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Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) 2020 launched                    111,75 Think Tanks across the world ranked in different categories.                SDPI is ranked 90th among “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-US)”.           SDPI stands 11th among Top Think Tanks in South & South East Asia & the Pacific (excluding India).            SDPI notches 33rd position in “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by A Think Tank” category.                SDPI remains 42nd in “Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedure” category.              SDPI stands 49th in “Think Tank to Watch in 2020”.            SDPI gets 52nd position among “Best Independent Think Tanks”.                           SDPI becomes 63rd in “Best Advocacy Campaign” category.                   SDPI secures 60th position in “Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks” category.                       SDPI obtains 64th position in “Best Use of Media (Print & Electronic)” category.               SDPI gains 66th position in “Top Environment Policy Tink Tanks” category.                SDPI achieves 76th position in “Think Tanks With Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program” category.                    SDPI notches 99th position in “Top Social Policy Think Tanks”.            SDPI wins 140th position among “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”.               SDPI is placed among special non-ranked category of Think Tanks – “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19”.                                            Owing to COVID-19 outbreak, SDPI staff is working from home from 9am to 5pm five days a week. All our staff members are available on phone, email and/or any other digital/electronic modes of communication during our usual official hours. You can also find all our work related to COVID-19 in orange entries in our publications section below.    The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is pleased to announce its Twenty-third Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 14 – 17 December 2020 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19. Read more…       FOOD SECIRITY DASHBOARD: On 4th Nov, SDPI has shared the first prototype of Food Security Dashboard with Dr Moeed Yousaf, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on  National Security and Economic Outreach in the presence of stakeholders, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Provincial and district authorities attended the event in person or through zoom. The dashboard will help the government monitor and regulate the supply chain of essential food commodities.

COVID-19 Blogs.


Could the impact of Covid-19 lead to a technology transformation in Pakistan?

Alongside the huge socio-economic repercussions, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about technological transformations in every walk of life. Technology has never been used at such a massive scale before to keep people engaged and updated regarding the existential threats and counter measures being taken to eradicate the harmful effects of this virus. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have positively impacted healthcare, education, commerce, and governance systems. If ever there were any doubts about the criticality of ICTs, the horrific pandemic has laid such doubts to rest.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) estimates that over 1.5 billion students across the world have been impacted by Covid-19. Distant learning has enabled a significant number of students to benefit from online learning though it has no match with face-to-face learning. Various studies indicate that the online learning will continue to pick up momentum, and by 2025, it will have a market value of $325 billion. The healthcare system is another area where ICTs are being widely used. Telemedicine is of great help to provide medical services on telephones and through audio-visual aids. Virtual and SMART clinics are now extending online services and handling patients’ queries round-the-clock. There has been a large surge in online video conferences. The evolving technologies are also prominently being applied in other sectors. 5G wireless technology has made the Internet dependable, effective and the high speed means of communication can carry and instantly transfer a large amount of data. A Global Market Insight report (2019) estimated that online learning businesses will have a market share of $ 300 billion by 2025.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that there may not be a post-Covid-19 environment, because the pandemic may become a part of our future life. We have to think about how the world would be then. Governments, particularly of developing countries, will continue to grapple with the two major challenges: saving human lives and dealing with sinking economies. The role of ICTs would become even more crucial for dealing with these challenges.

In hindsight, it is now easy to recapitulate that without moving with the evolution of ICTs, what would have been our fate during the prevailing Covid-19. Although, Pakistan’s ICT infrastructure and Internet penetration is not at the stage where it should have been, the current level has served us fairly well.

In these difficult times, ICTs have played a key role in keeping the people informed about the dangers and to adopt measures to fight the virus. ICTs have proved their importance as how to face the current and future challenges and enhance resilience against future pandemics. In facilitating the essential services, learning and development and healthcare, ICTs have been of utmost importance. The evolving technologies have provided accurate and up to date information to the people. National portals and mobile apps have played a crucial part in keeping the wheels of economy, education, health, and food deliveries moving. Artificial intelligence has been an important resource making healthcare services available through virtual doctors. One shudders to think, if Pakistan had been at the same level of tele-density (3%) as it was in the 1990s, what would have been our fate during the present catastrophe?

However, we need to enhance our readiness to face future challenges. In addition to problems of connectivity, there are significant challenges to achieve readiness to completely switch to online learning, telemedicine, and e-commerce. State-of-the-art e-learning platforms, training of faculty members, course designs, safe and secure online payment systems for e-commerce, and motivation of stakeholders are some of the problems that will need solutions on priority basis. Students in the underserved and un-served areas face serious electricity and internet problems, so they could not benefit from online learning. Essential, equitable and universal access to the Internet remains a distant dream.

Traditionally, information technology and telecom is considered a service that minimises its importance. However, Covid-19 has amply highlighted its importance in every sector, may it be education, health, service deliveries or governance. Although, Pakistan has been trying to keep pace with the evolution which has enabled it to face the challenges of coronavirus, the required efforts have not gone into building its internet infrastructure. Unfortunately, Pakistan ranks below all its neighbours except Afghanistan in almost every International ICT Index. Internet penetration in Pakistan is only about 40% and that is also of not the required quality. For 4G, it’s only 25%. Under such circumstances, how can we expect to provide e-learning and e-health facilities in underserved and un-served areas of the country?

Since ICTs will remain critically important in the present and future era, what should be done to face future exigencies and eventualities? First and foremost, a broadband ICT infrastructure based on fiber optic cables must be built to serve the 220 million people of Pakistan. Universal access to technology should be ensured through a national digital transformational plan to bridge the digital divide in the country. We need well-trained IT professionals, therefore, an advanced training and development programme should be developed for the IT professional who should be selected on merit basis.To stop the brain drain, incentivisation should be a part of the plan.

To accelerate ICTs promotion in Pakistan, indigenous manufacturing of mobile devices and other equipment must be expedited. This is closely linked with declaring telecommunication as an industry. Why it has not been done so far is beyond comprehension. Again, the telecom market in Pakistan is heavily taxed which is a major disincentive for the potential investors. This requires an urgent attention of the government to create conditions conducive to ICTs promotion.

Online learning will now be the ‘new-normal’. It should be homogeneous and well-developed. To teach online, Pakistan requires: an enhancement of teachers’ skills, and a presentation of course contents which may synchronise with the online methods. All universities must have state-of-the-art learning management systems. The students should be made aware of the course contents, delivery, and assessment criteria well before the start of the course.

