Unlike it’s Make it Pakistan thesis, the Pakistan Business Council’s recently released National Charter for Exports is a much better and well nuanced document that also warrants attention.
Seemingly inspired by the developmental state or the East Asian model, the PBC calls for a radical shift in the way the government ought to conduct its way to boost Pakistan’s exports. Amongst a host of measures, it calls for prospective investment rather than retrospective investment. It also calls for crafting an enlightened policy to buy or develop brands while allowing exporters to warehouse goods abroad.
The PBC recognises that government incentives have been misused in the past while many businesses still cheat on taxes. But the business advocacy group argues that “denying the formal, responsible and accountable sector from bene?ts of an empowered policy because of misuse by others in the past is not valid.”
It calls for state sponsored national brand building programme ala Turkey’s "TURQUALITY" Programme “through which the Turkish government has been funding the development of 10 worldwide Turkish brands.”
The PBC also demands that exporters should be given complete exemption from all sorts of import duties and taxes across the value chain, and investments be made from the Export Development Fund (EDF) to explore non-core and new markets for exports.
Measures like these have worked in the past in many countries that have had a strong state, and where the state and the society have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. The same cannot be said about the Pakistani state.
In light of this, perhaps the most instrumental suggestion made by the PBC is based on the realisation that because “export incentives are funded by the taxpayers”, it requires “proper accountability” which is why the PBC recommends that accountability must be ensured “for each sector at least on an annual basis and their continuation be contingent on meeting prescribed objectives”.
Equally important, however, is transparency and inclusiveness, be it during the process of formulation of such policies, the assumptions behind those policies, the provisions to be provided by the state, the setting up of short-term targets and objectives to be met by businesses, or the periodic release of relevant datasets that shed light on the performance of both the state bodies and the business.
Pakistan has had its more than fair share of rent seeking and blame game between the businesses and the government, and demands for heightened state of transparency and accountability is only fair to make in the interest of general public interest. (See also BR Research’s The Fourteen Points of Charter of Economy, BR Research, May 30, 2017 & Charter of Economy: follow up on the 14 Points, Jun 1, 2017)