisans and traders from reaping the full benefits of their labour and natural resources.

Discussing another pressing issue of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman highlighted the matter of the dismissal of clerics from mosques and their outstanding salaries which according to Maulana have reached Rs3.3 million. He expressed concerns about the dismissal of clerics from the mosques operated by steel mills and expressed deep regret over the closure of mosques, highlighting that prayers, even on Fridays, are not being held.

Responding to the points raised by Maulana, the officials informed the panel that the authorities already have paid the four months’ salaries to the prayer leaders.

The ministry informed the committee that reinstating steel mill employees is not feasible due to the country’s economic situation. The committee emphasized the need for innovative financial models and operational efficiencies that could revive the steel mills as a cornerstone of Pakistan’s industrial framework.

Despite the claim that all salaries were up to date until January 31, Maulana Attaur Rehman pointed out discrepancies, leading the committee to recommend employee reinstatement and prompt resolution of the matter. The committee also sought details on the non-payment of clerics’ salaries in steel mill mosques.

Overall, the Secretary of Industries and Production noted PSM’s burden on the federal government due to continued financial support. Concerns were raised by committee members over the state-run entity’s dwindling workforce and zero chance of rehabilitating PSM employees given the country’s economic constraints.

Amid these challenges, the secretary lamented the inevitable closure of operational plants, including those running on gas due to escalating costs. The committee members also sought clarifications on the categorization of the real estate sector as an industry.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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