The 2020 report card

The writer heads the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

A government’s performance at the end of a calendar year is usually measured in numbers – particularly the data about macro-economic indicators such as growth in GDP, fiscal deficit, current account deficit, and debt-to-GDP ratio etc. In 2020, though, one needs to take this data with a big pinch of salt as it can easily mislead.

Since the outgoing year was the year of the deadliest pandemic to have hit humanity in recent times, any analysis of this annus horribilis must look at how successful – or unsuccessful – the government has been in mitigating the pain of Covid-19.

When Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, many analysts warned of two allied crises that it could trigger: economic recession and food scarcity. While analyzing this year, I am therefore focusing on whether Pakistan’s policy responses have been effective to check the pandemic, avert an economic recession and avoid shortages of food.

In February 2020, when the first Covid-19 case was reported in Pakistan, the country’s health infrastructure, like that of many other developing countries, was not ready to deal with it. From testing kits to oxygenated beds, from personal protective gear for health workers to masks and hand sanitizers for citizens and from isolation/quarantine wards to ventilators – everything was in short supply.

In this situation, the government made the right move to set up the National Coordination Committee (NCC) and the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to coordinate the Covid-related work of various federal ministries, agencies and departments as well as the provincial governments. Through this coordination, the government was able to provide testing kits, ventilators, and protective gear – at least in major cities – within a short span of time.

What, however, remained in short supply were the soft skills to act against the coronavirus. Even in the federal capital, and after so many months since the advent of the pandemic, qualified healthcare workers to operate ventilators and provide intensive care to Covid-19 patients are not as many as are needed. What is worse is the fact that the emotional and psychological support that the patients and their relatives need – given all the social stigmas and the need for physical isolation attached to Covid-19 – has been completely missing from our Covid-19 response. Another persisting problem has been the lack of a uniform and standardized treatment regime/protocols across all hospitals – both public and private.

The list of what has been lacking, indeed, can be endless but the government’s performance in averting a collapse of the public healthcare system has been largely satisfactory.

Pakistan’s economic policy response to the pandemic is also a mixed bag. Like almost every other government across the globe, our government, too, doled out a fiscal stimulus to maintain a balance between lives and livelihoods. Thanks to the IMF and other multilateral donors, the federal administration announced a 1.2 trillion-rupee incentive package for various sectors of economy at an early stage of the pandemic. This included substantial reduction in interest rates, temporary refinance facility to keep the industry operational, flexibility in the payment of principal amounts of bank loans, deferred payments of utility bills, one-time cash grant of Rs12000 each to 15 million families and many special perks for the construction industry. Together all these initiatives have helped – and are still helping – reduce the economic suffering that the pandemic could have caused.

The government’s policy of imposing smart lockdowns – rather than putting in place a blanket countrywide shutdown of economic activities – has been helpful in sustaining income-generating opportunities for millions of people. It also helped the textile industry to keep operating and thereby cater to those foreign markets which were not being served by Pakistan’s competitors because of the pandemic. This window of opportunity has allowed the textile sector to secure enough export orders that will keep it busy till the summer of 2021. Rationalization of electricity tariffs through the abolition of peak hour tariffs has been another useful step to support the local industry.

Where the government’s incentive package did not help is the informal sector. Small entrepreneurs, owing to the informal and undocumented nature of their businesses, could not benefit from the reduced interest rates or deferred loan repayments to banks. This major gap in the policy response has hurt millions of small traders, mechanics, street vendors and micro-level service providers.

So, while looking at the larger picture, one can argue that Pakistan did manage to avert an economic recession, yet the government had to incur a larger than planned fiscal deficit in the process. The debt burden, too, has been increasing more rapidly than ever before.

One can make a case that all this was expected in a year when the economy needed to be bolstered through the injection of various financial reliefs and incentives. To beef up social protection programs and to support the vulnerable businesses, the government had to move away from the fiscal tightening it had embarked upon in 2019 under the IMF’s tutelage. If the national economy is not hit by any unforeseen shocks in the near future, the relatively easy money made available to the industrial and construction sectors in 2020 might increase Pakistan’s economic resilience in the medium to long term and improve its ability to bounce back to higher growth rates in the short run.

On the last count – that is, food – it is important to remember that there were warnings at the beginning of the pandemic that there can be shortage of the edibles. The main reasons for that being the impact of Covid-19 on farm workers, the virus-forced restrictions on the transport of food items which could disrupt food supply chains and the closure of businesses under lockdown that could erode food affordability for large swathes of the population. In Pakistan, in particular, there were worries that wheat harvesting operations and the sowing/harvesting of rice and cotton could be seriously jeopardized by Covid-19.

In the event, though, the pandemic did not have a discernible impact on agronomic operations. Admittedly, the yield targets for both wheat and cotton could not be achieved but that was due to non-Covid factors.

Likewise, our food supply chains, though weak and informal in nature, remained intact throughout 2020. One of the factors that kept them running was the policy of smart lockdowns which allowed daily wage earners and informal workers to stay in the cities – unlike in neighboring India where they returned en masse to their villages. This, in turn, also helped contain the spread of the virus to rural areas. An effective response against a highly threatening locust attack was another factor that helped Pakistan avert a food crisis.

That still leaves out food inflation which continued to spike throughout 2020 – though that has little to do with Covid-19. The increase in the prices of wheat and sugar was mainly caused by policy mismanagement and administrative failure while, on the other hand, increase in the prices of perishable food commodities (vegetables, fruits etc) can be attributed to seasonal fluctuation in supplies (which, in the past, was compensated partly with imports from India through the Wagah border).

To sum it up, the government’s performance in 2020 was certainly not as good as it should have been, but it could have been much worse in the year of a global pandemic. So, entering 2021, we should count ourselves lucky as we either survived Covid-19 or we did not contract it. With this ‘feel lucky’ note of optimism, let us look at the year that is passing us by from this perspective: The government could have performed much better but, thank goodness, it did not push us into a triple crisis of health system collapse, economic meltdown, and food scarcity.

