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Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing a select group of businesspeople said last Tuesday that his government was making all-out efforts to provide maximum facilities to business community.
The prime minister affirmed that the wheels of economy could not move unless proper facilities were provided to businesses. "Our first and foremost priority is to create employment opportunities in order to reduce poverty," the prime minister said and added that the proposals given by the business community would help take the process of policymaking and planning forward in an effective manner.
He reiterated that the government would continue consultation process in all sectors of economy and meetings would be held with business community on a regular basis. The prime minister asked businesspeople to formulate proposals aimed at improving the economy.
Although PM's initiative was a routine consultation, it worked towards building confidence between the government and the high echelons of business fraternity.
But, the punch-line delivered by the PM appears to have underscored the need for creating employment opportunities to reduce poverty. This message PM has time and again emphasised and is the crux of the issue confronting the nation on account of economic slowdown and the impact of IMF programme.
The biggest threat to economy today is the massive dip in business transactions in all business segments - real estate, industry, retail, automobile, investments. Transactions generate employment and revenue - less transactions result in less employments and less revenue.
The reasons for the same are understandable; of which the primary reason is the massive campaign of the government to broaden the tax net and intelligence-based accountability for tax evasion. The other reasons include the withdrawal of tax incentives and subsidies to industry - long considered by them as routine and their 'lawful' right. Almost all governments in the past obliged them. But this government has not. The industry and businesses therefore become inactive or dormant, resulting in loss of jobs and future job opportunities. The PM Imran Khan is rightly worried about the situation. Together with this, the state bureaucracy is also not proactive in helping the government out in view of the accountability process.
Critics argue that things with economy were never so bad as today. But it is also a fact that government endeavors for broadening the tax base and accountability for tax evasion were never so determined and at such a large scale. This government has made it abundantly clear that it means business.
It is also understandable that accountability and reforms usher in a state of uncertainty and fear and businesses takes a hit. In the process many old guards either fall in line or fall out leaving space for the new ones to step in. The big question is the timeframe to achieve positivity. By all means, this must be achieved positively by 2021.
To move the nation out of the crisis, there has to be some out-of-box solutions, specially for job creation for which the government has to take some real intelligence-based bold decisions and actions. The foremost is to mobilize a fresh stream of entrepreneurs, preferable young ones from middle class who have talent and motivation but lack means and funds and provide them an enabling business environment. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) planned by the government all over the country constitute a good location to harness the talents of these young entrepreneurs. For this purpose, the focus on SEZs is to be extended much beyond providing utilities. The scope should expand to facilitating and mentoring the induction of new entrepreneurs in particular into businesses as one of its core responsibilities. The government would be required to ensure one-window operations for approvals, permits and NOCs within the four walls in order to facilitate young entrepreneurs.
(The writer is the former President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019