As 2019 draws to a close, it appears that the government is finally able to pay attention to the policymaking agenda. A bunch of new policies have been launched in recent months, amid a lot of fanfare and optimism. But there exist several roadblocks in implementation that need to be removed.
In the digital sphere, an e-commerce policy was approved in principle back in September to provide the necessary coverage to the regulatory and consumer protection issues in the digital economy. A source said that the draft was hastily-approved to fulfill a donor’s check-list that also had e-commerce policy as a criterion. Now, formal launch of the policy has hit snags. The finalization has moved into 2020, reportedly over the formation of an international payment gateway locally.
Meanwhile, a separate Digital Pakistan Initiative has been launched under the umbrella of the PM’s Office. An ex-Googler is heading this initiative, amid mixed reception. As it is, the underlying framework to transform the public and private sectors through digitization is yet amiss. The last government’s Digital Policy is still making the rounds, and it is probably better to build on that through further stakeholder consultations.
To boost manufacturing competitiveness, exports and inward FDI, a National Tariff Policy was launched last month. The policy aims to address distortions and misalignments in the tariff regime. But one wonders whether this policy can work without simultaneously improving key industrial aspects like logistics efficiency, energy affordability, quality-related certifications, and improving the free-trade agreements. Besides, wouldn’t lowering import tariffs seriously hamper fiscal promises made to the IMF?
It is also good to see a new Renewable Energy Policy that was launched last month. By reforming the tariff structure and by keeping in mind the T&D aspect of evacuating renewable energy, the policy aims to grow renewables share (except hydel) to 30 percent by 2030. A major issue, however, is to get the provinces to agree on this policy and get cracking on the agenda. But so far, the Council of Common Interest hasn’t taken it up.
While launching new policies is welcome, it also needs effort to get these policies rolling. Increasingly, it looks like 2020 will be the year when the path back to growth will start becoming visible. The chief, lingering concern at the moment is to lay groundwork for sustained growth in exports. Therefore, it is critical to concentrate policy focus towards key levers for export-promotion. And while policymakers are hopefully at it, it must be ensured that all sectoral policies are aligned towards export competitiveness.