Twitter: @abidsuleri

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Post COVID-19

World has been jolted by COVID-19 pandemic. It was un-expected and sudden. The impacts are multidimensional and multifaceted. The severity of impacts is unfolding in a timewise manner. The first victim was economy which was immediately stuck and bearing the full wrath of impacts. It is shrinking. World Bank predicted that the economy will be contracted by 5.2 percent in 2020. Foreign direct investment is exhibiting a negative trend. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) came up with the figure of 40 percent reduction, which means the global FDI in 2020 would be less than US$ 1 trillion. It is happening after a long time, since 2005. Besides, it has been envisioned by UNCTAD that there would be further reduction of 5 to 10 percent in 2021, which is a scary prediction. Recovery in FDI is expected in 2022, which is still a long way to go.

The economic crises and drying investments are resulting in increasing extent of extreme poverty. World Bank report, Poverty and Shared Prosperity, has projected that 88 million to 115 million people will be added to extreme poverty (US$ 1.90) group. The South Asia would be major hit and bear the brunt of the poverty. It was estimated that 63 percent of these extreme poor will be from South Asia. If we change the poverty line from US$ 1.90 to US$ 3.20, the number will jump to 223 million at global level and South Asia will account for 71 percent. It is happening after 20 years that the extreme would be on rise. It is expected that it will affect the about 9.1-9.4 percent world population against the pre-Covid-19 projection of 7.9 percent.

The COVID-19 has also wedged the most celebrated achievements of humanity like mobility. The COVID-19 has compelled people to restrict their movement.In some cases, the countries had to adopt complete lockdown. World is still struggling to find a way of un-restricted movement of people. International travel and shipments have also been severely squeezed. Tourism is another major sector which is bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and restriction on mobility. It is happening against the backdrop of cherished success in means of mobility like air, train etc.

The second wave of COVID-19 is further aggravating the situation. We have witnessed many countries are going back to lockdowns. The economic activities have further started to shrink. World institutes are working to analyse the effects of second wave of COVID-19. It is expected that the impacts would be more severe in 2021, if the second wave of COVID-19 continued. It would be a scary scenario, as world is already facing huge problems due to the pandemic. The COVID-19 has introduced two specific problems, which has no precedent in history;

  1. Restriction on mobility
  2. Closure of economies

Countries and regions are offering hefty relief packages domestically and globally. However, the focus is on domestic markets and economy. For example, USA has already offered more than US$ 3 trillion. European Union has announced a package of 750 billion Euros. Unfortunately, the same commitment is not visible at global level. Owing to weak response many developing, and least developed countries are suffering the most. These countries were already facing problems due to food insecurity, energy crises, poverty etc. The global data showed that even before COVID-19 world was home to 600 million poor and 820 million people suffering from food insecurity. Further, 2 billion people were looking for safe drinking water and 1 billion were in need of electricity. 2.8 billion Peoplelacked sources of good quality cooking fuel. World was struggling to find ways to take care of 263 million out of school kids. Unfortunately, the majority of these people are resident of global south or developing world.

The worst impact of COVID-19 is that the process of unilateralism and protectionism got accelerated among the big countries. Strong countries, especially the Western, led by USA seems less interested in cooperation, rather they are focusing on domestic front.It is creating a sharper divide between poor and rich countries. Now the poor countries are struggling to find a way for recovery by building cooperation with strong economies. It has culminated into three specific problems, which are pressurizing world;

  1. Economic recession and poverty
  2. Unilateralism
  3. Protectionism

However, the analysis of past and history reveals that problems can only be solved by win-win cooperation, opening the borders and multilateralism. The situation also urges that world needs to work on multiple areas simultaneously, like economy and diplomacy. However, diplomacy would have to lead the way, as world is more fragmented at the present. In this scenario China is emerging as global player which can tackle the both dimensions of the problem. The reason of believe is sheer big size of economy, sustainability of growth even during COVID and partnership building style of diplomacy.

China has already showed the commitment and skills of partnership-based diplomacy through Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is one of the unique initiatives in many ways. The organization is home to 45 percent population and 25.88 percent land mass of world. Its contribution in economic sphere is also huge and constitute 21 percent of global GDP. It is only organization which have four nuclear armed states e.g. China, Russia, Pakistan and India. Its contribution in global trade is 21 percent (US$ 7.1 trillion). The sheer size of organization makes it a very relevant and principal player at the global stage.

Although the organization was created to settle the border issues among the member countries but in recent times it has phenomenally in all aspects. Now it is hosting 8 members, 4 observer states and 6 dialogue partners. Globally it is considered as one of the major diplomatic forums. In recent times China has also started the process of economic engagement and enhanced economic connectivity through the SCO. Hence, it is necessary to analyze the role of SCO in contemporary world and look how SCO can enhance role in role.

SCO and Economic Cooperation

The pre-COVID-19 efforts to enhance economic cooperation were focused on the traditional economic fields. China proposed a Free Trade Agreement many years back, to enhance the economic and trade linkages among the SCO members. It was suggested by keeping in mind the sheer market size of the SCO. On bilateral level China is already deeply connected with all countries e.g. China’s trade with SCO countries is US$ 337 billion. Russia (US$ 106.65 billion) and India (US$ 95.87 billion) were major trading partners in 2018.

President Xi Jinping recently has launched two specific initiatives. First, he established a dedicated economic zone with the name of “China-SCO Local Economic and Trade Cooperation Demonstration Zone”. It has been envisioned that through the zone China will enhance relationship in the fields of trade, investments, technology, tourism etc. It is an excellent opportunity for SCO countries to benefit from it, especially in the context of COVID-19. As, we know COVID-19 has impacted the whole world and the economic opportunities are scarce. It will also pave the way for future free trade agreement among SCO members.

In the post COVID-19 era, President Xi has proposed that the cooperation in the digital economy. He urged it should be enhance among the SCO members under the guidelines of UN. He emphasized that the COVID-19 reiterates the importance of digital economy, technology and cooperation. He advocated that with win-win cooperation we can reach at destiny of shared prosperity. China will be organizing a meeting of SCO members with name of “China-Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Digital Economy” next year. The announcement of forum shows that China is serious in building cooperation and ready to take practical steps.

