Published Date: Oct 21, 2017
Experts call to turn SMEs into engine of growth
PESHAWAR: Joint efforts by the government and private sector are needed to redress the issues being faced by Pakistani exporters, was said during a meeting of business experts titled ‘Achieving export competiveness in Pakistan’ held by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday.
The experts said such efforts should be based on broad national consultation to determine key policy responses required to promote growth and convert small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into the engine of growth.
During the meeting, exporters and representatives of the manufacturing sector identified a number of areas currently affecting the competiveness of Pakistani exports. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Zahid Ullah Shinwari outlined issues related to the energy sector and highlighted lack of product and market diversification, especially a heavy reliance on the European market, within the Pakistani export sector.
Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) former vice president Adnan Jalil was of view that the federal government was unwilling to engage with local stakeholders to formulate relevant policies. He also highlighted gaps within taxation system as well as trade tariffs and called for an end to leakages in the form of corruption.
Experts from the public and private sectors at the occasion presented recommendations for corrective measures to issues that were affecting the country’s export competitiveness. Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) Director Sirajuddin said Pakistan’s exports had been under pressure for the past 3 years. He stressed the need to consolidate a foothold in existing export markets to promote growth. In this regard, he emphasized the government’s commitment to diversify the export sector and prioritise marketing and trade promotion activities. He urged that Pakistan must determine why it had not been able to achieve desired results from the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) in addition to its bilateral and regional trade agreements with partner countries such as China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
KP Planning & Development advisor Sabir Shah identified different sectors in which the province enjoyed a comparative advantage.
He stressed the need for the provincial government to develop sectorial policies that promote investment, adding that such a set of policies would be finalized by the provincial cabinet by the end of November.
Earlier, World Bank Group’s senior economist Gonzalo J. Varela delivered a presentation highlighting the importance of trade as a vehicle of growth in developing countries over the last 30 years. He explained the exports of goods and services in Pakistan and other developing countries had grown exponentially since the 1980s.
However, he flagged the downturn in Pakistan’s export sector in recent years, which he attributed to the country’s inability to fully harness its trade potential. In this regard, he stressed the need for effective policy initiatives to reduce tariffs and the cost of doing business in order to increase the competitiveness of Pakistani exports in international markets.
Speaking about the dynamics of export competitiveness in Pakistan, SDPI Executive Director Dr. Vaqar Ahmed emphasized highlighted KP’s vast potential in several sectors, including gems & precious stones, marbles, herbal & medicinal products, jewellery, dry fruits, meat products, and light engineering.
He urged the TDAP to ensure that the province’s business community was fully participating in international trade exhibitions. He said the Ministry of Commerce would need to facilitate KP’s exporters in reaching non-traditional markets such as central Asia, Far East and Africa. He also stressed the need for building infrastructure within the special economic zones established under CPEC in the province.