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Tahir Amin

Business Recorder

Published Date: Dec 12, 2014

Pakistan seeks meaningful engagement with India: Dastagir

Pakistan wants a meaningful engagement with India to resolve all
outstanding bilateral disputes, so that both the countries could work
for sustainable economic growth, said federal Minister for Commerce and
Industry Engineer Khurram Dastagir Khan. "The government is aiming at
having more openings with India and this will connect Pakistan with the
region, said the federal minister while addressing a conference
organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

"We have normalised the trade regime with India, and shifting
from positive list to negative list," the minister said, adding that
this also includes improving infrastructure at Wagah, Torkhum and Chaman
borders. The country has set to achieve its target of an additional one
billion dollars of exports to the European Union after getting
Generalized System of Preferences Plus status, the minister added.

Dastgir Khan said integrated regional connectivity and boosting
regional trade are vital for economic growth and stability. Import of
electricity from Central Asia by CASA-1000 project would open new
avenues of regional trade. He said boosting trade linkages with the new
Afghan government would help increase Pakistan’s exports to Tajikistan
and other Central Asian countries. He further said that despite some
difficulties, South Asia with democracies in place is entering into a
new era of development and prosperity. Democratic South Asia itself is a
welcome sign for regional co-operation, he added.

The minister said regional level agreement on energy trade and
signing of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kirghizstan agreement on
electricity supply will connect the region with a grid leading to
further regional development.

Former Finance Minister Dr Hafiz Pasha on Thursday highlighted
distortions in the taxation system with a vary narrow base of 700,000
people filing tax returns, whereas total amount of tax exemptions stood
at around Rs 900 billion. He also criticised tax system saying only
700,000 people are filing tax returns, whereas a few years back the
figure was one million. "Unemployment in the country actually reached 12
per cent and three million people are entering the poverty bracket
every year," said Pasha.

Pasha said that in the current scenario Pakistan has no option
but to follow the path of inclusive growth and sustainable development.
"Food inflation and the rising prices of flour, which have actually
risen by 50% in real terms over the last few years, are the issues which
need immediate attention of the government," Pasha added. He lamented
that the real household income of top 20% went up by 40%, whereas the
income of the people belonging to lowest 20% have only risen by 6%.

"As it was assumed that over the generations the land
distribution would have improved, which actually did not happen, and now
the top 1% land holders have 20% of this country’s land," Pasha
maintained. He said lending facilities have worsened, and currently 86%
of the credit goes to 1% of the big borrowers. While criticising the
PSDP allocations in the country, he said it is an irony that this year
only 30% of the budget was allocated for Water and Energy whereas the
budget for highways has been doubled. We can live without highways, but
we cannot make progress without electricity.

Given that prices have fallen in the international market,
Pakistan wheat, sugar, and electricity prices have risen. In order to
improve the governance issues, he recommended that local government
elections should be held immediately, secondly SROs should be removed
and more PSDP allocations be made for water and energy, and thirdly, the
government should encourage Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the

Dr Rasheed Al Mahmud Titmur, University of Dhaka, said that
non-engagement and non-alliance at regional level could not prove to be
beneficial for all the countries and now it is time to move towards
regional co-operation. He added that 50% labour is under-utilised in
South Asia. "Policies like liberalisation and privatisation have also
failed in the region therefore; all the countries really need to revisit

Dr Abid Qayum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director said that as we
have graduated from MDGs to SDGs, independent researchers and academia
must rise up to the challenge and provide evidence based policy advice
to national, regional and global governance forums. The move towards
SDGs should envision a more responsible role of a democratic state, he
added. "However, this pursuit is not possible without an active support
from the communities." He stressed the need for local government reforms
to pave way for social accountability mechanisms, which can be
exercised by the communities for demanding improved public service

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