The initiative is need of the time, as COVID-19 multiple the importance of digitalization and role of technology in economy. As we know COVID-19 has restricted the mobility and human interaction. The technology helped to minimize the impact, as it helped to keep the supply chains functional. There is no second opinion that the China was on forefront to use the technology and demonstrate the successful deployment of technology. In this context the initiative by China to enhance the cooperation in digitalization economy will help the member countries. The biggest catch would be technology sharing by China. The successful implementation will encourage other countries to join hands with SCO and expand the cooperation at wider scale. The best part of initiative is that SCO will be host of the initiative, which will enhance the importance of SCO in coming years.

SCO and Diplomacy

SCO was created as a diplomatic forum to settle the most urgent issues of borders and border management among the members states. The successful implementation led to expand the scope of work. The expansion process is still going on. However, the core values of SCO are intact which emphasize on the need of “partnership building” not “alliances”. The alliance building is favorite tool of global order at present. We can find number of organizations which have built on the concept of alliance. The prominent example is North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) including other. The basic flaw of alliance building approach is “alliance needs an opponent if not enemy”.

The world is facing the outcome of “alliances” approach. Today we are living in fragmented world and fractured global order. The Western countries are trying to oppose the rise of any other country and applying all types of instruments to hinder the rise of any other great power. It has led to fragmentation, unilateralism and protectionism. The forces of globalization are on backfoot. The pioneers and once proponents of globalization are backing out. They are trying to introduce ways, which can hinder the process of globalization rather reverse the process of globalization. The most famous slogan of present days is “country first” which is entirely in opposite direction to globalization.

It is unfortunate reality that the big powers are not understanding the impact of COVID-19 and importance of cooperation.The COVID-19 has urged the world leaders to cooperate, as cooperation is only way out to find ways to combat the impact of COVID-19. The situation also highlights that alliance building strategy will not serve the purpose. It can help few countries, but world will be losing.

In this context the approach of SCO, the “partnership” building can help world. The approach can pave the way for win-win cooperation under the auspices of UN. Although, the leading members China and Russia are already working to achieve the objectives of win-win cooperation but there is need to move fast. China will be hosting major event China-SCO Digital Economy Forum, under the auspices of SCO next year. The event can be used to lay the foundation to expand the cooperation at wider level. China and SCO can also look to enhance the participation and invite non-member countries to join the forum.

SCO can also launch a series of events and meetings to engage with non-member states and extend hand of the cooperation. As we discussed above SCO is home to 45 percent of world population, it can also serve as hope of world economic recovery due to its market size. China is already working to further open up but through the SCO, as an organization and platform, world can benefit in better way.

SCO can also introduce new form of engagement which would be based on thepartnershipand principles of equality. The equality among nations is a desired commodity and small countries are specifically looking for it. They are tired of the hegemonic or dominant behavior of big countries.

Future Role of SCO

In the light of discussion above, we have come up with following suggestions;

  1. SCO should immediately launch a dialogue process with other leading forums of world like European Union
  2. SCO should, on urgent basis, start to engage developing and least developed countries to give them hope of equality and cooperative world
  3. Economic opportunities should be increased at SCO platform, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19 and its impact on global economy
  4. To enhance economic opportunities, SCO should look ways to create formal linkages with Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China International Import Expo (CIIE) and Eurasia initiative of Russia among others
  5. To spread message of SCO, the organization should create a dedicated window for engagement of civil society at larger scale

Post pandemic BRI and Pakistan’s options

China’s Belt and Route Initiative (BRI) is one project that has shaken the status-quo by challenging traditional concepts of power in recent years. As Covid-19 has jeopardized the world, with its vast range of implications for sectors other than health, the future of traditional development projects seems bleak. The impact of the pandemic on economies has put investments in many sectors in a stalemate. China’s Belt and Route is unlikely to be an exception. With industries coming to a standstill, workforce dismantled and the burden on state economies increasing by the day and no solution in sight; the development sector all over is to face the burn. The pandemic has altered the prospects for the projects in various ways, making some of its key features irrelevant for the times to come and paving ways for new innovations. The future course of the project through which China has engaged countries that account to almost two-third of the world population in letter or in spirit will determine the fate of not just a number of many developing economies but will also reflect on China’s ambition of ‘shared prosperity’. China has been assisting and lending enormously to small scale economies in order to revive the ancient silk route and connect countries across continents. However, the blow done by the pandemic has made the choices difficult, as on one hand countries will have to revive their economy and on the other their borrowing capacity would be limited.

Pakistan, being a key player in the BRI, because of homing the flagship project of CPEC is facing its own dilemmas in the fast-changing world around it and need to increase its pace in order to not just catch up anymore but to revive from the blow that the pandemic has done to its already struggling economy

Pakistan, being a key player in the BRI, because of homing the flagship project of CPEC is facing its own dilemmas in the fast-changing world around it and need to increase its pace in order to not just catch up anymore but to revive from the blow that the pandemic has done to its already struggling economy. The Covid-19 pandemic has created an uncertainty around the completion of the ongoing projects and paralyzed the future prospects for infrastructure development, as economies all over face multifaceted challenges. Governments are forced to take sweeping measures to contain the virus, such measures are instigating delays and disrupting projects extensively reliant on land and sea routes for supplies and engagement of the workforce. The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of systems to the inevitable burden caused by health emergencies and prospect social insecurities. It is evident that the expenditure priorities are changing everywhere in the post Covid-19 world and so would be the scenario around BRI.

svg%3EPakistan, in its current state cannot afford the failure of CPEC as it is massively relying on the development of industrial infrastructure entailing the project and enhancing its exports for the revival of its economy. Also, mass-scale job creation is a dire need of the country that can be facilitated by CPEC. The Belt and Route, however, may have been primarily conceived as a land route and clusters of economic projects there was always more to the concept. The only thing that may help investments sustain, businesses survive and economies revive today is innovation, and BRI has swiftly adapted to new innovation including a Health Silk Route and a Digital Silk Route. The two that may serve not just China but the countries associated with the initiative in their quest for a bounce back. Any expansion of BRI or new initiatives by China will have great relevance and importance for Pakistan. Though export routes will remain a priority for China as it enhances its provisions to the world in Health and other relevant technology. Expenditure on old footings in other projects may not be a priority. Pakistan’s fragile economy that was already under enormous pressure will be massively affected by the post pandemic developments and shifts in priorities on China’s part. Staying more relevant than providing an export route only is a goal to achieve for the country thus.

