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Published Date: Mar 4, 2013

SDPI Press Release (March 4, 2013)

Experts
at a seminar on Monday said enhanced physical, economic and social connectivity
can secure a prosperous future for South Asia region.

They
said, South Asia is one of the least connected region in the world and called
for improved connectivity for smooth flow of goods, services, people,
technologies, knowledge, capital, culture and ideas throughout the region. They
also demanded policy makers in Pakistan to reform laws, develop new business
models and involve private sectors for investments to promote connectivity and
development.

They
were discussing at a seminar on “Regional Connectivity and Economic Growth”
organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on
Monday.  Tahir Dhindsa, Editor Economic Bulletin, SDPI moderated the
proceedings.

Speaking
at the occasion, Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director, SDPI said that
connectivity discourse should not be limited to mere physical infrastructure
but social and people to people connectivity must also be considered for
regional integration.

Talking
of communications network and services in Pakistan, Dr Vaqar argued that state
is intervening as major player that is competing with private sector through
monopoly corporations such as NLC, PIA, and Railway. He said, PIA which is
serving 5th biggest population of world has only 19 carriers that’s why flights
are delayed or canceled. He suggested to privatize freight operations in
railways and said

Referring
to Pakistan’s
new framework for economic growth, Dr. Vaqar said that government should
support public private partnership and promote privatization. He said, Projects
at inception and PC1 phase must first be offered to private sector. He also
cited ‘Sialkot Dry Port Trust’ a successful model and suggested to replicate it
further.

Underlining
the need to use ICT infrastructure to decrease costs and increase efficiency,
Dr Vaqar said, automation of all custom ports of Pakistan will provide a
comprehensive electronic data interchange system. He also deplored that
‘Electronic signature act’ is still pending in parliament and demanded its
immediate approval for the promotion of e-governance in the country.

Muhammad
Naveed Iftikhar, Governance Specialist, Ministry of Finance talked on
reshaping rail infrastructure for growth in Pakistan. Citing reasons such as
outdated railway law, non-commercial structure, governance and lack of
professionals for downfall of railways he said that federal budget is more
inclined towards roads. “In last five year plan from 1998-2005, the 80 percent
of federal budget was allocated for investment on roads as compared to mere 20
percent on Railways. This shows government priories and as a result over the
years railways inland traffic has reduced from 40 percent to 10 percent,” he
added. He informed that 85 percent of railways budget is currently being spent
on paying salaries, pensions and managing fuel costs.

Giving
a way forward, he said, Railways must be revitalized through privatization
where government role must be limited to implement regulations, monitor public
investment and protect public interest. The operations must be handed over to
private partners based on performance based railways public investment plan. He
also strongly suggested to include private sector involvement for contracting
out major services, provision of rolling stock for maintenance of locomotives,
marketing of passenger services, freight operations and infrastructure
development.