Development of local industries is a key priority area when it comes to attaining relative food and livelihood security as the outlook for physical movement and cross border transportation is bleak at the moment. Textiles, pharmaceuticals and production of other vital goods are industries where countries need to attain self-sufficiency. Pakistan is rich in raw material like minerals, food and cotton. Part of CPEC are the small economic zones to be built in order to install plants for processing these raw materials for export. Though there is a likelihood of reduction of investments in these sectors, these can play an important role in the revival of Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan has less immediate potential to deliver in the IT sector, most of the work force it offers is unskilled labor. The country requires enormous support to catch up with the world. It is necessary for Pakistan to seek transfer of technology and capacity building to engage its young workforce and utilize them to the best of their potential. The already present incubation centers can be utilized for capacity building on war-footings. There is a need for enhancing the range of projects like CPEC Fiber Optics Project not only to improve the telecom and ICT industry of Pakistan anymore but also to ensure the continuity of everyday life and smooth flow of critical information.

As China expands its role in the global health care scene, the partnership between the two countries can be expanded to include the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry and thus assist China to cater for the needs of the world as well as gain desperately needed economic support through enhanced export and production opportunities. China is establishing itself as a leader in providing health support to the world. Pakistan can use the opportunity and seek help to equip its Basic Health Units (BHUs) to meet the requirements of a larger population base forming its workforce. Recent studies imply that while health care infrastructure may be of prime importance at the moment, it is widely dependent on utility infrastructure and connectivity infrastructure. Utilities like clean drinking water, electricity, developmental infrastructure; roads and modes of connectivity are vital for efficient supply chains and for smooth management of health care systems. Developing countries like Pakistan will have to focus on these sectors as desperately as they seek the revival of their economies and an escape from the pandemic.

Dialogue on textile & garment sector

Last week SDPI (the Sustainable Development Policy Institute) organised a “Consultative Dialogue on Textile & Garment Sector Outlook Amid Covid-19” through webinar, between the government, the World Bank (WB) and industry stakeholders. One must compliment Dr Vaqar Ahmed on his timely efforts and the way he successfully managed the whole event. The WB presentation and recommendations were well-researched, the private sector came prepared and contributed by highlighting some pertinent issues and especially Ms Batool from the FBR was very impressive in her knowledge of the industry and adopting a proactive stance; Her understanding, being up to date, patience, and a remarkably positive attitude to honestly addressing the genuine problems of the businesses involved must be lauded. While there were a lot of positives to take home vis-a-vis situation assessment, difficulties post COVID-19 and the long-term way forward, one felt that there needed to be more emphasis on the short-term, meaning post COVID-19. Where exactly does this industry stand today, what sort of existential threats it faces and what precisely needs to be done “now” to ensure that it remains sustainable and does not get eroded by global competition—the immediate term solutions. The WB recommendations, understandably so, focused more on future long-term strategy and how this industry needs to change to become productive going forward, however, the problem is immediate where quite a few of the present issues are primarily COVID-19 related and therefore also need to be addressed now (right away), that is if the industry is to survive or not shrink significantly. One was hoping to elaborate more on this aspect in the questions and answers session, but regrettably, the webinar never came to that, since time ran out!

Some realities: Pakistan’s two main international markets in textiles and garments are the European Union (EU) and the US. Take these two out and almost 75 percent of the total exports stutter (directly or indirectly) and nearly 50 percent of the capacity shuts down since like it or not, 75 percent of the installed capacity at home is export based. Unfortunately, with consumption in the EU and the US collapsing, the lack of demand has resulted in industry closures not just in Pakistan, but also in competing countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar and others. The Pakistani textile industry accounts for nearly 67 percent of national exports, 12 percent of GDP and 40 percent of industrial employment, so it is imperative that it gets back on its feet with all cylinders firing, sooner rather than later. To make this happen, we must understand that the recent global developments subsequently lead to two important phenomenon that have either already happened or are about to grip us very soon: One, as markets normalise, the competition is going to be even more fierce than before, because these countries will be eager to regain or improve upon their previously-held market shares and two, some countries will simply lose out owing to their government’s mistake that it did not support its respective industry during this interim period, which means that when the times comes, that country will simply not have the operational capacity anymore to get to its previous level.

So what precisely is required at this juncture? This takes us back to my opening observation that prudence requires that the government at present should ‘only’ be focusing on the short term, whereas, the long term can wait for now. This is the time to ensure that companies survive so that their infrastructure and the production installations do not get dismantled and they are in a position to restore the supply chain when the time comes. And the only way the government can do this is by making sure that these businesses stay liquid. Unfortunately, this is where our government’s efforts are falling short. In fact, on the contrary, the recent measures and the budget announcement work towards the very opposite. A cursory look around us and we see wage and furlough sharing schemes, direct support measures like outright cash grants to SME in some countries, reduction or waiving or deferring of taxes and levy contributions like social security, etc. are just some of the measures that others have taken and in comparison just put our efforts in this regard to shame. Only two come to mind, the SBP (State Bank of Pakistan) wage loan scheme and the mere announcement of moratorium on LTF’s principal amount. Also, at a time when these companies need cash, the stubbornness on maintaining the current unsustainable sales tax regime belies all logic. To tangibly help these companies, one would have liked to see either the restoration of zero-rating or at least the reduction of sales tax to 5 percent. The 250 billion (figure though is disputable) the government claims to have collected under this head in 2019-20 from the previously zero-rated sectors, even if true, is not only unlikely to be replicated this year, but in present times a lower rate is perhaps the only logical way to generate any significant revenue from this head without damaging the national exporting apparatus. At a time when it is necessary to provide the much-needed liquidity to our exporting companies, such levies instead act as a heavy toll on their working capital cycle by blocking almost 8/9 months (in most cases) of their total deployed capital.

What are the others doing—some comparisons: Make no mistake that this is the period to just survive and any product developments in these times are in overall terms going to be at best miniscule. Any delusions about quickly shifting to medical exports like PPEs, anti-microbial, etc. are ill-founded, as the process entails a long and time-consuming process of product development, compliances, certifications and trials, which can take at least 1 to 2 years, if successful. Implying that the need right now is to play to the strengths that we already have. This means ensuring competitiveness in our current exportable mix that is largely dependent on three inputs: Electricity, gas, financial cost and levies like sales tax. Now electricity in Bangladesh to the exporting sector is today available at 6cents, in India 8c, Myanmar 0.44c and in Europe itself at 1.80c, whereas, in Pakistan a big uncertainty looms, where the companies still do not know whether or not the previous tariff of 7.5c will be maintained or not and if increased, then to what. Why would western markets pay for our power inefficiencies? Similarly, gas in Bangladesh to the exporting industry is costing around $4.93/MMBtu, in India $3.23/MMBtu, in Myanmar $1/MMBtu and in Europe itself at $1.6/MMBtu—again the same question. The sales tax slab in Bangladesh is 15 percent with a guaranteed 30-day refund through the auspices of the central bank, in Vietnam 10 percent, in Taiwan 5 percent, and in Myanmar it is simply zero rating. Cotton prices today in India are on average 15/20 percent less than what are prevalent here in Pakistan. The comparisons in labor costs (after accounting for productivity) and finance costs tell a similar story.

To conclude, no one is saying that the Pakistani government should dole out cash to the exporting firms, but merely that it should resort to prudent policy measures that create an enabling environment for the Pakistani export manufacturers to survive during these extremely challenging times. One totally understands and perhaps even sympathises with the constraints the government faces due to COVID-19, but make no mistake that this is not the time to resort to coercive revenue collections, otherwise policymakers will just be playing with the very future of Pakistani exports.

The textile industry needs state support to survive COVID-19

Last week SDPI (Sustainable Development Policy Institute) organized through webinar a “Consultative Dialogue on Textile & Garment Sector Outlook Amid Covid-19”, between the Government, the World Bank (WB) and the Industry Stakeholders. One must compliment Dr. Vaqar Ahmed on his timely efforts and the way he successfully managed the whole event.

The WB presentation and recommendations were well researched, the private sector came prepared and contributed by highlighting some pertinent issues, and especially Ms. Batool from the FBR was very impressive in her knowledge of the industry and adopting a proactive stance.

Her understanding, being up to date, patience, and a remarkably positive attitude to honestly addressing the genuine problems of the businesses involved must be lauded. While there were a lot of positives to take home vis-a-vis situation assessment, difficulties post Covid-19 and the long-term way forward, one felt that there needed to be more emphasis on the short-term.

Meaning post Covid-19 where exactly does this industry stands today, what sort of existential threats it faces and what precisely needs to be done “now” to ensure that it remains sustainable and does not get eroded by global competition – the immediate term solutions.

The WB recommendations, understandably so, focused more on future long-term strategy and how this industry needs to change to become productive going forward, however, the problem is immediate.

Quite a few of the present issues are primarily Covid-19 related and therefore also need to be addressed ‘now’ (right away), that is if the industry is to survive or not shrink significantly. One was hoping to elaborate more on this aspect in the questions and answers session, but regrettably, the webinar never came to that, since the time ran out!

Pakistan’s two main international markets in Textiles & Garments are the EU (European Union) and the USA (United States of America). Take these two out and almost 75% of the total exports stutter (directly or indirectly) and nearly 50% of the capacity shuts down since like it or not, 75% of the installed capacity at home is export based.

Unfortunately with consumption in the EU and the USA collapsing, the lack of demand has resulted in industry closures not just in Pakistan, but also in competing countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar and others. The Pakistani textile industry accounts for nearly 67% of national exports, 12% of GDP and 40% of industrial employment, so it is imperative that it gets back on its feet with all cylinders firing, sooner rather than later.

To make this happen, we must understand that the recent global developments subsequently lead to two important phenomenon that have either already happened or are about to grip us very soon.

One, that as markets normalize the competition is going to be even more fierce than before, because these countries will be eager to regain or improve upon their previously held market shares and two, some countries will simply lose out owing to their government’s mistake that it did not support its respective industry during this interim period, which means that when the times comes that country will simply not have the operational capacity anymore to get to its previous level.

This takes us back to my opening observation that prudence requires that the government at present should ‘only’ be focusing on the short term, whereas, the long term can wait for now. This is the time to ensure that companies survive so that their infrastructure and the production installations do not get dismantled and they are in a position to restore supply chain when the time comes.

And the only way the government can do this is by making sure that that these businesses stay liquid. Unfortunately this is where our government’s efforts are falling short. In fact on the contrary the recent measures and the budget announcement work towards the very opposite.

A cursory look around us and we see wage cum furlough sharing schemes, direct support measures like outright cash grants to SME in some countries, reduction or waiving cum deferring of taxes and levy contributions like the social security, etc. are just some of the measures that others have taken and in comparison just put our efforts in this regard to shame; only two come to mind, the SBP (State Bank of Pakistan) wage loan scheme & the mere announcement on moratorium on LTF’s principal amount.

Also, at a time when these companies need cash, the stubbornness on maintaining the current unsustainable Sales Tax regime belies all logic. To tangibly help these companies, one would have liked to see either the restoration of zero-rating or at least the reduction of sales tax to 5%.

The 250 billion (figure though is disputable) the government claims to have collected under this head in 2019-20 from the previously zero-rated sectors, even if true, is not only unlikely to be replicated this year, but in present times a lower rate is perhaps the only logical way to generate any significant revenue from this head without damaging the national exporting apparatus.

At a time when it is necessary to provide the much needed liquidity to our exporting companies, such levies instead act as a heavy toll on their working capital cycle by blocking almost 8/9 months (in most cases) of their total deployed capital.

Make no mistake that this is the period to just survive and any product developments in these times are in overall terms going to be at best miniscule. Any delusions about quickly shifting to medical exports like, PPEs, Anti-Microbial, etc. are ill-founded, as the process entails a long and time consuming process of product developments, compliances, certifications and trials, which can take at least 1 to 2 years, if successful.

Implying that the need right now is to play to the strengths that we already have. This means ensuring competitiveness in our current exportable mix that is largely dependent on three inputs: Electricity, Gas, Financial Cost and levies like Sales tax.

Now electricity in Bangladesh to the exporting sector is today available at $6cents, in India 8c, Myanmar 0.44c and in Europe itself at 1.80c, whereas, in Pakistan a big uncertainty looms, where the companies still do not know whether or not the previous tariff of 7.5c will be maintained or not and if increased, then to what. Why would the western markets pay for our power inefficiencies?

Similarly, gas in Bangladesh to the exporting industry is costing around $4.93/MMBtu, in India $3.23/MMBtu, in Myanmar $1/MMBtu and in Europe itself at $1.6/MMBtu – again the same question. Sales tax slab in Bangladesh is 15% with a guaranteed 30 days refund through the auspices of the central bank, in Vietnam 10%, in Taiwan 5%, and in Myanmar it is simply zero rating.

Cotton prices today in India are on average 15/20% less than what are prevalent here in Pakistan. The comparisons in labor costs (after accounting for productivity) and finance costs tell a similar story.

To conclude, no one is saying that the Pakistani government should dole out cash to the exporting firms, but merely that it should resort to prudent policy measures that create an enabling environment for the Pakistani export manufacturers to survive during these extremely challenging times.

One totally understands and perhaps even sympathizes with the constraints the government faces due to Covid-19, but make no mistake that is not the time to resort to coercive revenue collections, otherwise policymakers will just be playing with the very future of Pakistani exports!

Dr Kamal Monnoo is a political analyst. He is honorary consul general of the Czech Republic in Punjab, Pakistan, and a member Board of Governors of Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He is the author of two books ‘A Study of WTO’, and ‘Economic Management in Pakistan.’ He can be reached at: kamal.monnoo@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

COVID-19: the future of work from home

Over the years, a significant number of employees have preferred flexible work hours. During the 1980s, when cubicles were adopted in offices, a large number of office workers had been asking for flexible working- hours. This demand, especially by the women, was common even before the outbreak of a prevailing pandemic. The virus has not only acted as a catalyst to the demand, the resulting situation has forced even the employers to ask employees to work from home. Many of the trends that we saw pre-COVID are now going much faster, COVID triggered. According to a study by Mckinsey Global Institute, 80 per cent of the workforce is enjoying working from home. During the pandemic, many people have been surprised by how quickly and effectively the technologies have facilitated the practice. Meetings, conferences, education and healthcare systems are now being remotely managed.

The traditional offices are now becoming less popular. The future will see small offices with most of the staff working from home and a percentage of the workforce, in rotation, physically attending offices. The pandemic has forced a majority of the employers and employees to get grips with the digital tools for remote working, therefore, even after COVID-19, this trend will largely continue and we will retain the enhanced level of optimized remote working and collaboration. A more flexible working arrangement would undoubtedly benefit working women with children.

After the pandemic, flexibility will be the new mantra. A Gallup survey shows that 54 per cent of US workers would leave their jobs for alternative work that would allow them to work remotely. When the offices open, social distancing and the practice of wearing masks will likely to continue. There would be bigger conference rooms, meeting offices and studios.

The fear that the work from home arrangement would adversely affect office productivity has proved to be mostly wrong. A study shows that 13 per cent of the employees who worked from home were more productive. According to another study, the majority of employees who worked from home put in 1.4 more days of work per week than their office-based counterparts. It means employees working remotely would be working three more weeks in a year. Other benefits include a 25 per cent reduction in staff turnover and 77 per cent enhanced productivity. Some well-known companies have adopted remote working practice. Facebook has instructed its staff to work from home until the end of the year. Google is rotating its employees, some attending office and some working from home. Twitter has permanently adopted work from the policy.

The future of people who can work from home is promising, but the question is about the fate of millions of industrial workers, street vendors, transporters, supply chain keepers, and service providers, who are waiting for the dawn to break

The role of offices is being reassessed. At one time good offices were considered critical for employee efficiency, effectiveness and office productivity. According to Mckinsey’s research, 80 per cent of people questioned reported that they enjoy working from home. Forty per cent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 per cent say that they are as productive as before. Their responses were based on the time and money saved on commuting, enjoying the flexibility and creating a balance between the office and family life. The arrangement suits those working women who have been delaying bearing children.

However, there is also the downside of evolving trends. What will be missed is the exchange of ideas during tea and lunch breaks in an informal way. The mutual collaboration will not be that strong. Methods of feedback from the supervisors will have to be changed. For better results, good managers engage their team members at the touch-points of their projects and give face-to-face feedback and remove any difficulties and bottlenecks faced by their subordinates. This would become rather problematic. Methods of determining promotions and merit will have to be modified. These will be made data-centric and judged from the results produced rather than the methods adopted. Managers will do well to enhance their propensity towards extending trust towards their team members working from home and availing flexible hours.

Ensuring the cybersecurity of information and data will acquire added importance. According to a study, since 2014 security breaches have increased by 67 per cent. A laptop is stolen every 54 seconds and 92 per cent data breaches occur in one second. The World Health Organization itself saw cyber-attacks double as the pandemic spread, and a vaccine testing facility said it had been targeted for ransomware.

Home environment for efficient and effective working will have to be created. A balance between getting too comfortable and emotionally stressful environment will be needed.

The biggest problem being faced by the developing and less developed countries is the availability of the internet. Pakistan has been ranked as the least internet inclusive country in South Asia. We are ranked 76th of 100 countries on the inclusive internet index 2020 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) falling into the last quartile of global index overall. The inclusive internet index benchmarks countries on the internet availability, affordability, relevance and readiness of the people to use it. Even in developed countries, the availability, reliability and confidentiality of the internet will have to be made possible otherwise all the plus points of working from home will lose value. The future of people who can work from home is promising, but the question is about the fate of millions of industrial workers, street vendors, transporters, supply chain keepers, and service providers, who are waiting for the dawn to break.

While the devastating impact of COVID 19 will continue to haunt us financially and emotionally long after the pandemic but, the good thing is that the employers and employees have gained valuable insight into more efficient and effective tomorrow.

Harnessing the power of e-commerce to help small businesses bounce back Copy

The coronavirus (Covid-19) has impacted countries, economies, business and individuals alike. With even global governments and giant corporations dealing with new challenges, it’s clear no one could have anticipated such disruption – least of all small businesses.

The small and medium enterprises (SME) sector has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and especially so in emerging economies. However, we must recognise that SMEs are key players in the world economy and important contributors to job creation, especially in emerging markets.

In Pakistan, close to 3 million small and medium businesses account for 40% of the country’s GDP – and according to Pakistan’s Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), around 1.4 million SMEs may lose half (50%) of their income. Meanwhile, 58% of small businesses have already laid employees off and 47% have cut salaries, with almost 9.5 million of non-agricultural jobs in Pakistan now at risk due to Covid-19.

The impact on brick-and-mortar outlets that are largely offline and reliant on personal visits continues to be severe due to fears of contracting the virus. These traditional merchants, typically, have little savings and much of their transactions take place in cash. A Visa survey conducted to understand the impact of the pandemic on shopping related behavior found that the virus has significantly altered physical store shopping behavior in Pakistan, with 43% of consumers having significantly reduced buying in-store. When they do shop in-store, 55% of customers now use digital payments, with the majority using mobile wallets (51%), and the remaining using cards – both chip and pin (48%) and contactless (37%).

In other words, consumers have switched to buy from small businesses with strong digital capabilities.

For businesses that remain offline and without the option of digital payments, the move to eCommerce will be critical in order to navigate the pandemic. To help this ecosystem of merchants, looking at how to enhance their online avenues, Visa has launched a ‘Small Business Hub’ as part of “Where You Shop Matters”, our regional SME focused initiative that will provide information toolkits for digital growth and resources on how to move to new digital ways of working.

Visa has also collaborated with Daraz, Pakistan’s leading online marketplace, to help encourage the nation’s offline merchants to transition to eCommerce by showcasing stories of small businesses that have succeeded in Pakistan using Daraz’s online marketplace platform, logistics infrastructure and training support. The partnership will also highlight SMEs on Daraz’s platform to a wider consumer base.

While the current circumstances have radically altered consumer shopping patterns and incentivised small businesses to get online, merchants must be conscious that consumers continue to demand a secure and seamless payment experience. As the appetite to transact online grows, so does the need for ensuring online security. The balance between providing a convenient and seamless shopping experience must be balanced with a safe experience too.

A common mistake among new online merchants is to overcompensate for fear of fraud by implementing security solutions that are so rigid that they prevent legitimate consumers from shopping and checking out with ease. According to findings from Visa’s survey, 60% of consumers in Pakistan have abandoned their online shopping carts because of authentication delays or failure.

Visa Secure, Visa’s new program governing online transactions uses the EMV 3-D Secure industry-wide messaging standard that merchants and issuing banks must follow to verify cardholder identity before a transaction is sent for authorization. Visa Secure delivers greater fraud prevention by sharing up to 10 times more data with issuers for better risk analysis and advanced decision making.

In addition to security, customers have also come to expect convenience, minimal effort and higher transactional speed, making it important for merchants to offer omnichannel payment solutions to enhance the consumer experience, and build and retain a base of loyal customers. In the payments arena, omnichannel refers to the ability to allow customers to conduct transactions in multiple ways without much difference in convenience or service including with NFC, QR code payments and in-app purchases or payments.

At Visa, we remain committed to supporting Pakistan’s small business ecosystem and championing their recovery. For our economies and societies to thrive again, it is imperative that these merchants bounce back.

Harnessing the power of e-commerce to help small businesses bounce back

The coronavirus (Covid-19) has impacted countries, economies, business and individuals alike. With even global governments and giant corporations dealing with new challenges, it’s clear no one could have anticipated such disruption – least of all small businesses.

The small and medium enterprises (SME) sector has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and especially so in emerging economies. However, we must recognise that SMEs are key players in the world economy and important contributors to job creation, especially in emerging markets.

In Pakistan, close to 3 million small and medium businesses account for 40% of the country’s GDP – and according to Pakistan’s Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), around 1.4 million SMEs may lose half (50%) of their income. Meanwhile, 58% of small businesses have already laid employees off and 47% have cut salaries, with almost 9.5 million of non-agricultural jobs in Pakistan now at risk due to Covid-19.

The impact on brick-and-mortar outlets that are largely offline and reliant on personal visits continues to be severe due to fears of contracting the virus. These traditional merchants, typically, have little savings and much of their transactions take place in cash. A Visa survey conducted to understand the impact of the pandemic on shopping related behavior found that the virus has significantly altered physical store shopping behavior in Pakistan, with 43% of consumers having significantly reduced buying in-store. When they do shop in-store, 55% of customers now use digital payments, with the majority using mobile wallets (51%), and the remaining using cards – both chip and pin (48%) and contactless (37%).

In other words, consumers have switched to buy from small businesses with strong digital capabilities.

For businesses that remain offline and without the option of digital payments, the move to eCommerce will be critical in order to navigate the pandemic. To help this ecosystem of merchants, looking at how to enhance their online avenues, Visa has launched a ‘Small Business Hub’ as part of “Where You Shop Matters”, our regional SME focused initiative that will provide information toolkits for digital growth and resources on how to move to new digital ways of working.

Visa has also collaborated with Daraz, Pakistan’s leading online marketplace, to help encourage the nation’s offline merchants to transition to eCommerce by showcasing stories of small businesses that have succeeded in Pakistan using Daraz’s online marketplace platform, logistics infrastructure and training support. The partnership will also highlight SMEs on Daraz’s platform to a wider consumer base.

While the current circumstances have radically altered consumer shopping patterns and incentivised small businesses to get online, merchants must be conscious that consumers continue to demand a secure and seamless payment experience. As the appetite to transact online grows, so does the need for ensuring online security. The balance between providing a convenient and seamless shopping experience must be balanced with a safe experience too.

A common mistake among new online merchants is to overcompensate for fear of fraud by implementing security solutions that are so rigid that they prevent legitimate consumers from shopping and checking out with ease. According to findings from Visa’s survey, 60% of consumers in Pakistan have abandoned their online shopping carts because of authentication delays or failure.

Visa Secure, Visa’s new program governing online transactions uses the EMV 3-D Secure industry-wide messaging standard that merchants and issuing banks must follow to verify cardholder identity before a transaction is sent for authorization. Visa Secure delivers greater fraud prevention by sharing up to 10 times more data with issuers for better risk analysis and advanced decision making.

In addition to security, customers have also come to expect convenience, minimal effort and higher transactional speed, making it important for merchants to offer omnichannel payment solutions to enhance the consumer experience, and build and retain a base of loyal customers. In the payments arena, omnichannel refers to the ability to allow customers to conduct transactions in multiple ways without much difference in convenience or service including with NFC, QR code payments and in-app purchases or payments.

At Visa, we remain committed to supporting Pakistan’s small business ecosystem and championing their recovery. For our economies and societies to thrive again, it is imperative that these merchants bounce back.